David Armstrong

David Armstrong, lead park interpreter at DeGray Lake Resort State Park, speaking at the September Chamber Breakfast meeting hosted by the Malvern/HSC Chamber of Commerce.

David Armstrong, lead park interpreter at DeGray Lake Resort State Park, stopped by the Malvern-HSC Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Chamber Breakfast at ASU Three Rivers Thursday morning.

Armstrong came to share a wealth of information about the local state park, including history, geography, amenities, and upcoming events. Armstrong started his career at DeGray in 2012 as a seasonal interpreter and worked his way into the lead role over the last decade. Armstrong’s vast knowledge of the area and the inner workings of the state park was evident throughout his presentation.

“We all say that DeGray is shaped by place and purpose,” Armstrong said. DeGray Lake was created in 1972 through the DeGray Dam project and serves as a flood control mechanism, a reservoir for drinking water, and a reliable power source. The park itself was established in 1974.

A question from the audience prompted Armstrong to reveal that a lake’s name often depends on the community surrounding it, but DeGray derives its name from an 18th century French fur trapper who settled in the area named DeGraff. Armstrong further explained that it’s likely the word “DeGray” precedes the word “Lake” in the naming, as opposed to the other way around, because the lake is manmade instead of natural.

The 984-acre park is situated on the 13,800-acre manmade lake that straddles the southwest corner of Hot Spring County and the adjacent Clark County. Built off the back of the Caddo River and boasting over 200 miles of remote shoreline, DeGray Lake is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, making this the perfect time to visit and take advantage of all that DeGray has to offer.

“DeGray is such a unique place,” Armstrong said.

DeGray is the only state park in Arkansas designated as a resort park. Armstrong explained that War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock is not a state park but is overseen by the park system, and that Lake Sylvia Recreation Area was added to the mix last year and is considered a satellite of Pinnacle Mountain State Park, but the official number of state parks in Arkansas stands at 52.

“My job as a park interpreter, I’m essentially like the tour guide, or the hospitality/recreation/activities director for the park,” Armstrong offered in explanation about the varying roles of park employees, according to what type of park they are stationed at.

The state park system is comprised of different types of parks, like historical parks, recreation parks, urban parks, nature reserves, and state beaches. DeGray is considered a resort park because of the combined characteristics of the 92-room hotel/lodge with single rooms or suite accommodations, an 18-hole championship golf course, tennis courts, a shoreline restaurant, multiple beaches, and hotel-style amenities.

The park also features covered pavilions and a marina, guided lake tours throughout the year, a very popular disc golf course, tubing, boat and kayak rentals, beach volleyball, playgrounds, five short hiking trails, paddle-boarding instruction, guided horseback rides, interpretive programs, a fantastic Visitors Center, and the Ranger Riddler Escape Room.

DeGray Lake Resort, the 92-room lodge facility in the midst of the park, offers a wonderful array of amenities, in and of itself. Beautiful lake views, a heated swimming pool, an indoor hot tub, fitness room, conference center, fine dining indoors or on the lake, banquet catering service, bicycle rentals, and an amphitheater all make this resort a great choice for a romantic getaway, family fun, weddings, special  events, or corporate retreats.

Read the full story in Friday's Sept. 16 newspaper edition.

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