Known as the Natural State for its spectacular natural beauty, in which the Mississippi River plays a large part, Arkansas boasts an array of spectacular landscapes, ranging from lowlands and highlands to the majestic Ozarks and Ouachita Mountains and the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain. The state is also home to many lakes and reservoirs, which are set within three broad ecoregions and feature various climates and elevations. The beautiful bodies of water offer an array of recreational activities for all to enjoy, ranging from leisure boating, canoeing, and kayaking to water-skiing, swimming, and world-class fishing. So grab your fishing pole, pack a picnic basket, and head to one of these glorious lakes or reservoirs for a day of fun in the sun.
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Beaver Lake is a human-made reservoir and picturesque lake along the White River in the Ozark Mountains with a beautiful shoreline featuring of towering limestone cliffs, vegetation-fringed caves and caverns, and mature trees. The 12,800-hectare lake at the head of the White River not only supplies drinking water to Northwest Arkansas and controls flooding of its surrounding valley and towns, but is also an excellent place for canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Boasting over 400 miles of shoreline, majestic limestone bluffs, hidden natural caves, and crystal-clear waters, Beaver Lake is a popular tourist destination, with visitors flocking to its shores to enjoy camping, hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, fishing, and swimming.
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Located in the college town of Conway and known as the gateway of the Ozarks in Arkansas’ main tourism region, Beaverfork Lake is a popular lake for water recreation such as pleasure boating, kayaking, and swimming, attracting local college students, residents, and visitors alike. The 15-foot deep lake is home to bass, bluegill, crappie, and catfish and offers excellent fishing. Beaverfork Lake is home to the 25-acre Beaverfork Park, which is the city's largest park and packed with things to do, including sanded volleyball courts, a lighted softball field, two pavilions and picnic areas, a children’s playground, a concession stand, and a protected swimming area.
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3.Blue Mountain Lake
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Resting at the foot of Arkansas's highest mountain, Mount Magazine, in the River Valley region of Arkansas, Blue Mountain Lake, also known as Blue Mountain Reservoir, is a beautiful lake that offers excellent fishing, boating, and water-skiing. Blue Mountain Lake also has a world-class reputation as a bird-dog field trial area and is home to the world-renowned Perry Mikles Blue Mountain Wildlife Demonstration Area. Part of the 17,019 acres of land and water around Blue Mountain Lake, the bird-dog field trial area features kennels and stables for competitors from all over the country to run their retrieving dogs through their paces and also has excellent hiking and birdwatching sites.
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4.Bull Shoals Lake
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Situated in the Ozark Mountains, Bull Shoals Lake is an artificial lake that boasts numerous lake arms and offers year-round opportunities for recreation and relaxation. With over 45,000 surface acres of water, Bull Shoals Lake extends from the northern regions of Arkansas into southern Missouri and features a 700-mile shoreline with 19 developed parks that offer campgrounds, boat launches, marinas, and protected swimming areas. Bull Shoals Lake was created in the Upper White River Basin for flood control and hydroelectric power in 1951 and is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and its rocky shoreline, clear waters, and excellent fishing make the perfect spot for a mountain getaway.
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5.Cane Creek Lake
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Tucked into southern Arkansas's Timberlands Region, Cane Creek Lake is a 1,675-acre timber-filled lake that offers spectacular natural landscapes and a bounty of birds and wildlife. Formed by the damming of Cane Creek, a tributary of the world's longest bayou, Bayou Bartholomew, Cane Creek Lake is a serene and tranquil spot for canoeing and kayaking. Paddlers glide through water lilies and stands of dead and live cypress trees, which serve as protection for a wealth of fish in the lake and as ideal nesting sites for a plethora of bird, waterfowl, and small wildlife.
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Set in the rolling Arkansas foothills of the magnificent Ozark Mountains, Crown Lake is a vacationer's paradise that offers a wealth of recreational activities in a landscape of breathtaking beauty. Part of Horseshoe Bend on Bens Creek in Izard County, Crown Lake is the largest of three lakes in Horseshoe Bend with more than 645 acres of pristine waters. Created by the impoundment of the Strawberry River in 1972, Crown Lake offers a fantastic array of outdoor and water-based activities such as hiking and mountain biking, pleasure boating, canoeing and kayaking, water-skiing, and swimming as well as excellent fishing for catfish, crappie, bream, and great bass.
