Army Corps Of Engineers Celebrates Beaver Lake’s 50th Anniversary

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CARROLL COUNTY (KFSM) -- While it seems like a fixture of the Northwest Arkansas landscape now, just 50 years ago Beaver Lake did not exist.

The Army Corps of Engineers celebrated the milestone anniversary Thursday (Oct. 6) at the dam that eventually created the lake.

Ceremony speakers included Sen. John Boozman, Rep. Steve Womack, CEO of the Beaver Lake District Alan Fortenberry, COO of Southwestern Power Administration Marshall Boyken and Col. Robert Dixon, the Little Rock District Commander for the Army Corps of Engineers.

During his address to the crowd, Dixon described how momentous of a task creating Beaver Lake had been.

"Relocating farms and homesteads and cemeteries with care and honor, clearing trees and preparing roads," he said.

The project itself took years to come to fruition. Serious talks about a dam started in the 1930s following a flood that devastated Arkansas in 1927. The funding for the dam did not come together until the 1950s and work on the project did not begin until 1960.

"The amount of diversity of work that went into building this dam and converting this valley into one of the most scenic lakes in America is pretty astonishing," Dixon said.

And it would not have been possible without people like Bobby Garner, who Dixon said he had met just two days before the Beaver Lake ceremony.

"This local fella, a veteran of the Korean conflict where he had served on a Navy destroyed as a boilerman, told the foreman he would do anything they needed him to do," Dixon relayed the story Garner had told him to the crowd.

So Garner started off on wheelbarrows and eventually was moved to work on mixing and pouring the concrete. He worked with that crew through the summer and the winter.

"Bobby told me stories about adding 400 pounds of ice flakes to the [concrete] mix and blasting cobblestones with cold air just to keep the temperature down [during the summer]," Dixon said. "And Bobby tells me about applying blowtorches to pipes to heat them up to keep the concrete at the right temperature [during the winter]."

Dixon said Garner told him he then moved to the power house to build the hydroelectric plant that continues to produce power for the Southwestern Power Administration.

"Somewhere along the line Bobby also worked on installing the water intake on the lake that enables access to municipal water supply," Dixon said.

In the end, Garner had worked on the all the things the dam continues to do for the area 'til this day, which include controlling flooding on the White River, power production and providing a water supply to Northwest Arkansas.