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July 13, 2015 - Outdoors legend Jim Gaston dies at age 73

Bob Heist, 

An Arkansan who made a living from the state's natural beauty and mankind's fondness for the feeling of a fish tugging on the sticky end of a fishing line has passed away. Legendary Jim Gaston died at the age of 73 early Monday morning.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Roller Funeral Home and remain incomplete at this time.

Gaston means as much to the preservation and development of the outdoors in the Twin Lakes Area as our bountiful rivers and lakes.

As mentioned on its website at, Gaston's White River Resort began 50 years ago when Al Gaston, Jim's father, purchased 20 acres of White River frontage with six small cottages and six boats … the year was 1958.

Now the resort covers over 400 acres with two miles of river frontage, and has 79 cottages ranging in size from two double beds and a bathroom to a two-story cottage with ten private bedrooms. The airstrip has grown from 1,800 feet to 3,200 feet. The six boats now are more than 70, and with a massive state-of-the-art dock to hold them all. The years have brought a restaurant, private club, gift shop, tennis court, playground, swimming pool, duck pond, game room and two nature trails.

Gaston's contributions resulted in the $4.7 million James A. Gaston Visitor Center that has a bird's-eye view of Bull Shoals-White River State Park. The facility is an environmental education learning center and features interpretation of the river, dam and lake, and their histories. State-of-the-art interpretive exhibits are in the lobby, along with a gift shop, and Johnboat Theater and Exhibit Hall, a 1,720-square-foot area filled with images of the river, lake and dam. An observation tower, gift shop, two classrooms and park offices are also a part of the center.

Outdoorsman, outdoors photographer, one of the keys to the creation of minimum flow to preserve the trout fishery at both the White and North Fork rivers – and so many other contributions – Gaston's legacy on the outdoors in Arkansas is seemingly endless.

A lifetime member of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism Commission, Gaston's honors and positions of importance reflect his stature statewide, including:

1985 Arkansas Tourism Man of the Year

1999 Arkansas Outdoors Hall of Fame inductee

2010 Arkansas Business Executive of the Year

His name is visible throughout the University of Arkansas Mountain Home campus, including sponsorship at Gaston Lobby at Roller Hall. He also is an inductee at the Trout Hall of Fame housed at ASUMH.