Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Life is good, I say that a lot, but it is.  So why not celebrate it?

Gary and I are history buffs.  We like to know local histories, study our genealogy and see how those histories tie into our family tree.  Both our ancestors lived in Arkansas and Missouri at different times in their lives before migrating to Oklahoma.  As time goes on we will look for different sites where they were.

We also like to know about the areas we are in.  So when we finally made it to the free visitor center we decided to learn more about Bull Shoals, how it got its name, the dam and much more.  Here’s a little of what we discovered for the area.

Let’s begin with the name.  I know what a bull is in the English language, but is that where the name came from?  The simple answer?  NO.

From the Encyclopedia of Arkansas:
“Bull Shoals was named by early French hunters and trappers who used the word “Boill,” meaning a large spring, to describe the area. Edmund Jennings, the first English-speaking person to visit the “Six Bulls” country, lived among the Indians for fifteen years before returning to his home state of Tennessee. He called the Ozark region the “country of the Six Boills” but pronounced “boills” as “bull.” The boills, or bulls, were great springs feeding the shoals. Pioneers moving into the area continued using Jennings’s pronunciation, and Bull Shoals has retained its name.”

Okay, that makes sense, but what is a shoal?  So off to the web I went again.  In the online dictionary I found this definition:
From the mean of Shoal:

a place where a sea, river, or other body of water is shallow.
a sandbank or sand bar in the bed of a body of water, especially onethat is exposed above the surface of the water at low tide.

So basically it is water running over a sand bar.  Makes sense.

Now a little about the dam itself.

 It took four years to build (1947-1951). It was a major employer for the area during that time frame and at the time was one of the top ten largest in the country. 
It was built originally for flood control but generating electricity soon followed, making the area one of the first in Arkansas to have electricity for all the homes.  At 2,256 feet long and standing at 256 feet above the stream bed in some places it is a sight to behold. 

A sight you can easily view from the comfort of the James Gaston Visitor center. 

This beautiful center has artifacts, historical data, fish, both alive and taxidermy, a stuffed black bear that just happens to be brown, an information center, Arkansas State Park and travel information, free wi-fi, public restrooms and of course a gift shop. There is also a free video viewing of the history of the dam building.

From the covered patio you can view the dam and state park lands for miles around, while overhead the vultures circle in search of a stray fish or two.  During certain times of year there are also eagles to watch. 

While no food or drink is allowed in the center itself you are welcome to picnic, and use the free wi-fi, complete with nearby electrical outlets while sitting at one of their numerous metal patio tables while overhead fans stir the breeze on warm days on the patio.  We pack a picnic with us each time we visit to use the wi-fi, watch the birds or just take in the scenery.

In one section there are various rooms for meetings and some of the most beautiful photos of birds and wildlife that can be seen in Arkansas.  There is also indoor free wi-fi in this area and the main public area for those who prefer to sit on furniture with their computer or tablet on their lap.

All in all I highly recommend you stop and visit at this free center.  It is open 8 am to 5 pm most days.


  1. Nice post. The only thing in the 21st Century, we don't use the word "Indian" It is a racial slur to natives. The terminology is native or indigenous people.

    1. Because of my heritage, and being born and raised in Oklahoma I am very aware of the pc correct terms. However, I am also very aware of the rules/laws about using direct quotes and how they must be used precisely as they were written. Which is exactly what that was. Please re-read the section and you will see that was not my words but the words of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.