This edition of UpstreamMatters comes from guest writer, Allyson Ransom.  Allyson is the mother of 5 outdoor-loving sons and has been the Grant Writer and Manager of Gravette Farmers’ Market for the past 7 years.  She and her son, Max, are very involved in the IRWP’s programs, and most recently, they attended the Grand Re-Opening of the Watershed Sanctuary on Saturday, November 8th.  Here’s a recap of their day together… 


Beautiful autumn colors, mild weather and plenty of fun outdoor activities made for a great outing with my son, Max, recently at the Illinois River Watershed Partnership’s 100-year celebration and grand reopening of the Watershed Sanctuary in Cave Springs.

Both Max and I have been acquainted with this unique organization for a few years: Max, as a summer day camper at the Watershed Sanctuary, an experience that has provided interesting and fun introductions for many area children who learn about everything from watersheds and run-off to frogs and art in nature.  Meanwhile, I was very fortunate to have attended one of IRWP’s 4-day storm water seminars at Crystal Bridges Museum and gained a much better understanding of the environmental impacts of stream bank degradation, pollution, rain gardens and to really grasp the meaning of that phrase, “we all live downstream.”


So, it was with a feeling of anticipation as we set off that sunny Saturday for “the lake,” as we so plainly call it.

The new and improved Partners Lake is anything but plain, though. Peaceful and beautiful, yes, but hardly plain. Even though there were already hundreds of attendees when we arrived there, the feeling was one of spaciousness and serenity. The IRWP had a well-planned variety of activities such as fishing and archery, which Max ended up enjoying immensely.  Everything was spaced out here and there throughout the property including on the lake itself.


Lots of family activities happening at Partners Lake!  Photo courtesy of Dana Hope.

In fact, that’s the first thing Max noticed- people on water.  Of course, in the next second, I heard the exuberant command, “We’re going kayaking!”

We waited in line patiently, which was quite surprising since kayak plus water is synonymous with NOW for Max. In about ten minutes, as a family returned from their paddling in the borrowed kayaks, others donned life vests and took their places.

Max high-tailed it to an almost vacant yellow 10-footer, practically snatching it from a tall teenager. We have been kayaking many times, and so I wasn’t too worried even when he shot off, away from the boat launch like some minnow from a trout. He headed up stream around a bend.

As I settled into a faded red craft at the boat launch, a volunteer handing out life vests helped by pushing me out into the depths, and casually added as an afterthought, “By the way, that’s the one that sits low and tips over easy.”

Maintaining my composure and thinking how glad I was to have left my phone and belongings back in the truck, I began the careful and deliberate task of paddling delicately upstream to find Max.

As the lake narrowed on its eastern end, I saw him ahead, in profile, resting a paddle across his lap, leaning back and gazing up into the dappled oranges and reds of the tree canopy. He was just relaxed, barely bobbing there with a stillness bordering on meditation. I don’t know how long he had been like that, but as I watched him for several minutes, that is when it hit me like a wave. A Eureka moment.

All at once, I thought, “ My goodness, this is what it’s all about- this is why we’re here- this is why we need places like this to be saved for another hundred years and more.”


 Delia Haak, IRWP Executive Director, delivers speech during 2014 Time Capsule Dedication Ceremony at the Watershed Sanctuary.

The rest of our day was just as lovely, and after participating in all of the events, we could see the edges of the lake receding into deep shadow as the center glowed golden with the sun low on the horizon, and then we headed for home. After telling Max about my tricky kayak experience and after him laughing outrageously, I felt a solemn gladness that he and I had been a tiny part of the history of this spring-fed lake’s revival, at least for another century.


My son, Max, enjoying opening day at the Watershed Sanctuary

I want to commend the leaders of this project and the compounded community efforts that have helped revive Partners Lake and restore it as a real gem of NW Arkansas. We appreciate all of the educational programs and free community events that IRWP hosts. In Max’s words, “it’s just awesome.”

Related Posts:

Encapsulating a Watershed Legacy

Conservation 101 in 2014

Throwback Thursday: A Centennial Celebration