Looking for the best Arkansas lakes? Well, we have plenty! Arkansas comes by its nickname, The Natural State, honestly. With fifty-two state parks, eight national park service sites, and three national forests, Arkansas is the perfect destination for exploring nature across the entire state.
The state is home to more than 2400 named Arkansas lakes and reservoirs for visitors to explore. Arkansas provides so many opportunities to get outside and road trip the state. These are just some of the best lakes in Arkansas to visit when coming to the Natural State!
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How to Get to Lakes in Arkansas
If you are new to this part of the world, you might be shocked at just how hard it is to get around without a car. If you are flying into Arkansas, I have tips for renting a car below. Getting almost anywhere out of Little Rock without wheels is very difficult.
Driving in Arkansas is pretty easy. Roads are well marked and maintained other than in very rural areas. I get skittish driving in the mountains in winter, but that might just be me.
Google Maps and other navigation apps work great in this part of the country, though navigation systems in cars can miss some major landmarks if they haven’t been updated.
Tips for Renting a Car in Arkansas
It’s awfully hard to get around Arkansas without a car. Whenever I don’t drive my own car over from Oklahoma, I will pick up a rental car at whichever airport I fly into when I get to Arkansas.
If you’re also looking to rent a car, I use Discover Cars when I rent cars on my travels. You’ll be able to pick up a car at any airport or in your hometown.
Check availability and get a quote for a rental car for your trip here.
The Best Arkansas Lakes
Here we go!
Beaver Lake is in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas near Eureka Springs. Beaver Lake is full of limestone bluffs, caves, and native plants. 28,000 acres of water is the perfect place for water sports, fishing, hiking, and birdwatching.
Nationally recognized for its incredibly bass fishing, Beaver Lake is a popular destination for many fishing tournaments. It is also a popular spot for scuba diving, water skiing, wakeboarding, and kayaking. Situated near Rogers and Bentonville, it is an excellent place to enjoying camping and the outdoors while remaining close to a central city.
Originally built as a drinking water reservoir within the city of Conway, this 1200-acre park encompasses all the amenities for a fun family day beside waterfront activities. Beaverfork Lake is another Arkansas lake that offers opportunities to swim and windsurf, but the big draw is the fishing.
Blue Mountain Lake
Blue Mountain Lake is located by Arkansas’ tallest mountain, Mount Magazine, making it a must-see for natives and visitors alike. This lake is situated between the Ouachita and Ozark Mountain Forests, making for scenic beauty in all directions near the water.
The beaches offer great opportunities for fishing and swimming, and its centralized location in the state provides an opportunity to take a short trip to other local hot spots.
Bull Shoals Lake
Built by the Army Corps of Engineers along the Missouri-Arkansas state line, Bull Shoals Lake is the place to go for Arkansas fishing. It has developed its reputation for bass fishing by being selected as one of the country’s Top 100 Bass Lakes by Fishing: Bassmaster Magazine in 2012.
The lake is created by the fifth largest concrete dam in the United States, with a total surface area of 45,500 acres. Bull Shoals lake is the ideal place for anglers and adventurers who enjoy scuba diving, water skiing, swimming, and camping. It’s famous for crystal clear water, so if you do happen to love inland scuba diving, this is a great spot.
You can enjoy more of the Bull Shoals-White River State Park while you’re here.
Cane Creek Lake
Cane Creek Lake is within Cane Creek State Park, within the state where the Coastal Plains meet the Mississippi Delta. Visitors can find beautiful trail systems around the park and lake for trail running, bike riding, and backpacking. The lake and park provide paddling and fishing opportunities, with interpretive programs in kayaking and picnic sites, campsites, and boat rentals.
Crown lake is the largest of the three lakes in Horseshoe Bend at a sprawling 645 acres. Like most Arkansas lakes, it is an excellent place for fishing. It has some of the most incredible bass, catfish, beam, and crappie fishing in the state, while also being popular boating, waterskiing, and canoeing location. Within the Ozark National Forest hills, it is a quiet, beautiful location with scenic views.
DeGray Lake is near Hot Springs and Little Rock and is home to DeGray Lake Resort State Park. The DeGray Lake Resort offers lodging, campsites, and Yurt rentals. There is an 18-hole, full-service golf course, and world-class mountain bike trails.
There are also hiking trails used for guided horseback riding adventures. The lake itself is excellent for swimming and the full-service marina for fishing and boat rentals. DeGray Lake is a perfect place to stay for anyone seeking an outdoor adventure.
Bird lovers and bird watchers should note that, along with typical Arkansas waterfowl, DeGray Lake is considered the best place to see bald eagles in Arkansas.
De Queen Lake
De Queen Lake is a reservoir created in 1977 with the completion of the dam on the Rolling Fork River. The 1680-acre lake has a 32-mile shoreline complete with campsites, boat ramps, swimming areas, picnic sites, and recreational facilities.
The lake is an excellent place for fishing, boating, skiing, and scuba diving. Within the state’s western side, De Queen is located near the Oklahoma-Arkansas border, offering more opportunities to explore nature.
Dierks Lake is another reservoir created by the Army Corps of Engineers located within the state’s southwestern portion. Dierks Lake features hardwood and pine forests and offers fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities.
Dierks Lake is only 30-minutes from the Diamond Mines at Murfreesboro, and the Native American Museum and Monuments of Eaglestown, OK is only 45-minutes away. Dierks also has a Pine Tree Festival that guests could find entertaining to attend every year.
Gillham Lake is a 1370-acre reservoir in southwest Arkansas created by the dam built on the Cossatot River. The recreation areas include campsites, boat ramps, swimming areas, picnic areas, and fishing sites. Gillham Lake is known for its largemouth bass fishing, but crappie, bream, and catfish fishing are well known, too.
Greers Ferry Lake
Greers Ferry Lake is in the northwest area of Arkansas between Clinton and Heber Springs. The foothills of the Ozarks feature scenic views and ample amounts of hiking around the lake. Greers Ferry is one of Arkansas’ top five largest lakes.
Greers Ferry Lake is an award-winning reservoir seen as a national model for environmental cleanliness. There are campgrounds, commercial parks, lodging, lakeside resorts, and fine restaurants. The lake also features shopping and historical sites all around it.
Harris Brake Lake
Harris Brake Lake is a 1300-acre lake owned by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. It was built in 1955 and is one of the largest lakes constructed by a state wildlife agency. Harris Brake Lake is best known for bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, hybrid striped bass, largemouth bass, and redear sunfish fishing. The lake also has camping and picnic areas and bait shops for fishing supplies and boating rentals.
Horseshoe Lake is the second-largest natural lake in Arkansas and derives its name from its horseshoe shape. The lake is full of massive cypress trees and is excellent for bass and panfish fishing. Horseshoe Lake is near the Mississippi River, with amazing views of the high-rise hotels and casinos across the Lake in Southaven and Memphis.
One of the five lakes within the Ouachita Mountains region, Lake Catherine is located in Lake Catherine State Park in Hot Springs. Boat rentals are available year-round with a full-service marina on the lake during the summer.
The state park offers cabins and campsites, with many lakeside sites. There are picnic sites, pavilions, and playgrounds. As well as a trail leading to a beautiful waterfall with guided horseback rides offered seasonally.
Lake Chicot is the largest natural lake in Arkansas at 20-miles long. The lake is near the Mississippi River and one of the largest flyways, making it one of the best places to birdwatch. The park has cabins, campsites, a large indoor pavilion, a marina, and seasonal swimming. Boat rentals are available on a reservation basis.
Lake Columbia is an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission-built reservoir with a 30-acre park and boat ramps. There are campsites and swimming areas available, as well as fishing. Lake Columbia is known best for its largemouth bass fishing because of the more shallow water and the substrates found in the water. Lake Columbia is also a great place to see native aquatic vegetation.
At 6700-acres, Lake Conway is the largest lake built by a Game and Fish Commission in the country. The lake was completed in 1948 by creating a dam on Palm Creek. Lake Conway is known for having major sportfish like bass, bluegill, crappie, blue catfish, and flathead catfish. Most notably, the crappie is well known for being large because of the 10-inch minimum to keep the fish.
A nursery pond along the east side of the lake helps maintain the lake’s number; the young fish go through a canal connecting the pond to the lake to protect them from predators.
Lake Dardanelle is a 34,300-acre reservoir found on the Arkansas River. The town of Dardanelle is located near Russellville and is one of the most accessible recreation areas in the state along with being one of the most popular small towns in Arkansas.
Visitors will find a fishing pier, boardwalk, trails, and a visitor center along the lake. The state park has been certified by the National Park Service as a location on the water route of the Trail of Tears. Park interpreters are available for different programs and lake tours.
Lake Fort Smith
Lake Fort Smith is within the Boston Mountain Valley of the Ozarks. The park features campsites, cabins, a swimming pool, boat rentals, a pavilion, and picnic sites. Lake Fort Smith is also an excellent landmark for backpackers, as it is along the western terminus of the Ozark Highlands Trail. The visitor center has a pioneer log cabin replica and covered wagon featuring exhibits and programs about the early history of the state’s northwest region.
Initially created by the Army Corps of Engineers as flood control, this 12-mile long lake is surrounded by thousands of miles of public land, providing opportunities for visitors to boat, swim, fish, and hike around the water. It’s stocked with rainbow trout, so it’s a fabulous place to come for trout fishing.
Lake Hamilton is within Hot Springs and is one of Arkansas’s most popular recreational and residential lakes. The lake spans about 8000-acres with fishing, boating, swimming, skiing, and jet skiing. The lake features popular attractions such as the Garvan Woodland Gardens and the riverboat Belle of Hot Springs. It is a great place to relax while visiting the Hot Springs area.
Lake Maumelle is the main water supply for central Arkansas, with an area of 8900-acres. Boating and fishing are popular activities along the lake, as swimming is not permitted.
The lake hosts numerous regattas and is used frequently by weekend skippers. Bass, catfish, crappie, stripers, and bream are popular with anglers. Record-setting 55-pound and 92-pound black buffalo have been caught in the waters. The lake is within proximity to the city of Little Rock.
Lake Omaha is a man-made lake within the town of Cherokee Village, in the scenic foothills of Hardy. The 139-acre lake is small but well used within the communities. Lake Omaha allows for water skiing, tubing, pontoon boats, sailboats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and sailboards.
The spring feeding of the lake provides for well-maintained swimming areas. The lakes are stocked with catfish, black bass, largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegill fish that property owners and their guests frequently used. Lake Omaha has walking and mountain bike trails and scenic vista views.
Lake Ouachita is Arkansas’ largest lake at 40,000-acres and is surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest. It was created by damming the Ouachita River, and its clear waters make the lake an excellent place for swimming, skiing, scuba diving, boating, kayaking, and fishing. The lake is full of bream, crappie, catfish, striped bass, and largemouth bass.
Lake Ouachita State Park also features campsites and cabins, some of which are along the lake’s water. Lake Ouachita also features trails, picnic areas for picnicking, swimming, and a marina with boat and kayak rentals. The visitor center features exhibits and guided interpretive programs for guests.
Millwood Lake is the premier place for bass fishing. The 29,260-acre lake is full of largemouth bass, catfish, and crappie. The Audubon designates the Millwood Lake area as an Important Bird Area for a prevalent birding location. The park features campsites, picnic areas, walking, and biking trails. Millwood Lake is a great place to enjoy fishing and the outdoors of Arkansas.
Nimrod Lake is nestled between the Ouachita and Ozark Mountain ranges. With six parks along the lake, Nimrod Lake is very popular among anglers and hunters. The 3550-acre lake is the oldest man-made lake in Arkansas, with the completion of a dam on the Fourche LaFave River in 1942.
The lake is most notably known for its crappie fishing and other major game fish of largemouth bass, bream, catfish, and white bass. There is also a 2400-acre green tree public duck hunting area and 3800-acres of managed land for bobwhite quail propagation.
Norfork Lake has over 550-miles of shoreline, and 19 Army Corps of Engineers developed parks to provide camping and water sports opportunity. Swimming, boating, and water skiing are the most popular activities on the lake. Freshwater gamefish of all varieties are found in Norfork Lake, thanks to the North Fork River and tributaries. Bass, bream, catfish, walleye, and crappie can be found within the waters.
The lake is stocked annually and contains one of the best striped bass fisheries in the state. The parks feature great camping, private docks, swimming pools, and recreational areas. It is a top-rated destination for many Arkansas residents throughout the spring and summer months for a weekend getaway.
Arkansas Travel Resources
What to Pack for Arkansas
A camera so you can take photos of the special moments from your trip. Whether you bring a point-and-shoot like my Sony ZV-1 or rely on your cell phone like my iPhone 12 Pro, make sure you have at least one camera (though I always travel with two)!
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for your trip make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I have used World Nomads when I travel since 2016, and I happily recommend them.
Getting coverage is important whenever you’re more than a hundred miles from home in case of an accident, sickness, theft, etc.
Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.
Pin this Guide to the Best Lakes in Arkansas for Your Adventures!
Kirsten Hazlewood is from Paragould, AR and graduated from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, AR. She still remains in Paragould with her husband, two stepchildren, and their clowder of cats and raccoons.