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19 of the Prettiest Lakes in Arkansas for a Splendid Vacation

By | Last Updated : 3rd June 2021

Arkansas, known as the ‘Natural State,’ is an abode of scenic beauty. From lowlands to highlands and from mighty mountains to beautiful rivers and lakes, the state has all of it in abundance. It features more than 2400 lakes, among which some are massive reservoirs, while others oxbow lakes. Most of them provide a stunning mountainous backdrop of the Ozark or Ouachita Mountains. In addition, plenty of parks surround them, offering ample recreation for you to keep yourself engaged while soaking in the lake’s and its surroundings’ beauty.

Lakes in Arkansas

Lakes in Northern Arkansas

1. Bull Shoals Lake

Bull Shoals Lake in Northern Arkansas

Bull Shoals Lake is an artificial lake in the Ozark Mountains of the Northern Arkansas and Southern Missouri region. With a surface area of more than 45000 acres, it is the largest lake in Arkansas. The 1000 miles wooded shoreline possesses several secluded coves, shady parks, and campgrounds. Positioned on the southern shore is the Bull Shoals Lake State Park, which boasts many recreational facilities. Due to the lake’s clear and serene waters, many call it “The Caribbean of the Midwest.”

It is a great diving site for its pristine waters. It offers destruction sites of many ships, a submarine, rock walls, a farm, and an oak and hickory forest under its waters. 

Many trails, including the Wildwood Trail, Dogwood Trail, and Forsyth Trail, allow you to view the scenic beauty of the lake. The wildflowers, shrubs, oak, and hickory trees changing colors each season, and the mountainous backdrop attract nature admirers to visit the place throughout the year. You can also view wildlife as it is home to many inhabitants.

Fishing: It is popular among anglers for fishing largemouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, crappie, channel catfish, bream, and walleye.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, scuba diving, water skiing, tubing, picnicking, camping, hiking, hunting, nature gazing, wildlife viewing

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2. Greers Ferry Lake

Greers Ferry Lake in Northern Arkansas

Greers Ferry Lake flows in the base of the Ozark Mountains amidst the Clinton and Heber Springs. The watershed of Greers Ferry is made up of two lakes, joined by a water-filled gorge named “The Narrows.” It is an award-winning lake for cleanliness, with plenty of recreational areas lined around its 340 miles underdeveloped shoreline. Its clear waters make it an ideal spot for several water sports. In addition, plenty of natural parks overlooking the lake provide picturesque vistas.

To get a better view of the clear blue waters alongside the scenic beauties around, hike up to the Sugar Loaf Mountains. If you are lucky enough, you could catch sight of owls and woodpeckers from there.

For some added adventure, dive into its waters to explore the ruins of the city of Higden.

Fishing: The lake is known for rainbow trout fishing. But, you will also find largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, black crappie, white crappie, walleye, and catfish.

Other Activities: Swimming, cliff diving, boating, scuba diving, camping, hiking, mountain biking, hunting, wildlife watching

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3. Beaver Lake

Beaver Lake in Northern Arkansas

Beaver Lake, a human-made lake in the Ozark Mountains, flows along the White River. Its 487 miles shoreline, dotted with lofty limestone bluffs, natural caves, and greenery, provides a mesmerizing view of the whole area. There are also many hiking trails, campsites, marinas in and around the area.

 Do not miss out Monte Ne, which used to be a resort in the 1800s but now under its waters. You can dive in and explore its ruins in addition to submerged bridges and the amphitheater. Spend the evening boating in its crystal clear waters and watching the lovely scenery of the sun disappearing behind the bluffs.

Fishing: Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, striped bass, bream, crappie, channel catfish, white bass, and spoonbill catfish inhabit here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, paddleboarding, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, camping, picnicking

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4. Norfork Lake

Norfork Lake in Northern Arkansas

Located chiefly in north-central Arkansas, the northernmost waters of Norfork Lake extend into south-central Missouri. Apart from the typical Ozark Mountain scenery of towering bluffs and tree-clad hills, the lake also features beautiful white sand beaches on its southeastern shore.

Interesting diving sites, underwater caves, and rock formations attract many scuba divers from all over the world to take a deep into its crystal, clear waters. Several hidden coves, camping sites, hiking trails, marinas also abound the lake, providing ample recreational opportunities.