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Nestled in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, DeGray Lake is a beautiful lake renowned for its recreational activities such as boating, camping, fishing, scuba diving, and swimming. Surrounded by an area of wilderness dating back to AD 700, when the Caddo Native Americans originally inhabited the region, the 5,600-hectare lake lies on the Caddo River just south of the city of Hot Springs and was formed to control floods and produce hydroelectric power by impounding the Caddo River in 1972. The lake and its surrounded shoreline boast beautiful natural scenery and are home to the DeGray Lake Resort State Park, which has a 92-room lodge, 113 campsites, a restaurant, and an 18-hole golf course.
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Set on the Rolling Fork River in the Ouachita Mountains Region, DeQueen Lake is a recreational paradise with 32 miles of picturesque pine-wooded shoreline that is ideal for hiking, mountain biking, camping, picnicking, boating, and swimming. Formed and filled after the completion of a dam on the Rolling Fork River in 1958 for flood control, water supply, fish and wildlife enhancement, water quality, and recreation, DeQueen Lake boasts crystal-clear waters, lovely swimming beaches for sunbathing and relaxing, many picnic areas and group shelters, and several boat ramps for launching pleasure craft.
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Located on the Saline River in the Ouachita Mountain Region of west-central Arkansas, Dierks Lake is a beautiful stretch of water spanning 1,360 acres and is surrounded by hardwoods and pine forests, offering a serene spot for relaxing in nature. Easily accessed off Highway 70, the lake was formed by the construction of Dierks Dam on the Saline River to provide flood control, water supply, recreation, and fish and wildlife conservation and was completed in 1975 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Today, Dierks Lake features three campgrounds, namely the Blue Ridge Park, the Horseshoe Bend, and the Jefferson Ridge, with over 100 campsites and several swimming beaches for sunbathing and swimming. The lake is also popular for pleasure boating and fishing.
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Set on the challenging white waters of the Cossatot River and known as “the Bright Spot of the Cossatot,” Gillham Lake is a calm lake surrounded by majestic mountains and verdant woodlands that offers a relaxing and tranquil recreational escape. Located in the counties of Howard and Polk, Gillham Lake was created after the construction of Gillham Dam in 1972 and offers several outdoor and recreational activities for visitors, including hiking, mountain biking, camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, hunting, kayaking, and swimming. Today, it is owned and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
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11.Greers Ferry Lake
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Built by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control, hydroelectric power generation, and as a drinking water reservoir for Cleburne County, Greers Ferry Dam is a concrete gravity dam on the Little Red River that now offers a variety of outdoor and recreational activities. Tucked in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains between Clinton and Heber Springs, the lake boasts a well-earned reputation as one of the most pollution-free lakes in the country and offers ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, pleasure boating, hunting, and world-class fishing. This spectacularly scenic region is also home to a range of birds, waterfowl, and wildlife, with almost 9,000 acres of land above the conservation pool designated for hunting.
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12.Harris Brake Lake
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Lying just outside the tiny town of Perryville in the Arkansas River Valley, Harris Brake Lake is a reservoir that offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Lying within the Ouachita tourism region, the lake was built in 1955 by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and is currently the third-largest lake owned by the state wildlife agency. Spanning 1,300 acres with a depth of just 6 feet, the lake and its surrounding landscapes are home to a wide variety of birds and waterfowl, such as mallards, wood ducks, teal, gadwalls, and widgeons. Harris Brake Lake lies next to an 800-acre green tree reservoir, a lowland area that floods during the rainy season, creating an attractive nesting site for birds.
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Once part of the mighty Mississippi River but no longer connected, Horseshoe Lake is a 2,362-acre lake located 6 miles east of the town of Hughes in Crittenden County that is well-stocked with fish and a favorite with anglers. Solely dependent on the current water table and rainfall in the area, the now private lake is famous for massive stands of ancient cypress trees and is accessible to the public for boating, fishing, and water-skiing with two private pay boat ramps for launching boats. The north access point of the lake is also home to a marina with a fishing dock, a small campground, a restaurant, restrooms, and gas station.
