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Lake Wilhelmina Renovation Project

Latest Lake Wilhelmina Renovation Updates:

  • As of June 10, 2024, The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began a slow release to prepare for a late summer drawdown.
  • On August 1, 2024, The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will begin a controlled drawdown of the lake to make extensive repairs to failing infrastructure and improve the fishery’s long-term health.

Lake Wilhelmina Renovation Project

Lake Wilhelmina consists of a 200-acre resevoir built on Powell Creek in Polk County. The lake’s dam was constructed in 1958. Wilhelmina is known for excellent bluegill and redear fishing, as well as good opportunities for largemouth bass and channel catfish.

In 2019, uncontrollable falling water levels indicated a failure somewhere in the dam or water control tower. The lake level dropped so much that launching a boat became impossible. After a thorough inspection using side-scan sonar, AGFC staff discovered two holes in the lake bed between the water control tower and the dam. In 2020, AGFC contractors dropped about a dozen large 1,800-pound sandbags over the two holes to slow the leak for inspection.

Tommy Laird, AGFC fisheries chief, said, “The dam has not leaked enough since then to repeat that low water level, but the sandbags were not meant to be a permanent fix.”

Contractors inspected the leak from the downstream end of the discharge pipe once the flow had slowed and discovered the source of the problem.

“This structure has been underwater since 1958 and has gone well past its expected lifespan,” Laird said. “Holes in the 30-inch outflow pipe have formed, letting water flow through the structure between the control tower gates and the dam. We’ve been able to secure funding and develop a plan for a renovation, and we’re ready to implement a more permanent solution.”

The repair will require a complete drawdown and major construction to the section of the dam nearest the existing water tower.

“We’re also taking advantage of the low water and completing quite a few other projects while the lake is drained,” Laird said. “We’re going to improve and extend the boat ramp, add a courtesy dock and renovate the parking area.”

Bank anglers will benefit from additional work as well. Laird says the current fishing pier will be renovated and moved. Many new fish attractors will be placed throughout the lake, with some being artificial habitats and others created from wood and brush.

“Several road improvements are planned to provide more locations to pull alongside the lake and fish,” Laird said. “We’re working with (Polk) County Judge Brandon Ellison to try and get those road improvements, and he’s been great to work with.”

Repairs are expected to be complete by the end of summer 2025 and the lake is expected to fill quickly post construction.