BENTONVILLE (AP) — A new exhibit at the Bentonville Public Library tells the story of sport fishing on the White River from the late 1800s until the river was broken up by dams in the mid-1900s.
"Down a Lazy River," on display in the Walmart Community Room, consists of several panels inlaid with photographs and short historical text.
A 1941 article from Life magazine highlights the career of Jim Owen, a popular sport fishing outfitter based in Branson, Mo., at the time.
Fishing trips were big business for outfitters in the region, who would often plan trips that lasted several days, according to a news release from the library. Fishermen would float down the White River and return to their starting point by train or horse-drawn wagon.
The era of free-floating fishing on the river ended between the late 1940s and early 1960s with the construction of a series of dams. Float fishing for native fish, such as largemouth and smallmouth bass, gave way to angling for trout, which had been introduced into the cold waters beneath the dams, according to a news release.
The exhibit is on loan from the Rogers Historical Museum, which displayed the panels in 2007, said museum director Gaye Bland. She said sport fishing was very popular on the White River until the dams made floating long stretches of the river impossible.
Some of the photographs show fishermen relaxing in the trademark low-edged jon boats that were popular for floating. Others portray the typical camp setup for fishermen on a multiday trip.
Hadi Dudley, library director, said several patrons have visited the library specifically to see the exhibit.
"People seem to really be interested in the history of our region," Dudley said.
The library is incorporating one week of programming for home-school students to coincide with the historical exhibit. The Rogers Historical Museum provided hands-on educational activities for school children, including historical fishing lures, Dudley said.
The fishing exhibit is the second partnership between the Bentonville Public Library and the Rogers Historical Museum. It will be on display through Jan. 8.
The library is at 405 S. Main St.