Hurricane Lake is a 332-acre manmade lake located in Benton (Saline County) at the confluence of Hurricane Creek and the Little Hurricane Creek. Construction of the lake began in 1942 with the Hurricane Creek Dam built by Alcoa Mining Company to flood the area. Hurricane Lake’s primary function was to provide water for Alcoa’s Hurricane Creek aluminum plant. Hurricane Lake was also used for recreational activities by company employees and their families. In the twenty-first century, the lake and its surroundings are owned by the Hurricane Lake Estates Development Company.
In 1891, bauxite ore, an essential material used in the production of aluminum, was discovered four miles southwest of Hurricane Creek near Benton. Because of the need for aluminum during World War II, the federal government financed and built several facilities for high-volume bauxite mining. In Arkansas, Alcoa competed against the Reynolds Metals Company for government contracts. Alcoa secured a contract with the United States Defense Plants Corporation in 1941 to build what was reportedly the largest aluminum plant in the world. The plant was built at what later became South Reynolds Road in Benton. Construction began on October 4, 1941, and the plant was opened on July 22, 1942.
During the war years, 4,000 to 5,000 workers were employed at the Hurricane Creek Plant. The nearby neighborhood of Pine Haven in Bauxite (Saline County) provided housing for company employees. The Hurricane Creek Dam near the confluence of the Hurricane and Little Hurricane creeks in Benton was finished in 1943, resulting in a large manmade lake that provided fresh water used in the processing of bauxite ore.
The Hurricane Creek Plant closed two days after the end of World War II. The plant was then sold to the Reynolds Metals Company and reopened in April 1946. The plant was shut down again in the mid-1980s after Reynolds Metals closed its mining operations in Arkansas. There were 183 people employed there at the time. The New York Times announced the plant’s permanent closing on September 20, 1984. In 2003, all that remained of the Hurricane Creek plant was donated for use as the Saline County Career Center, a partnership with the county and what is now the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College. The donation included 1,131 acres of land and five buildings valued at $5.6 million.
In November 1998, Hurricane Lake and its surroundings were closed after being purchased by Michael Rogers of the Hurricane Lake Estates Development Company and MDR Properties. Rogers purchased 902 acres from Reynolds Metals, which included the 332-acre lake, for a reported $3.8 million. Rogers initially planned to build 280 homes, including sixty-five lakefront properties.
The City of Bryant annexed the area in 1998, but the decision was overturned in a special election. In 1999, area residents filed suit against Rogers, asking him to reopen the lake and Hurricane Creek Road. John Payne, a Benton attorney, filed a civil lawsuit in Saline County Chancery Court against Rogers’s companies seeking to reopen Hurricane Lake Road and a fifty-foot buffer around the lake. Rogers, however, wanted to limit access to the lake to residents and their guests. The complaint stated that since Rogers had taken ownership, access to the property and Hurricane Lake was blocked to the public in general. On April 28, 1999, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that the Benton City Council unanimously approved annexation of the Hurricane Lake area, but the lawsuit against Rogers remained unsettled. On March 23, 1999, the 902-acre Hurricane Lake Estates subdivision was annexed by the City of Benton. Eventually, Rogers relinquished ownership to the property owners.
For additional information:
Bachus, Gordon Scott. A Printed and Pictorial History of Bauxite. North Little Rock, AR: Heritage Publishing Co., 1968.
Bowers, Rodney. “Benton Oks Annexation of Hurricane Lake Area.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 28, 1999, pp. 1B, 3B.
———. “County Oks Annexation of 902 Acres by Benton.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 24, 1999, pp. 1B, 10B.
———. “Residents Sue over Lake Closure Developer Shut Former Reynolds Metals Property Used by Public.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 12, 1999, p. 2B.
Brown, Wesley. “Alcoa Forced to Sell Area Facilities.” Times-Record (Fort Smith, Arkansas), January 9, 2003, p. 8D.
Glennon, Bob. “History of Hurricane Lake.” The Saline 18 (September 2003): 7– 8.
Cody Lynn Berry
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