‘The Natural State’ is located in the south-eastern region of the US, with the Mississippi River making up for most of its eastern border. Arkansas is generally split into lowlands and highlands, both of which boast their own natural beauty. The Ozarks and the Ouachita Mountains are spread across the northwest part of the state, while the lowlands sit within the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain.
All-in-all, Arkansas is quite a beautiful state that is home to three broad ecoregions, and various climates and elevations. It is also home to many lakes and reservoirs, many of which offer great recreational activities. If you ever visit the state, be sure to visit at least one of the 15 best lakes in Arkansas, especially on a hot summer day.
1. Bull Shoals Lake; Marion County
This artificial lake was created when the Bull Shoals Dam was built, which is one of the country’s largest dams. The lake sits in northern Arkansas and is shared with neighbouring Missouri, although most of the 18,200 hectare lake sits within Arkansas.
Bull Shoals Lake boasts numerous lake arms, making it fantastic for boating, swimming, fishing and other water sports. Its 1,120 kilometre shoreline features 19 different developed parks that offer campgrounds, swimming areas, boat launches and marines.
Apart from the parks, the area surrounding the lake is pretty undeveloped, making it quite spectacular. In fact, it is a protected zone so it will always hold its natural beauty.
2. DeGray Lake; Clark & Hot Spring Counties
This 5,600 hectare lake sits along the Caddo River just south of the city of Hot Springs. Arkansas Scenic Byway 7 sits on the eastern shore of the lake, providing some magnificent views of it.
The area surrounding DeGray Lake dates back to AD 700, though the lake itself was created in 1972 with the damming of the river. Today, it is a popular tourist destination.
The DeGray Lake Resort State Park surrounds the lake and happens to be Arkansas’s only state park resort. The park offers plenty of recreational activities, in addition to having a 92-room lodge, 113 campsites, a restaurant and an 18-hole golf course.
3. Greers Ferry Lake; Cleburne & Van Buren Counties
Formed by Greers Ferry Dam, Greers Ferry Lake actually consists of two lakes that are connected by a water-filled gorge (the Narrows). The two reservoirs combined boast over 545 kilometres of shoreline.
Tourists have been visiting the lake since the 1960s to enjoy its fantastic recreational activities, including cliff diving, swimming and scuba diving. It is also a famous spot for rainbow trout fishing.
There are numerous camping facilities, cabins and houses for rent around the lake. There are also a few luxury communities built around it, with more being built every day.
4. Beaver Lake; Benton & Carroll Counties
This man-made reservoir sits right in the Ozark Mountains along the White River. It is a picturesque lake with a stunning shoreline that is made up of towering limestone cliffs, caves and trees.
Beaver Lake is a popular tourist destination, not only for its beauty, but also its recreational activities. There are 12 parks around its 784 kilometres of shoreline where visitors can go camping, swimming, fishing, picnicking and hiking.
The 12,800 hectare lake is a source of drinking water in Northwest Arkansas. It also controls flooding of its surrounding valley and towns.
5. Norfork Lake; Baxter County
Most of this 8,900 hectare lake sits within Arkansas, although a portion of the north part of the lake lies within Missouri. As a result, residents from both states often visit.
Norfork Lake is particularly known for its fantastic fishing, having an abundance of bass, crappie, catfish, walleye and bream. It also happens to be home to one of the best striped bass fisheries in the state!
In addition to fishing, the lake is also popular for water sports like boating, water skiing and swimming. There are also plenty of camping sites and other types of accommodations for anyone that wants to stay a night.
6. Lake Ouachita; Garland & Montgomery Counties
Lake Ouachita is the largest lake that is located 100 per cent within Arkansas. The 16,000 hectare lake was created by the damming of the Ouachita River.
It is surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest, making it quite tranquil and beautiful. It is also known as having one of the world’s largest crystal veins!
Scuba divers from all over the world come to Lake Ouachita to plunge into its 60 metres of water and enjoy the underwater life. It is also known as the ‘Striped Bass Capital of the World’.
7. Lake Dardanelle; Pope, Yell, Logan, Johnson & Franklin Counties
Lake Dardanelle stretches through five counties in the western part of Arkansas. It’s 80 kilometres long and boasts 510 kilometres of shoreline, some of which is home to parks.
Lake Dardanelle State Park sits on both sides of the lake in both Russellville and Dardanelle. The park provides visitors with picnic areas, pavilions, boat ramps and playgrounds.
In addition to parks, there is an abundance of forest surrounding the lake that is home to loads of wildlife. There are also plenty of camping grounds surrounding the lake.
8. Lake Conway; Faulkner County
Lake Conway is the largest game and fish commission made lake in the entire country! The 2,700 hectare lake is located near the centre of Arkansas, just south of the city of Conway.
The lake is a popular fishing destination, particularly for bass, bream, catfish and crappie. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission operates numerous free public areas on the lake, many of which have boat ramps.
There have been rumours that the ‘Fouke Monster’ lives in the lake. No photographs have ever been seen of the creature, although many having reported seeing a large creature in the lake.
9. Lake Greeson, Pike County
There are 15 parks surrounding Lake Greeson, making it an extremely popular spot for recreational activities. This, in addition to its beautiful scenery, is what makes the lake one of the 15 best lakes in Arkansas.
There are over 70 kilometres of trails surrounding the lake, going around it and into the hills and forests. Visitors can walk or cycle along the trails, and there are even areas that allow ATVs.
Lake Greeson sits within the Daisy State Park in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. It was created by the Narrows Dam along the Little Missouri River.
10. Millwood Lake; Little River County
This 11,800 lake is best known for its superb fishing and is said to be one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country! Its 105 kilometre shoreline features 15 recreational parks where visitors can go camping, picnicking and swimming, or gain access to the lake.
Millwood Lake is the main feature of the Millwood State Park. There are two trails within the park where you can spot wildlife and waterfowl, like deer, fox, opossum, coyote and beavers.
There is a marina, a playground and a bait shop onsite. It is also possible to hire a paddleboat, canoe, kayak or fishing boat.
11. Lake Chicot; Chicot County
Not only is Lake Chicot the largest natural lake in Arkansas, but it is also the largest oxbow lake in North America! The lake was formed around 600 years ago and sits just west of the Mississippi River in the southeast corner of the state.
Lake Chicot was named after the French word for ‘stumpy’ because of the cypress stumps that lie along its banks. This just adds to the lake’s beauty and serenity.
Lake Chicot State Park is on the northern side of the lake and offers 122 campsites, 14 cabins, a swimming pool, picnic areas and a playground. There is also a less developed park located on the east side of the lake.
12. Lake Maumelle; Pulaski County
Lake Maumelle is one of the primary drinking water sources for city of Little Rock. It is a man-made lake that was built during the damming of the Big Maumelle River.
The lake is popular amongst locals for its great boating and fishing. Bass, crappie, stripers, catfish and bream are what lure angers to the 3,600 hectare lake.
No swimming is allowed in the lake, but sailing is. In fact, Lake Maumelle hosts numerous regattas.
13. White Oak Lake; Nevada & Ouachita Counties
This magnificent lake is surrounding by forest and many dead trees are actually submerged within it. The trees serve as excellent cover for crappie, bass and bream, all of which are in abundance.
The White Oak Lake State Park lies along the lake’s western shoreline. Here, visitors can go camping, picnicking and cycling.
The park also features hiking trails, which are fantastic for nature lovers that want to catch a glimpse of wildlife. Deer, heron, bald eagles and osprey can be seen, amongst other things.
14. Nimrod Lake; Perry & Yell Counties
Created by the construction of the Nimrod Dam, Nimrod Lake is the oldest Corps of Engineers project in Arkansas. It was built in 1942 along the Fourche LaFave River.
Nimrod Lake is predominately popular amongst anglers thanks to its abundance of largemouth bass, crappie, white bass and bream. It is also a great place to go water skiing, swimming and boating.
The lake is sandwiched between the Ouachita and the Ozark National Forests, making it quite a spectacular place. There are also six parks around its shoreline where visitors can enjoy camping.
15. Table Rock Lake; Carroll County
Although the majority of Table Rock Lake sits in Missouri, its south tail is in north Arkansas. It was built by the damming of the White River, with the dam being on the Missouri side.
Table Rock Lake is quite beautiful, as the Ozark Mountains make up its backdrop. It is a paradise for boaters, scuba divers and fishermen not only from local communities, but from all over the state.
There are 13 camping grounds around the 17,400 hectare lake, as well as resorts and a full-service marina. These are on the Missouri side, but are easily accessible from Arkansas.