Most Attractive Lakes in Arkansas for Fishing & Activities
As a state featuring more nature than an urban area, especially regarding the water surface, Arkansas often faced natural disasters. The overflowing of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers was just the beginning. However, the earthquakes in the 1810s were the climax of the exposure to the disasters.
The local and federal authorities decided to build several dams, which led to today’s Greers Ferry Dam, Blakely Mountain Dam, and Bull Shoals Dam. It was all to prevent overflow.
Eventually, Arkansas successfully sustained the natural disasters. Today, it blossoms with tourism at the lakes with many activities, including fishing, water skiing, scuba diving, and many more.
Below, we picked the best lakes in Arkansas for fishing and recreational activities you can do this summer.
About Arkansas Lakes
Between 1811 and 1812, Arkansas faced a series of earthquakes that significantly altered the area, created these aquatic lands, and changed the course of the Mississippi River and Arkansas rivers.
Witnesses say that the earth started creating waves that eventually burst with water. In a nutshell, the earthquakes swallowed the hills and replaced them with swamps. That’s how Lake Chicot got created. At that time, it was only habitable for snakes, frogs, mosquitoes, and flies.
But, after the war, the US army corps of engineers created water reservoirs for the surrounding area of Arkansas to provide water supply and electric power. Soon after their construction, the lakes got stocked with fish, and today many deem Arkansas the best bass fishing lake in the area.
Fishing at Arkansas Lakes
Out of the total wilderness in Arkansas, only 600,000 acres belong to the lakes and 90,000 miles of rivers. Once the season’s open, anglers take their position to break the fishing records.
To maintain the Land of Opportunity, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission monitors the fish level in Arkansas lakes and regularly fills in the gaps of what’s missing.
Below we go through the main fish types you can hook at these lakes.
Fishing at Lakes in Arkansas: Insights
According to statistics, Greers Ferry Lake has the highest rank when it comes to fishing. However, Millwood Lake in southwest Arkansas also assembled many largemouth basses over ten pounds.
Yet, among anglers, Lake Ouachita appears to be the most popular fishing lake in Arkansas state, along with:
- Beaver Lake;
- DeGray Lake;
- Greeson Lake;
- Bull Shoals Lake;
- Lake Hamilton.
As for fishing-river-wise, the Arkansas River, Mississippi River, and Missouri River cultivate some of the most popular fish fauna you mustn’t miss.
Beaver Lake and Lake Dardanelle are sought-after for fishing tournaments, but Arkansas River hosts professional fishing tournaments. Therefore, if you’re interested in professional fishing tournaments, Arkansas River is the best place to test your limits.
Mississippi River, on the other hand, captures the attention of the catfish fans trying to break the 2001 record of the blue catfish of 116 lbs and 12 oz.
Last but not least, for all those trying to pass down their fishing knowledge to the little ones, there’s White River with its relatively peaceful and learning-friendly atmosphere.
The Best Arkansas Lakes
What once was a valley with hills turned into a swamp with marsh, and today is a holiday haven. In 2020, Arkansas noted a 9.9% increase in tourist visits in the valley, or 7.275 million visitors to the state parks.
The list of reasons tourists chose Arkansas during the pandemic is abundant. To narrow it down, we’ll begin with lakes, fishing, and the activities it offers. Below, we discuss some of the top Arkansas lakes.
1. Lake Conway
Only 900 km southeast of Conway city sits the largest fishing and hunting lake in the United States.
One of the most intriguing attractions about the largest Arkansas lake is the Lake Conway monster. Rumor has it that Fouke Monsters or Boggy Creek Monsters are lurking around the small islands in the lake. However, no camera has ever caught that on record. H.P. Lovecraft or Jules Verne fans enjoy walking a mile in the shoes of the main character of their favorite stories—at least for a little while.
Apart from the monster attraction, Lake Conway is a fishing attraction. The lake is predominantly rich in largemouth bass, catfish, and crappies. There are also many open public areas with fishing boat locations maintained by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
2. Lake Ouachita
Ouachita National Forest is home to one of the best Arkansas reservoirs bearing the name of the river it feeds—the Ouachita River.
Lake Ouachita is the largest one in Arkansas. It spreads on 970 miles of coastline, making spots for both fishing and bathing, while the Ozark and Ouachita mountains contribute to the activity list to do at Lake Ouachita.
Nearby the lake, there’s a resort area called Crystal Lakes if you’re up for swimming or enjoying the beaches. However, many count it in the best bass fishing lakes in Arkansas and beyond.
