Photo: Harrison Sutcliffe Photography
A new book highlighting a treasured local waterway was recently released.
The book, written by local restauranteur and noted river enthusiast Doug “Riverman” Allen, is titled The Riverman’s Guide to the Kings River and is available now via Allen’s website, Amazon and some local booksellers around the state.
Allen, well known locally as the owner of Jose’s Bar & Grill in Tontitown (formerly located on Dickson Street in Fayetteville), grew up on the river, and the new book is his ode to his favorite place on Earth.
From the new book:
I was born and raised in the hills of Northwest Arkansas. My home on Onyx Cave Road was just a couple of dirt road miles away from the beautiful Kings River just outside the quaint little tourist town of Eureka Springs. I grew up with a family of Arkansas fishermen and biologists that had a huge passion for anything related to bodies of water and fish. In my lifetime I have fished creeks, farm ponds, lakes and especially rivers. My summers were spent swimming, canoeing and fishing most stretches of the Kings River that meanders slowly and peacefully through the beautiful Ozark Mountains. Over the many years I’ve gotten to know the Kings River like the back of my hand. I feel its pulse. I long for it when I’m away. It’s a huge part of who I am. Although I now live in Fayetteville Arkansas with my family of river rats, I can often be found kayaking, guiding or wade fishing on the beautiful Kings River in the spring, summer and fall.
Allen hopes to guide and teach those who wish to learn, experience, and enjoy everything possible about the beautiful Kings River, he said.
The book delves into a host of topics, including a brief history of the river, the surrounding area, and some geological information about the terrain. It also includes detailed river guides and maps of each section, recommended floating areas, and of course, plenty of tips for catching the smallmouth bass that are plentiful in its waters.
Like any good fisherman, Allen doesn’t give away all his secret spots.
“All my favorite and the best fishing spots are Riverman secrets, but I give you all the tools, such as maps and methods to find your own favorite fishing hole,” he said.
In addition to his personal time on the river, Allen has served as a guide for others. He has also led a class called “Riverman School for Kids” the past couple summers, which teaches children about the river, how to catch bait, how to operate a rod and reel.
“I teach the kids how to catch fish. But first we catch bait and learn a little bit about the river. I provide each kid with their own fishing rod & reel along with their first tackle box with beginning tackle,” he said. “We catch crawdads and hang them off our ears(Ozark earring) and learn about other baits such as Hellgrammites and minnows we catch in nets. I always make sure each kid catches a smallmouth bass (the King of the Kings).”
Allen said he hopes to share some of what has become a respite for him in many times, including the last few years of living and working through a global pandemic.
“Running a restaurant during a pandemic has been super stressful and the time I get to remove myself from Jose’s allows me to reset and recharge before I have to go back and face the new and evolving challenges in our industry,” he said. “I make tacos for a living but the Kings River is my passion.”
The book shares plenty of Allen’s own stories about his time on the river, and time spent there with his mother and father, and other family fisherman who influenced his love of the area. He also shares stories of others, including locals he calls “Kings River legends” such as J.D. Fletcher, Bud Stoppel, and Pat Hanby.
The book also discusses a bit about how to preserve the river for future generations to enjoy, he said.
“I struggled a little writing this book as I knew it would put a spot light on the Kings River as more people would discover how special this river is,” he said. “With the massive influx of people and growth of NWA, I realized during the pandemic that folks were going to discover the Kings and many area streams regardless. If we can educate, we can preserve.”
Allen will host a book signing at his restaurant (1032 E. Henri De Tonti Blvd.) at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19. He is also available to visit groups or book clubs for speaking engagements to talk about the book and the river he loves.