The Illinois River Watershed Partnership Learning Center and Sanctuary are located in the center of Cave Springs, and along the Highway 112 route that many of our readers use to commute to work and to the airport on a regular basis. One can’t help by wonder what all the activity is around the lake. What’s being done at the lake?   When is the lake going to be filled up?   What will the Sanctuary be like when it’s finished?


Nature in Progress Sign


We’re excited to share an update on several important projects are in the works.  We are hoping that the lake will be filled up by the first of September!


Projects at the Lake:

Replacing the Water Control Gate

1. Replace the water control gate in order to fill up the lake

The water control gate is aptly named…it is what keeps the water level in the lake, like the plug in a bathtub. The old original water control gate was broken and needed to be replaced.   Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) divers pulled the “plug”, waited for the lake to drain and dry out some and then began dredging the sediment that had built up over 50 years. Over 200 dump truck loads of sediment have been removed which will provide greater capacity and depth for fish habitat and lake health. AGFC designed the new control gate structure and Crowder Construction has been hired by AGFC to construct the new gate. It’s pretty “slick” with two gates that will allow the level of the lake to be monitored and excess water to be released as needed to avoid flooding. The construction will take place this summer while the flow of water is typically much lower and the lakebed is drier. Completion of the new water gate is scheduled for early September.




Stitt Family viewing raceways

2. Stream restoration to restore natural channel and remove old hatchery raceways

An old trout hatchery is part of the history of the Watershed Sanctuary. Trout need cold water to survive and the temperature of the water coming from the cave spring is approximately 54 degrees F…perfect for trout.   Raceways and small ponds were constructed for the trout as they grew in weight and were sold to restaurants or released into the larger lake area. The concrete raceways will be removed and the natural stream channel will be restored incorporating three wetland areas, rock dam, and native plants and grasses. Arkansas Game and Fish stream team designed the restoration in collaboration with Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC) and funding is provided by a grant from AGFC, ANRC and Walmart Stormwater Division.



Loch Lono on 6-11-14

3. Fishing Pier to be built over original Loch Lono dam built in 1914

A fishing pier will be built over the original dam that is seen in the lakebed, which was built in 1914.   Wilton Mortimer Bartlett built the dam that formed the first lake and named the lake Loch Lono, after his daughter Lono.   Drawings for the new fishing pier are complete and construction of the foundation will begin in conjunction with the water control gate construction. Completion of the fishing pier has not been finalized, but a new pier will make local fishermen very happy!



Watershed Sanctuary Pavilion

 4. Outdoor Pavilion and Amphitheater for educational and recreational programming

Haizlip Studio architectural firm was selected to design an outdoor pavilion and amphitheater that will be built on the north shore of the lake. Drawings are 60% complete to-date with completion of the drawings and bids to be accepted for construction to begin in late Fall 2014 with completion of a North Pavilion and Amphitheater by June 2015.



Old Hatchery Trout Sign

5. Trails, bait shop, observation platforms and benches to be built in upland forest areas

Work is ongoing on three primary primitive trails around the lake in the diverse forest for wildlife observation and viewing. Over 300 unique native plants and trees have been identified by IRWP and the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and the Arkansas Forestry Commission. These unique and in many cases, rare, plants and trees will provide many hours of enjoyment for hikers, bird watchers, plant enthusiasts. The old bait shop had to be demolished but a new “bait shop” will be constructed on the original location on the south edge of the lake.



All of these construction projects around the stream, lake and urban forest will be part of the viewscape for the next year.   We can’t wait to see these projects completed and open to the public to enjoy!

Stay tuned for projects on the east and west side of the lake as renovation of the Watershed Learning Center transforms the parking, landscape and hillside using Low Impact Development design and construction.

There’s much work to do and we’re excited to share the process with you….NATURE IN PROGRESS!


Sanctuary Documentary

 Visit to watch our Watershed Sanctuary Documentary


Related Posts:

A New Chapter for the Lake at Cave Springs

100 Years Later… Draining the Lake at Cave Springs

Putting a Name on Our Heritage and Our Future