Fishing: You can catch the largemouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, striped bass, walleye, crappie, and bream.

Other Activities: Swimming, water skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling, hunting, nature gazing, wildlife viewing

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5. Table Rock Lake

Table Rock Lake in Northern Arkansas

This lake gets its name from a table-like rock formation positioned near the lake. Though Table Rock Lake flows mainly in Missouri, its south waters stretch to northwestern Arkansas. The mighty Ozark Mountains and beautiful oaks and hickories in the background make for a mesmerizing view.

If you are a water sport-fanatic, this is the ideal place for you to scuba dive, wakeboard, or parasail. The 800-mile long shoreline offers many fun-filled activities and includes secluded caverns, numerous marinas, campgrounds, resorts, and a golf course. Though most of these are on the Missouri side, you can easily reach there from Arkansas.

Fishing: Spotted bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish are in abundance here.

Other Activities: Swimming, scuba diving, boating, camping, picnicking, golfing, nature gazing

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Lakes in Southern Arkansas

1. DeGray Lake

DeGray Lake in Southern Arkansas

Located in the Ouachita Mountains’ foothills, this lake flows on the Caddo River. It features the DeGray Resort State Park, Arkansas’ only resort state park with recreational amenities in abundance. When you come to the professional golf course, you would get stunning views of the lake.

Do not miss paddleboating to the Islets Cove Paddle Trail, which will lead you to secluded coves and inlets. The breathtaking views of flora and fauna along the beautiful shoreline are sure to fascinate you.

Apart from the immense wildlife population occupying the northern shoreline, you can also spot many bald eagles flying overhead, especially in winters.

Fishing: This lake provides excellent fishing opportunities for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, striped bass, Kentucky bass, catfish, walleye, crappie, and bream.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, scuba diving, water-skiing, camping, wildlife viewing, birdwatching, golfing

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2. Lake Greeson

Lake Greeson in Southern Arkansas

Created by the Narrows Dam, Lake Greeson flows on the Little Missouri River in southwest Arkansas. Several surrounding parks provide breathtaking views of the lake from different angles, besides being a hub of recreational facilities.

There are plenty of trails around Lake Greeson which allows you to experience the beauty of the place. For example, the Parker Creek Recreational Area lets you hike and explore the old Cinnabar Mine. Another trail, The Bear Creek Cycle Trail, in the Daisy State Park, leads riders through pine forests and beautiful rolling hills.

Get your camera ready for capturing the whitetail deer, squirrels, rabbits, and bobwhite quail, alongside the bald eagles, mostly in winters. There are ample hunting opportunities in a public hunting area located to the west.

You can also witness interesting geological formations, including the Chimney Rock, a hardened sandstone rock.

Fishing: Lake Greeson has striped bass in abundance. Besides it, the lake also contains largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, black and white bass, channel catfish, and rainbow trout.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, camping, kayaking, hiking, cycling, wildlife viewing, birdwatching, nature gazing, hunting

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3. Millwood Lake

Millwood Lake in Southern Arkansas

Millwood Lake sits on the Little River in southwestern Arkansas. Bordering the lake are 15 parks that provide abundant recreation opportunities. The camping areas here are quiet and peaceful, making it an ideal getaway spot. There are many private coves as well.

You can find many boat lanes traversing through the submerged timbers and marshes, home to various fish. You may also spot an alligator passing by in its waters, especially during the warm months.

The place known for its fauna and flora is a birdwatcher’s hub, with about 300 species found here year-round. In addition, you will find self-guided hiking and a bicycle trail around the lake area.

Fishing: Millwood Lake is very popular for bass fishing. You could also find crappie, channel catfish, flathead catfish, and bluegills here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, canoeing, kayaking, camping, picnicking, hiking, cycling, birdwatching, wildlife viewing

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4. Lake Chicot

Lake Chicot in Southern Arkansas

Located in southeastern Arkansas, Lake Chicot flows adjacent to the Mississippi River. Apart from topping the list of natural lakes in Arkansas, it is also Northern America’s largest oxbow lake.

‘Chicot,’ a French word, translates to ‘stumpy,’ in English because of the cypress stumps and trees that dot the shoreline.