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Located outside of Hot Springs at the base of the Ouachita Mountains, Lake Catherine is a small and tranquil 1,940-acre lake that offers a wide variety of recreational and outdoor activities. Created by the Remmel Dam and the subsequent impoundment of the Ouachita River in 1925, Lake Catherine was the first of a tri-dam system on the Ouachita River and played a significant role in the growth of the area. Today, the serene lake offers a quiet escape from the city with plenty of outdoor fun, from pleasure boating, canoeing, and kayaking to swimming and fishing as well as non-water-based activities around the shoreline such as hiking and mountain biking.
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Lake Chicot is Arkansas's largest natural lake and the largest oxbow lake in North America. Formed around 600 years ago, Lake Chicot is named after the French word for “stumpy” due to the abundance of cypress stumps that lie along its banks, adding to the beauty and serenity of the area. Resting in a flat delta area along a stretch of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, the lake is home to a wide variety of waterfowl and wading birds, making for excellent birding and wildlife watching. The northern side of the lake features Lake Chicot State Park, which offers campsites, cabins, picnic areas, a children’s playground, and a swimming pool.
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Lake Columbia is a 2,950-acre lake situated northwest of Magnolia in the Timberlands Region of Arkansas and is one of the largest impoundments created by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in the state. Constructed in 1986, Lake Columbia is divided into four zones, three of which are accessible to visitors, who come to the lake to enjoy a variety of recreational activities such as pleasure boating, water-skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and picnicking along the wooded shoreline. Sections of the lake offer excellent fishing, with timber flooded parts that are home to channel catfish, largemouth bass, red ear sunfish, crappie, and bluegill.
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Situated 3 miles south of the town of Conway in the Central Region of Arkansas, Lake Conway is the most significant recreational lake ever constructed by a state wildlife agency. Built by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission by damming Palarm Creek in 1951, the 6,700-acre Lake Conway is approximately 8 miles long with 52 miles of shoreline and a depth of 18 feet and is renowned for its excellent boating and fishing. A nursery pond on the east side of the lake allows for stocking with a variety of fish from crappie and catfish to largemouth bass, which are protected by plenty of partially submerged stumps, log piles, and cypress trees, making it one of the state's most popular fishing spots.
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Located several miles northwest of Little Rock in the Central Arkansas Region and surrounded by over 70 miles of wooded shoreline, Lake Maumelle is a slice of nature lover's heaven. Created by the damming of the Big Maumelle River in 1957, the lake is also the main water supply for Little Rock, Arkansas, and therefore allows limited recreational activities on and around it. While primary contact with the water is prohibited, the lake is stocked with a variety of fish, including various species of bass and crappie, and anglers and sailboat enthusiasts can enjoy the tranquil waters and the peaceful surroundings of the lake.
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One of seven lakes created in the small town of Cherokee Village just west of Hardy, Lake Omaha is a little manmade lake in the scenic Ozark foothills of Arkansas. Positioned on the South Fork River, Lake Omaha was created by the damming of small Hubble Creek in 1969 and is one of the three biggest lakes within the friendly Cherokee Village complex. Spanning 130 acres and 40 feet deep, Lake Omaha offers excellent water-based activities and sports, such as canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boating, sailing, tubing, and water-skiing. The clean, spring-fed lake also has well-maintained swimming areas and is stocked with catfish, black bass, largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and other species for fishing purposes.
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Located in the Millwood State Park and surrounded by thousands of acres of hills and woodlands in southwest Arkansas's Timberlands region, Millwood Lake is a massive lake with no less than 29,500 shallow surface acres of water in which multitudes of fish thrive, making it one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country. The lake’s extensive 65-mile shoreline boasts 15 recreational parks where visitors can gain access to the lake or enjoy a variety of recreational activities such as picnicking, hiking, canoeing and kayaking, boating, swimming, and camping. Millwood Lake also attracts hundreds of species of birds, making the lake one of the most popular birding spots in Arkansas.
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Sandwiched between the Ouachita and the Ozark National Forests, Nimrod Lake is 3,550-acre lake that was formed by the construction of the Nimrod Dam. Built along the Fourche LaFave River in 1942, the lake teems with bream, largemouth bass, crappie, and white bass in its waters and game in the surrounding wilderness and is a popular destination for fishers and hunters with permits. The lake also draws visitors to enjoy other recreational activities, such as boating, swimming, and water-skiing, and there are six parks around the shoreline of the lake for camping and overnight stays.
