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Anyone looking for a lake-focused destination in the middle of the United States would be wise to take more than a passing glance at Lake Omaha. This small man-made lake in the Ozarks Region of Arkansas is one of seven lakes created in the small town of Cherokee Village. Located in the scenic Ozark foothills just west of Hardy, the community is about 140 miles from both Little Rock and Memphis and about as close to nature as one can get. Positioned on the South Fork River, Lake Omaha was created in 1969 by damming small Hubble Creek. Originally intended as a retirement community, Cherokee Village now has just as many younger people living there as senior citizens. The seven lakes within Cherokee Village - Omaha, Thunderbird, Sequoyah, Chanute, Cherokee, Navajo and Aztec - are surrounded by the 15,000-acre planned development spanning the border of Fulton and Sharp Counties. In the 50 years since its creation, Cherokee Village has matured, improved and settled into a friendly, well-run leisure location that 4500 people now call home.
At 139 acres, Lake Omaha is one of the three biggest lakes within the complex. With lakes in the complex ranging in size from 19 to 264 acres, Lake Omaha is one of the few that allows water skiing. Forty feet deep at the dam, Lake Omaha supports all types of watercraft except jet skis. Water skiing and tubing are favorite activities here, and pontoon boats and power boating share space with sailboats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats and sailboards. The lakes are clean, spring-fed and well-maintained with an excellent swim area. All lakes are open only to property owners and their guests who are often found fishing Lake Omaha and the smaller lakes. All lakes have been stocked with catfish, black bass, largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and other species native to the area. A small marina located on the lake supplies dock space and necessities to residents who don't own lake frontage. A larger marina is located on Lake Thunderbird, and community centers are located at or near both lakes. A total of six swimming pools are located throughout the community for the use of residents at a nominal fee. The lakes and many community improvements are owned and maintained by the Suburban Improvement District to whom each property owner is assessed a small annual fee.
The community has been planned to appeal to those with leisure time: two golf courses and a driving range are located within Cherokee Village, open only to residents. Both contain pro shops and golf cart rentals. Tournaments are held here several times a year. A Senior Citizen Center holds planned activities and meals for older adults, both those who remain in separate conventional homes and those that live in the townhouses, condos and retirement village. The Omaha Community Center contains a fully equipped health and fitness center, a stage and auditorium, meeting rooms, miniature golf, kitchen and spa facilities. More pools, a concession stand, miniature golf and additional meeting rooms are available at Thunderbird Community Center. Cherokee Village has a full compliment of civic organizations, special interest clubs, service groups and churches. There are tennis courts, horseshoe pits and shuffle board courts for those not engaged in fishing or boating. A gun club which maintains a trap range as well as a pistol and rifle range is located on the outskirts of the village. There is even an RV park and campground, open only to those with property owner permits for visitors. A small regional air strip south of the village serves area residents who are pilots. The Lake Omaha resident will find everything on their wish list readily available.
Real estate with lake frontage has become more expensive in recent years; homes directly on Lake Omaha are upscale quality homes at a still-reasonable price. Back lots are considerably less expensive to purchase yet retain the benefits of lake ownership due to the covenants in place through the Suburban Improvement District. Younger residents have discovered the advantages of life at Lake Omaha, and their numbers are growing. Part of the appeal is the many nature-oriented activities in the surrounding area. Only 14 miles north of Lake Omaha, Mammoth Springs holds one of the world's largest natural springs. Mammoth Spring is the origination point of the Spring River, considered one of the best canoeing rivers in the state. Spring River flows adjacent to Cherokee Village, and numerous outfitters in the area provide equipment rental and transportation to white-water adventures. The South Fork of the Spring River flows through Cherokee Village and provides not only excellent fishing for bass and the occasional walleye, but a water route to the village of Hardy. A leisurely float down the quieter stretches of the river provides the opportunity for picnicking on the many sandbars and viewing wildlife, foliage and wildflowers. Deer are plentiful in the Lake Omaha area - even in the village.
The area around Lake Omaha is filled with beautiful vistas and plenty of trails for walking and mountain biking. Camping and hiking trails are also available at Mammoth Spring State Park on the Arkansas-Missouri state line. The Jordan Recreation Area and campground on Norfolk Reservoir is 50 miles to the west, as is a unit of the Ozark National Forest and Blanchard Springs Caverns. Forty miles beyond is famed Bull Shoals Lake and State Park. Between are many rivers and streams for canoeing, rafting, fishing and exploring. The small towns of the Ozarks are a joy to explore, with friendly residents and quaint bed-and-breakfasts in scenic settings. Hardy is a well-known crafts and antique-hunters destination. Besides Hardy and Mammoth Springs, nearby villages like Ash Fork and Evening Shade hold their own small town charm. Local communities can provide groceries and staples, but major shopping requires a trip to Jonesboro, Searcy or Little Rock. Children from Cherokee Village attend the excellent Highland Schools in Hardy; Ash Fork is home to the new Ozarka College, a two-year college.
Vacation rentals near Lake Omaha can be found, usually private residences available by the week or month. Other forms of lodgings can be found at Hardy less than five miles away. So come spend some time at Lake Omaha and explore the Cherokee Village area. You may decide to become a villager. Come see what you're missing!
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