The city of Lake Village is on its western shore, and Lake Chicot State Park occupies its northern end. If you are a wildlife enthusiast, remember to visit the wildlife museum in the state park that features the fauna found around the lake area. You can also catch glimpses of birds like ibises, storks, egrets, ducks, and geese occasionally visiting here.

Fishing: Anglers commonly find largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, and bream.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, canoeing, kayaking, camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, birdwatching, picnicking

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Lakes in Western Arkansas

1. Lake Dardanelle

Lake Dardanelle in Western Arkansas

Lake Dardanelle is one of the most frequented spots in the state. It sits on the Arkansas River in west-central Arkansas, covering about 40,000 acres. You will find the Lake Dardanelle State Park on its eastern shore, divided into the Russellville and the Dardanelle sites. Many campsites, picnic sites, playgrounds, boat launch ramps are available here.

The nearby Mount Nebo, the Ozark, and the Ouachita Mountains compliment the place’s natural beauty.

Fishing: Stocks of largemouth bass, white bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, bream, crappie, and redear are available here.

Other Activities: boating, kayaking, hiking, biking, picnicking, camping, birdwatching

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2. Shores Lake

Shores Lake in Western Arkansas

Shores Lake is a hidden gem of the Ozarks, housed in the Shores Lake Recreation Area. The pretty lake reflecting the White Rock Mountains and pine tree lines along its shoreline offers a marvelous view that you should not miss.

It is also awe-inspiring during the fall season, with the changing colors of the surrounding trees contrasting the majestic mountainous background. In addition, you would find a campground, a swimming beach, a boat launch ramp, picnic sites, and hiking trails. So choose what you want to do on your visit here, swim, boat, hike, or camp.

The Shores Lake Loop Trail is a 13-mile scenic loop trail leading you to a series of waterfalls, lush green hardwood forests, and secluded grottos or caves.   

Fishing: Plenty of bass, catfish, and bluegill are available here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, hiking, picnicking, camping, nature gazing

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3. Nimrod Lake

Nimrod Lake in Western Arkansas

Nestled between the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains, Nimrod Lake came to life with the Nimrod Dam’s construction. It sits along the Fourche LaFave River and provides magnificent views of its surroundings. Along its shoreline, you will find six parks with modern camping amenities. It’s also a great spot to relax under the shades of beautiful, tall pine trees as you engross yourself in viewing the charming lake and surrounding mountains.

Fishing: You will be able to catch largemouth bass, crappie, bream, catfish, and white bass.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, water skiing, hunting, camping

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4. Blue Mountain Lake

Blue Mountain Lake in Western Arkansas

Blue Mountain Lake flows between Mount Magazine, the highest mountain of Arkansas, and the Ouachita Mountains near Havana. It is an impressive lake in west-central Arkansas, with the rugged settings adding to its scenic appeal.

The cypress trees dot the swimming area in Waveland Park, from where you can get an exceptional view of the lake while relaxing in the trees’ shade. The famous bird dog field trial attracts visitors from across the nation and other countries to avail of its facilities.

Fishing: It offers catches of bass, crappie, flathead and channel catfish, and bream.

Other Activities: Swimming, water-skiing, camping, hiking, bird watching

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Lakes in Central Arkansas

1. Lake Ouachita

Lake Ouachita in Central Arkansas

Though Bull Shoals Lake bags the first position for the largest lake in the state, it extends into Missouri. Technically, Lake Ouachita attains the numero uno position in terms of size when it comes to the lakes solely located in Arkansas.

With its crystal clear waters, Lake Ouachita stretches over 48000 acres, lying within the Ouachita State Park. There are many campsites and cabins here alongside other facilities to spend some time in the beauty of the surrounding nature. Of course, your dogs can tag along if wearing a leash.

If the surrounding unique geological features interest you, go for a boat ride in Lake Ouachita Geo Float Trail to know more about it. It is a 16-mile trip and includes 12 exploration areas.

The lake is also home to one of the largest crystal veins found on earth.

Besides these, from rare freshwater jellyfish to freshwater sponges and shrimp, you will find many unique things as you explore the pristine waters of Lake Ouachita. You can also spend a great time in any of its islands that feature miles of sandy beaches.

Those who do not wish to wet their feet can explore the hiking and biking trails to keep themselves engaged.