3. DeGray Lake
Only a 20-minute ride from Arkadelphia, on the Caddo River, there is the magnificent Lake Degray. Back in 1974, DeGray Lake State Park opened to motivate tourism. So, if you want to watch the sunset on DeGray Lake, there’s the Arkansas Scenic Byway 7 on the eastern shore, where you settle for a holiday with your friends and family.
The initial purpose of the lake construction was to provide power, water supply, and flood control. Caddo River and Ouachita River used to overflow in the past, so the US Army corps of engineers built the DeGray Dam to control the flows of the rivers.
4. Greers Ferry Lake
Greers Ferry Lake is only 60 miles away from Little Rock in Northern Arkansas. This US Army Corps of Engineers project was to provide water and power supply to the nearby area.
But, during the 1960s, Greers Ferry Lake became a popular tourist destination and a potential resort investment. Therefore, in the 1970s, investors built lux hoods with many activities like swimming, scuba diving, mount climbing, boating, etc.
Fishing is the local past-time, though. Greers Ferry Lake is famous for its rainbow trout.
5. Lake Dardanelle
Lake Dardanelle is one of Arkansas’s best major bass fishing destinations because it’s home to white bass, largemouth bass, catfish, and crappies. However, Lake Dardanelle is the perfect fit for the bass family compared to all Arkansas lakes. The lake is 34,300 acres big, which explains the excellent fishing interest.
Two parts make up the Lake Dardanelle State Park—Russellville and Dardanelle. Russellville is the main park area with outstanding views of Mount Nebo and the perfect stage for the big fishing tournaments.
6. Lake Greeson
Only 6 miles north of Murfreesboro, Arkansas, in the United States, lies a reservoir called Lake Greeson on the Little Missouri River. It borders 15 parks known for their scenic beauty and recreational options, including camping, fishing, boating, bicycling, and swimming.
Lake Greeson is famous for the rich diversity of various fish, like striped spotted, and white bass, largemouth, channel catfish, and flathead. Rainbow trout are abundant in the region below Narrows Dam.
Along with fish, you may also find other game species near Lake Greeson. Around the Lake Greeson region, you’ll come across squirrels, rabbits, and whitetail deer.
The Lake Greeson Public Hunting Area is west of the lake, which is 35,000 acres (14,164 hectares) and offers excellent hunting grounds.
7. Beaver Lake
Only 10 miles northwest of Eureka Springs, near the Hot Spring Counties Beaver Lake, is enjoying the 400 miles of coastline of Arkansas. The Majestic limestone bluffs on the lake shore never failed to leave tourists speechless. It’s ideal for family vacations because the area features water skiing, scuba diving, and many more water or recreational activities.
This lake is an artificial reservoir in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas to supply the surrounding area with potable water. The main supply for the lake is the White River.
Moreover, Beaver Lake welcomes fishing enthusiasts to come and take the stand against prevalent predators like largemouth bass, bluegill, or catfish.
8. Bull Shoals Lake
Bull Shoals Lake is another artificial lake of the US Army corps of engineers project that proved successful. White River impounds the lake, but it’s the last lake that White River impounds in a string behind Beaver lake, Table Rock Lake, and Lake Taneycomo.
The purpose of Bull Shoals lake was to control the flood, but once it got stocked with fish, visits to the lake became versatile. Bull Shoals Lake calls on all bass fishermen to break the record of 12 pounds of largemouth bass.
But, Hybrids, smallmouth, and spotted or white bass are also dominant. So, bring along your bass baits and try your luck.
Ideally, we recommend using live baits like small minnows because bass fish are predators. Another option is to bring plastic worms, jigs, or crankbaits.
In addition to versatility, this lake is a trendy weekend getaway spot because the are features camping spots and facilities for a peaceful outdoor vacation. It’s recommended for families with kids too because there are playgrounds nearby.
9. Lake Catherine
In the Ouachita Mountains, close to the Hot Springs, Lake Catherine is a well-liked spot for boating. Despite being 11 miles shorter in length than Lake Hamilton, which it borders, the lake has a lot to offer. For example, boating and fishing are common pastimes.
Lake Catherine State Park offers 70 tent or RV camping spots on the southern beaches. A furnished cottage lies in the state park above the lake. Boat rides and a shop are available all year long at the marina in the park.
10. Cane Creek Lake
Cane Creek Lake has a total area of 1,665 acres in the Southern Arkansas Timberlands Region. It features incredible picturesque views and a wide variety of fauna and birds. Cane Creek Lake was created by damming Cane Creek, a branch of the longest bayou in Bartholomew County.
It is a tranquil spot to kayak and canoe. A paddler passes through the waterlilies of the lake. They shield the abundant fish in the lakes and make great nesting grounds for various birds, ducks, and other animals.
