Camping on Millwood Lake

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Our campsite was under the trees along the shoreline of a shallow cove, at the south west corner of Millwood Lake. There was plenty of shade, and a nice view of the water. Several species of water foul walked among the lilly pads, and the brown water reflected the pines, oaks, dogwoods and cypress trees that enclosed the cove.

This is what the area of the lake around the campsite looks like in the daytime. Its more of a swamp than a lake.

There were mocking birds, crows, and the occasional woodpecker flying from tree to tree within the camp, as the geese picked through the grass in a few sunny spots along the forest floor. The bird song was occasionally interrupted by passing logging trucks, as they made their way across the dam hauling timber to one of many mills in the area.

This is a nice shot of the trees reflected on the water. Millwood is a very beautiful lake.

Today a pleasant cool breeze filtered through the trees. You could catch a glimpse of a boat or two as they made their way out to the main body of the lake. Most of the holiday campers were gone, leaving only a few isolated campsites occupied. The ground was trying to dry off from the down-pours we had yesterday. The cool dry breeze was helping things along. The birds were enjoying the change in weather, and they seemed unafraid of me, or my dog. I guess they could sense the contentment everyone was feeling this morning.

Did I mention that Millwood was a beautiful lake?

Yesterday, because of the rain, we decided to go on a road trip. I remembered there being some clear running trout streams, somewhere in Arkansas. We set out in search of one. I traveled north from Millwood Lake toward the Ouachita Mountains. It was a very beautiful journey, and I did not mind getting stuck behind logging trucks, because it gave me a chance to enjoy the scenery. The clouds and rain were backing up against the hills, so we did drive through a few isolated heavy downpours. We worked our way up the steps of the foot hills, and found the Caddo River. I could see from a bridge that the water was clear, so we found a nearby park with access to the river. You could see small trout and other fish in the water. It was a very picturesque scene, so I snapped a couple of photos, and let my dog walk in the shallow water.

Caddo River

We decided to try to make it to Washita before we turned around. Ouachita Mountains are not mountains by California standards, but it was nice to have some variance of topology for a change. We found a park with a nice view of Lake Ouachita, and had a picnic lunch. Lake Ouachita seemed like the kind of lake I am used to in Central Texas. It appeared to be much deeper than Millwood Lake, with a rocky shoreline and clear water. Millwood is more like what you would expect to find in Louisiana, with brown shallow water, and cypress stumps. We enjoyed our lunch, and headed back to the camp.

Lake Ouachita

It was a long day of driving, but I'm glad we went because from the look of the campsite when we returned, it had been raining all day long. We rented a small pop-up camper, and I brought some movies to play on my laptop in case we got stuck in the rain, but even though a pop-up camper is better than a tent, it still gets pretty cramped with two people and a dog.

I attempted to do some fishing during the trip, but I was not successful in catching anything. Millwood Lake does not offer much shoreline access. Much of the shoreline is bordered by thick weeds and deep mud. There is a large population of alligators, so one must be circumspect when walking the shoreline. Although there are well maintained trails that offer picturesque views of the lake, there are only a few access points where you might try to cast a lure. Needless to say, a boat is a necessity on this lake. As I was pulling a pop-up camper, I had to leave my boat behind.

This is typical shoreline on Millwood. You can see why you need a boat. Check out the beaver lodge in the background.

Although the local marina offered boat rentals, they were underpowered flat-bottom aluminum boats. The 9hp motor was loud and there was no trolling motor, so you could not sneak up on any fishy spots without scaring away all the wildlife in the area. The boats were much better suited for catfishing than bass fishing, so I only attempted this once. I was able to get some nice photos of the lake from the boat, so it was not a total loss. Plus, I was able to spend some time with my dad, which was very enjoyable. He developed a recipe for catfish doughbait that works very well. He actually caught a few small catfish, while I fished for bass. The doughbait he developed has some very good properties. It does not stink, it is easy to work with, keeps well, and it stays on the hook cast after cast. My wife suggested that he try to market it to women, because of the stink-free factor.

This looks like a bass hangout, doesn't it?

There is lots of wildlife around Millwood Lake. I saw many species of woodland birds, and water fowl. There were lots of deer, although they stayed well clear of campers. I saw a family of nutrias (giant water rats), snakes, alligators, and even a beaver.

Here is a picture of a beaver lodge. If you look closely, you might see the beaver that lives here.

One evening, I attempted to fish for catfish on the river below the dam. There was a small park with a dock. I aimed my truck headlights toward the dock, set up a couple of lines with my dad's catfish doughbait, and cast out to see what I could catch. As the sun sank down, the alligators started waking up. I counted five large alligators in the water, each between 10 and 12 feet long! As the sun dropped below the horizon, I could see their glowing eyes getting closer and closer. One of them must have been below the dock, because as I walked from one end to the other, there was a large splash below my feet that made me jump out of my skin! I did not want to become alligator dinner, and I was not getting any bites, so I decided to call it quits for the night. I tried to get a photo of the alligators, but it was too dark so I could only see glowing eyes against a black background.

The orange dot in this picture is the reflection of my trucks headlights in the eyes of a big alligator

I had seen all of the signs saying "Don't feed the alligators", but after actually seeing them, I was considerably more alert.

Here's a fishy looking spot. I bet a big 'ol alligator has the same impression.

Imagine the sound of cicadas and bullfrogs. Now imagine a sneaky alligator slowly swimming up to get a closer look...

I decided that continuing to fish would only frustrate me, so I opted to enjoy the rest of my camping trip for what it was. I soaked in the scenery and the wildlife. I read a book by the campfire. I captured some more pictures, including one of a brilliant sunset.

A very pretty sunset reflected on the water. A fish jumped just as I took this picture.

It was a very nice camping trip, which I would highly recommend to anyone traveling through south west Arkansas. Millwood State Park is very well maintained. Its only about 30 miles from Texarkana. The public bathrooms were exceptionally clean, and the staff was very friendly. If you have a boat with a trolling motor, try to bring it with you. Also, bring a good pair of hiking shoes, some mosquito repellent, and a good flashlight. Don't forget your fishing license!

About me

  • I'm Scott Gaspard
  • From Austin, Texas, United States
  • I really like to fish. I go every chance I can. You can pretty much bet that at any given moment, I'm using whatever spare cycles I have to plan my next trip.
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