Fishing: This lake is well known for striped bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, spotted bass, crappie, walleye, catfish, and bream.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, scuba diving, skiing, kayaking, wakeboarding, horseback riding, hiking, biking, camping

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2. Lake Conway

Lake Conway in Central Arkansas

Covering 6700 acres of surface area, Lake Conway is the largest lake created by a state wildlife commission. Due to its immense size and central location, it is a favorite spot to visit among many, mainly for fishing.

You can find several well-marked boat trails here though you need to be careful of the submerged stumps. Close to the eastern side of the lake is a nursery pond that inhabits various fish species.

Avid bird watchers can have a great time spotting bald eagles and their nesting areas. In addition, you can also spot turkeys, pelicans, egrets, ducks, seagulls, and geese.

You can visit with your dogs but don’t forget to put a leash on them. Unfortunately, there are no overnight camping facilities available here.

Fishing: Largemouth bass, blue catfish, flathead catfish, bream, crappie, chain pickerel, bluegill, and redear.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, canoeing, hiking, bird watching

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3. Lake Maumelle

Lake Maumelle in Central Arkansas

Located around 10 miles from Little Rock, Lake Maumelle is a human-made lake with 8,900 acres and a 70-mile wooded shoreline. Since the lake serves as Central Arkansas’ chief water source, it doesn’t permit swimming. But you can still enjoy its calm waters by taking a boat ride. The lake is also famous for hosting many sailing regattas. All credit goes to the Grande Maumelle Sailing Club for the same.

Hike the nearby trails, some of which start from Highway 10, to get a panoramic view of the beautiful lake and the encompassing areas. For added pleasure, do visit the neighboring Pinnacle Mountain, State Park. You can also hike the Pinnacle Mountain to get a spectacular view of the lake.

Fishing: This lake attracts anglers to fish bass, crappie, catfish, stripers, and bream.

Other Activities: Boating, canoeing, hiking

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4. Lake Hamilton

Lake Hamilton in Central Arkansas

This lake, located in the southern end of Hot Springs in Central Arkansas, is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

Go cruising on the Belle of Hot Springs riverboat and enjoy the scenic views. Also, a boat ride to the beautiful Garvan Woodland Gardens, a botanical area on the eastern side of the lake, would be a great idea. You can visit the Hill Wheatley Park positioned at the lake’s northern end for more enjoyment. In addition, you can have fun on the surrounding islands as well. For accommodations, you will easily find many rental cabins alongside the shoreline.

Fishing: A variety of fish species including spotted bass, black bass, white bass, striped bass, black and white crappie, longear sunfish, walleye, catfish, and chain pickerel attract anglers.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, tubing, jet skiing, water skiing, hiking, picnicking, camping

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5. Lake Catherine

Lake Catherine is a few miles downstream of Lake Hamilton in the Hot Springs region. It is smaller and quieter than Lake Hamilton. Lake Catherine State Park sits on its southern shore, which features a marina, several cabins, picnic sites, and many more recreational amenities. You can also access many guided trails here. Do not miss hiking the Falls Branch Trail to witness a gorgeous waterfall named Falls Creek Falls.

In addition, this place is also a natural habitation to various wildlife species. You can register yourself at the Visitor Center for a guided hike to witness them and gain insights about them.

Fishing: Lake Catherine provides excellent fishing opportunities for striped bass, largemouth bass, black bass, catfish, crappie, walleye, and bream.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, nature gazing, wildlife viewing

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Lakes in Eastern Arkansas

1. Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake in Eastern Arkansas

Horseshoe Lake, the second-largest oxbow lake, is in southern Crittenden County of east-central Arkansas. Due to its plenty of recreational activities, it is a well-known destination among locals to spend a vacation, especially in summer. Since residential houses border the lake, most of its parts are private property. Beautiful forests of cypress trees line along the shoreline. You will also find marinas, boat ramps, and a small campground on and around.

Fishing: The lake houses fish species, including crappie, largemouth bass, and catfish.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, water skiing

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TOP PICKS

Best Lakes for Fishing: Millwood Lake, Lake Conway, Lake Catherine

Best Lakes for Swimming: Greers Ferry Lake, Lake Ouachita, Lake Chicot

Best Lakes to Live On: Lake Norfork, Greers Ferry Lake

Best Lakes for Camping: DeGray Lake, Milwood Lake, Lake Greeson

Best Lakes for Boating: Lake Hamilton, Beaver Lake, Lake Dardanelle

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