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Renowned for its pristine water clarity, Norfolk Lake is an 8,900-hectare paradise for snorkelers, scuba divers, swimmers, and fishers. Tucked away in the Ozarks region of Arkansas and the southwest region of Missouri, this beautiful lake is a recreational gem with many watery branches, creek bays, and sandy islands as well as underwater rock formations, caves, and teeming schools of fish. The lake is known for its fantastic fishing and has an abundance of bream, striped bass, crappie, catfish, and walleye as well as a variety of watersports like boating, swimming, and water-skiing. There are plenty of camping sites and other types of vacation accommodations and rentals for visitors who want to spend the night.
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Located between the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas, Ozark Lake is a 10,600-acre lake that was formed by the completion of the Ozark-Jeta Taylor Lock and Dam and Powerhouse in 1969. Stretching across Crawford, Franklin, Crawford, and Sebastian Counties for 36 miles along the Arkansas River, the lake’s 137 miles of shoreline features many parks and preserves and offers excellent boating, kayaking, fishing and other water-related activities. Other recreational facilities that can be found along the shoreline of Ozark Lake include camping and picnicking areas complete with tables and chairs, pavilions, grills, restrooms and showers, playgrounds, canoe rentals, and swimming areas.
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24.Table Rock Lake
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Table Rock Lake is an artificial lake in Missouri that was formed by the damming of the White River. Located in both southwestern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas with the Ozark Mountains as a backdrop, the beautiful 17,400-hectare reservoir is impounded by Table Rock Dam and is a paradise for boaters, scuba divers, and fishers from both the local community and afar. The Missouri side of the lake boasts 13 camping grounds as well as a full-service marina and several resorts, all of which are easily accessible from Arkansas. Downstream from the dam there is a fish hatchery operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation, which is used to stock the trout in Lake Taneycomo and create a trout fishing environment.
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25.White Oak Lake
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Situated next to the Poison Springs State Forest, White Oak Lake is a magnificent lake surrounded by 1,700 timber-filled acres of verdant forest and woodlands, with many dead trees submerged in the water serving as protection for the abundant bass, bream, catfish, and crappie that call the lake home. On the western shores of the lake lies White Oak Lake State Park, which offers excellent hiking and mountain biking trails, camping and picnicking, catch-and-release fishing, birding, and wildlife watching opportunities, with regular sightings of migrating bald eagles. A boat ramp provides access to the lake, and the park marina offers fishing boat, canoe, pedal boat, and kayak rentals.
563 Hwy. 387, Bluff City, AR 71722, Phone: 870-685-2748
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25 Best Lakes in Arkansas
- Beaver Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Travis - Fotolia.com
- Beaverfork Lake, Photo: Courtesy of bobex73 - Fotolia.com
- Blue Mountain Lake, Photo: Courtesy of ppvector - Fotolia.com
- Bull Shoals Lake, Photo: Courtesy of fotonaturali - Fotolia.com
- Cane Creek Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Jackie DeBusk - Fotolia.com
- Crown Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Yinzhong - Fotolia.com
- DeGray Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Jacob Lund - Fotolia.com
- DeQueen Lake, Photo: Courtesy of lom742 - Fotolia.com
- Dierks Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Ljiljana - Fotolia.com
- Gillham Lake, Photo: Courtesy of eisblau - Fotolia.com
- Greers Ferry Lake, Photo: Courtesy of gpointstudio - Fotolia.com
- Harris Brake Lake, Photo: Courtesy of glebchik - Fotolia.com
- Horseshoe Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Sergej - Fotolia.com
- Lake Catherine, Photo: Courtesy of Evgeny - Fotolia.com
- Lake Chicot, Photo: Courtesy of bonniemarie - Fotolia.com
- Lake Columbia, Photo: Courtesy of ppvector - Fotolia.com
- Lake Conway, Photo: Courtesy of poutnik - Fotolia.com
- Lake Maumelle, Photo: Courtesy of kichigin19 - Fotolia.com
- Lake Omaha, Photo: Courtesy of Steve Dally - Fotolia.com
- Millwood Lake, Photo: Courtesy of mitev - Fotolia.com
- Nimrod Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Fedir - Fotolia.com
- Norfork Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Steve Dally - Fotolia.com
- Ozark Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Jackie DeBusk - Fotolia.com
- Table Rock Lake, Photo: Courtesy of eugenesergeev - Fotolia.com
- White Oak Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Mak - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of kanonsky - Fotolia.com