There are over 2400 lakes in The Natural State over 5 acres in size. Last month we asked our readers to name their favorite lakes as they head out into the summer heat. Arkansas lakes are known for their beautiful, clean water, many of these lakes are among the clearest in the county. The lakes offer almost every water sport imaginable, boating and fishing, waterskiing, paddling, swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
From the largest ox-bow lake along the Mississippi River, Lake Chicot, to Beaver Lake in the Ozark Highlands, Arkansas is covered in recreational lakes. We planned to show the top 5 but the readers gave us a three-way tie for 4th. So here are your top 6 lakes.
#4 (tie) – Lake Hamilton
Located in Hot Springs, one of the top vacation spots in the state, keeps Lake Hamilton busy. Formed by the damming of the Ouachita River, this lake has marina access, condominiums, resorts, motels, restaurants, and private homes covering much of its shoreline. The lake covers 7200 acres.
Protip – While on Lake Hamilton, take some time to visit Electric Island for a beautiful two-mile hike in the middle of the lake.
#4 (tie) – Norfork Lake
Norfork Lake covers some 22,000 acres. There are 19 developed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers parks that provide plenty of opportunities for camping and for water sports. The area surrounding Norfork Lake is popular for outdoor recreation. Besides fishing, swimming, snorkeling, powerboat sports, and more, there are also a lot of dryland opportunities in the nearby Syllamo district of the Ozark-Saint Francis National Forest.
Protip – After a day on the lake, visit the Mountain Home Entertainment District for evening entertainment. Also, visit the town of Norfork, Arkansas, and check-in with Norfork Adventure Supply for outdoor gear including bicycles and a cup of coffee.
#4 (tie) – Beaver Lake
Located in Northwest Arkansas, Beaver Lake is a unique Ozark experience with high bluffs and less shoreline development. A favorite for waterskiing, fishing, and paddleboarding. Situated between Rogers and Eureka Springs, there is plenty to do both on and off the lake. Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area is along much of the south shoreline and hosts world-class hiking and mountain bike trails including the first Monument Trails built in the state.
Protip – Take a visit to the visitor center at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area for a lesson on the cultural and natural history of the area. It’s fascinating and you’ll enjoy the state-of-the-art facility.
#3 – Greers Ferry Lake
Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, Greers Ferry Lake is a favorite for visitors from Central Arkansas and Western Tennessee. Greers Ferry is among the state’s five largest lakes. It is also a favorite for providing great fishing, water sports, boating, and camping. The award-winning reservoir served as the national model for environmental cleanliness.
Protip – A boat ride to Sugarloaf Mountain in the middle of the lake will get you access to trails that will take you to the top of the mountain for spectacular views of the lake and Ozarks. Here is the article from our visit to Heber Springs including this wonderful adventure.
#2 – DeGray Lake
This spectacular lake just off Scenic Highway 7 south of Hot Springs is very accessible yet remains less crowded than many nearby lakes. There are resorts and Corps of Engineer campgrounds along the shores but Arkansas’s first resort state park, DeGray Lake Resort State Park is the centerpiece. The park offers a modern lodge with full amenities including a restaurant and bar, plus shoreline YURTs and campsites. The state park marina and a free public beach are your gateways to the lake. If you are looking for some land-based activities, enjoy the 18-hole golf course, horseback riding, or disc golf.
Protip – Pack a picnic lunch and some hammocks, rent a boat at the state park marina and head out to one of the islands for a unique base of operations for a fun day at the lake.
#1 – Lake Ouachita
The largest lake located completely within the borders of Arkansas, Lake Ouachita is such a unique place. Just north of Hot Springs in the Ouachita Mountains, This lake offers just about everything. There are many resorts and Corps of Engineers campgrounds available on the lake with Lake Ouachita State Park at the far eastern end. There are approximately 200 islands on the lake and unlike other lakes in the state, you can camp on them. The clear water is a favorite with scuba divers.
Protip – If you’re driving along the south side of the lake on Highway 270, near Joplin is a marked dirt road that will take you to Hickory Nut Mountain. The overlook at the top gives visitors one of the most unique views of the lake.
Remember to cast your vote for your favorite state to visit this summer in our July Survey. (All photos courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism)