Restoring Lake Conway

Unlocking Lake Conway’s Full Potential

Subscribe below for updates about the renovation of Lake Conway and discover how it will make the lake the best it can be! 

Historic Lake Conway

A Central Arkansas Landmark

Lake Conway has a rich history that dates back to its creation in 1948. It came into existence through the construction of a spillway dam structure on Palarm Creek. Spanning an impressive 6,700 acres, Lake Conway holds the distinction of being the largest lake ever created by a conservation agency. 

Over the past 75 years, the lake has undergone minor winter drawdowns but it has not undergone any major renovations. Although it faces challenges in terms of habitat and access, Lake Conway continues to be a popular destination. Each year 50,000 visitors come to appreciate its natural beauty and recreational opportunities–especially fishing for crappie, bream, catfish, largemouth bass, and more. 

Reaching Its Full Potential

Over the past 70 years, the city of Conway has added more than 60,000 residents upstream. The interstate was built along and through the western edge of the lake. And the vegetation in the lake continued to grow and change.

Lakes change naturally over time but development accelerates and alters that change. Lake Conway is a man-made lake that is over 70 years old. It requires management to reach its full potential. A renovated lake will provide maximum benefit to wildlife and lake users of all types.

Lily pads growing in Lake Conway.
Aerial view of marsh on Lake Conway.

Offering Exciting Opportunities

Making a Good Lake Great

The renovation of Lake Conway will revitalize this famous Arkansas body of water and provide an even better fishing experience. Emptying the lake will allow nature to restore the health of the lakebed. But an empty lake also provides the opportunity to add many man-made improvements.

Lake Conway can have a fresh start by achieving the following objectives:

Infrastructure Modernization

The first objective for the Lake Conway renovation is infrastructure modernization.

This includes total replacement of the original dam and spillway, which were constructed in 1948. This comprehensive overhaul aims to restore the lake’s life cycle.

A spillway will be added adjacent to the current dam. This addition will not only enhance the lake’s water management capabilities but also provide an opportunity for aesthetic improvements. The new dam will feature a pedestrian bridge and bank fishing access, enhancing the recreational experience for visitors. 

Habitat Enhancement

An empty lake will create world-class habitat in two ways. Exposing the lake bed to air and sunlight will create a chain reaction of improved habitat. Sediment compaction, decomposition of organic material, and re-suspension of trapped nutrients will all take place while the lake is empty. 

The compaction resulting from the drying out of the lake bed is estimated to add an additional 1.5 to 2.5 feet of depth to the lake. This increase in depth will significantly expand the amount of fishable and productive water by hundreds of acres.

While nature is restoring the lakebed, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will exponentially increase man-made fish habitats. Fishing structures will be increased from 350 to 3,350.

Additional enhancements such as pea gravel spawning beds, stake beds, and the planting of more cypress trees will further enhance the habitat and contribute to the overall well-being of fish and wildlife in the area.

Access Improvements

The access improvement objective for Lake Conway aims to enhance the overall accessibility and user experience of the lake. Lake Conway has 23 miles of boat lanes in need of clearing and remarking to ensure safe and seamless navigation. 

Improvements will also be made at all current boat ramps and access points, with three main goals in mind: habitat preservation, bank fishing enhancements, and the addition of amenities.

Furthermore, an urban natural area will be added on the north end of the lake to provide a unique and accessible space for the public to enjoy the natural beauty of the lake.

Draining the lake also presents an opportunity for private landowners around the lake to improve their permitted structures, enhancing both functionality and aesthetics.

Finally, the drainage of the lake will facilitate the cleanup of decades of litter and debris, creating a cleaner and more enjoyable environment for everyone. Overall, these access improvements aim to make Lake Conway more accessible, enjoyable, and user-friendly for all who visit.

When Is the Lake Renovation Happening?

The drawdown of Lake Conway will begin September 1, 2023 when the dam gates are opened. The lake will begin to drain through Palarm Creek to the Arkansas River. The lake will drain throughout the late summer and early fall as weather permits. Once the lakebed is dry, construction can begin in spring of 2024. 

New Lake Conway Timeline

Commission approval.
AGFC to lift all fishing limits.
Commence drawdowns.
Infrastructure, habitat, and access construction begins.
Thursday, June 15th
Thursday, July 20th
Sept 1, 2023
Spring 2024

Improvement projects will begin once the lakebed is dry enough to tolerate construction. The construction period is largely dependent on weather—as is the refilling of the lake. Lake Conway is estimated to return to its current elevation in five years. 

Be Part of the Transformation.

Take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come together as a community and be part of the revitalization of Lake Conway. The drawdown and construction period for a new Lake Conway will offer a number of historic opportunities for area residents and visitors. A fully renovated Lake Conway will be a true amenity for all of central Arkansas. Subscribe for updates to stay in the loop on all things Lake Conway, including events that will allow you to witness the transformation with your own eyes. 

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