11. Lake Hamilton
At the southwest corner of the Hot Springs Mountains in the Ouachita area, Lake Hamilton offers breathtaking vistas. The lake on the Ouachita River boasts 7,400 acres.
The activity of boating is quite common, and several marinas nearby provide boat rentals, boat launches, and bait for use on boats. An attractive location near the Lake Garvan Woodland Gardens is East Lake.
You may use a boat or concrete roads to get to this lakeside botanical park. Hill Wheatley Park is a lovely area to swim in, found in the lake’s northwest section.
12. Horseshoe Lake
Six miles east of Hughes in Crittenden is the 2,362-acre lake known as Horseshoe Lake. The now-private lake is well-known for its extensive cypress woods, which are heavily dependent on the existing waters table and rainfall in this region.
Visitors may kayak at its two public boat ramps in addition to using them for boating and fishing. In addition to the lake entry, the northern entrance point of Lake Erie has another marina with a fishing dock, a small campsite, restrooms, and service stations.
13. Norfork Lake
Norfork Lake is 8,900 acres big. Most of the lake lies in Arkansas, but part of the northern side of the lake resides in the Mississippi River.
Norfork Lake has an underwater town with over 20 destinations you must take. Guests suggest the sunken caves, the abandoned school bus, underwater rock formation, and the bridge as go-to destinations.
Besides the appealing touristic attractions, Norfork lake is a top fishing destination as it’s abundant with various fishes. Anglers visit the lake for the size of striped, hybrid, or largemouth bass. We also must mention the quality of the walleye, white bass, crappie, catfish, or bluegill.
14. Lake Chicot
Near the Mississippi River, there’s the largest natural lake —Lake Chicot. Many also consider it the largest oxbow lake.
The name, as you can probably tell, is of French origin, meaning swampy for the cypress marsh of the banks. It came into existence almost 700 years ago and is still among the best tourist attractions in North America.
Lake Chicot State Park lies on the north side of the lake, and it comprises 121 campgrounds, 14 cabins, swimming pools, and picnic areas.
15. White Oak Lake
You’d reach White Oak Lake State Park if you head southwest of Arkansas. This destination is ideal for mountain lovers because White Oak Lake is in the middle of the pine forest.
This picturesque lake steals the attention of many visitors and anglers as well. The pines and needles end up in the lake when the season arrives, thus making the perfect habitat for bass, crappies, or catfish.
The air in the park is rich with oxygen and has rejuvenating properties. The park’s hiking trails are convenient for both beginners and experienced hikers that lead to Silver Maples trails, where you can enjoy the picturesque West Gulf Coastal Plain forest. But, mind that you might come across deer and herons on your way and bald eagles during the winter season.
White Oak Lake takes the second spot among the largest lake areas in Arkansas, with a surface of 1,656 acres. It came to be in 1961 as a reservoir, but nowadays, it’s home to many fish—a true angler’s haven.
16. Lake Maumelle
Lake Maumelle is a destination you can reach from Highway 10 with a car ride. Those with an adventurous spirit can follow the Sleepy Hollow Water Trail.
The lake is 8,900 acres big, and what makes this lake worth mentioning is the main water supply. For that reason, swimming in the lake isn’t possible.
However, boat ramps are nearby, so you can still legally fish here. The luckiest anglers will find bass, catfish, and crappie.
17. Table Rock Lake
The US Army Corps of Engineers started the construction of the Table Rock Dam on the White River in 1954 and finished in 1958.
There are several marinas along the lake because it’s famous for a fish species not so frequent in Arkansas—trout. The water from the dam makes the perfect habitat for trout.
18. Columbia Lake
Columbia Lake sits in Columbia County, Arkansas, and features 3,000 acres in size. Like the rest of the artificial lakes built by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Columbia Lake was to provide water supply for the surrounding area.
Nevertheless, the lake lies in such a location that it’s a place that invigorates you via meditating, fishing, and other recreational activities. Regular angels can vouch for that as they constantly visit the lake, trying their luck against the bluegills, catfish, or bass fish.
Arkansas Lakes: Final Words
The lakes in Arkansas recharge people’s batteries with their greenery, brisk air, and multiple activities to enjoy nature’s gifts. There are nearly 2,500 registered lakes in Arkansas, and we’ve covered only covered a portion in this article.
Lake Ouachita is the cleanest lake in Arkansas, where you can swim worry-free. Also, the underwater city in the lake allows you to have a memorable scuba diving experience.
If Lake Ouachita becomes too crowded, you can transfer to Bull Shoals Lake. There are numerous lake arms to enjoy boating and fishing.
The resort state park features many hiking trails where you can explore Arkansas’ wildlife and see the bald eagles or other wild animals.