With Arkansas’s mild year-round climate and 600,000 acres of lakes, water sports and recreation are popular activities for all ages

Regardless of where your event takes you in Arkansas, there’s certain to be a lake nearby with all the vacation amenities you’ll require. Here are a few activities groups will love.

Beaver Lake

Located in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas, Beaver Lake is a manmade reservoir with 487 miles of shoreline. With a wide variety of trees, natural caves and soaring limestone bluffs, the scenery is spectacular. An array of recreational facilities around the lake has attracted millions of visitors since its completion in 1966.

Swimming beaches, picnic areas, hiking trails, boat launching ramps and seven full-service marina concessions welcome visitors. There are 12 developed parks around the lake, each with modern campsites. Resort and hotel/motel accommodations are nearby. A popular stop for national bass tournaments and other fishing tournaments assure the casual angler there are fish to be had.

Greers Ferry Lake

Sixty miles north of Little Rock, you’ll find Greers Ferry Lake, a reservoir formed by the Greers Ferry Dam. The reservoir is actually two lakes connected by a water-filled gorge called the Narrows. The two lakes have a combined shoreline of 340 miles. In the 1800s, the valley town of Higden was constantly flooded. The land was purchased and the town was moved to high ground nearby. The valley was then allowed to flood and a dam was built and the reservoir formed.

The lake provides a wide variety of recreational activities to visitors and residents. Boating, fishing, cliff diving, swimming and scuba diving are popular. A favorite year-round fishing spot for rainbow trout is the cool water that comes from under the dam. Camping at the lake and along the Little Red River is available.

Lake Dardanelle

The 34,000-acre Lake Dardanelle has Lake Dardanelle State Park on two sides: one in Russellville and the other in Dardanelle. Both provide picnic facilities, boat ramps, pavilions and playgrounds. At the Russellville area site, there’s a visitor center with six aquariums on display, natural and cultural displays and a gift shop.

Lake Dardanelle

Lake Dardanelle

Nearby is a covered barrier-free fishing pier. There’s also a fishing tournament weigh-in pavilion that speaks volumes to the lake’s quality of fishing. As with all Arkansas state parks, the staff at Lake Dardanelle State Park offers interpretive programs. There are nature talks and guided hikes, kayaking and lake tours and demonstrations. There’s also camping and an outdoor amphitheater for evening slide shows and movies.

Lake Ouachita

A reservoir created by damming the Ouachita River in 1953, Lake Ouachita is both the largest Arkansas lake with more than 690 miles of shoreline and one of the state’s most popular. Located near Hot Springs, Lake Ouachita State Park is surrounded by the picturesque Ouachita Mountains. The park’s visitor center has exhibits and interpretive programs, including guided hikes, eagle cruises and kayak tours.

Lake Ouachita tour with Stacy Hurst, cabinet secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

Lake Ouachita tour with Stacy Hurst, cabinet secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

The clean, cool water brings anglers looking for largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, walleye, bream, catfish and striped bass. Scuba divers can explore rare jellyfish and sponges that are found in very few freshwater lakes. Swimming, boating and kayaking are also popular with rentals and supplies for the latter are available at the marinas. Campsites are available with many on the water and eight cabins overlooking the lake.

DeGray Lake

A reservoir on the Caddo River, the dam construction was completed in 1972, resulting in DeGray Lake’s 207 miles of shoreline. In 1974, DeGray Lake Resort State Park was opened. Near Hot Springs and Little Rock, the lake is accessible on the eastern shore just eight miles from Arkadelphia along Scenic Byway 7. The 96-room lodge offers stunning views of DeGray Lake along with first-class lodging and amenities. Eighty-one campsites and three Rent-A-Yurts complete the accommodation options.

Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship on DeGray Lake

Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship on DeGray Lake

An 18-hole golf course complex, disc golf, lodge swimming pool, indoor hot tub and fitness room are available. World-class mountain biking trails are close by, while hiking trails and horseback riding are available in the park. Swimming beaches and bicycle rentals are other DeGray offerings. Finding the lake’s trophy-winning stripers, crappie, largemouth bass and catfish begins at the full-service marina for bait and tackle, fuel and boat rentals including kayaks. The park’s staff provides great interpretative programs, including sunset cruises, snorkeling trips, guided hiking or birding tours and more.

Lake Catherine

A small 1,940-acre lake created in the 1920s with the building of the Remmel Dam, Lake Catherine soon became a popular tourist destination due to its proximity to Hot Springs. The Remmel Dam is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Lake Catherine State Park is located on the lake.

There’s a full-service marina at the park with year-round boat rentals available and open in the summer for fuels, snacks and bait. There is a launch area adjacent to the marina along with picnic areas and playgrounds. A well-marked Falls Branch Trail hike passes the Falls Creek Falls. Cabins overlook the lake and have access to a private fishing pier. The park also has campsites, six primitive tent sites, a Rent-A-Camp and Rent-A-Yurt. The park’s staff offers hikes, lake tours and other interpretative programs. Seasonal guided horseback rides are available.

Lake Catherine Canoe Club 6 0 All photos courtesy of Arkansas Tourism

Lake Catherine Canoe Club. All photos courtesy of Arkansas Tourism

Bull Shoals Lake in northern Arkansas provides world-class trout fishing and great hiking trails. In the southwestern region of the state, Millwood Lake’s boat lanes through submerged timber and marshes make for serious bass fishing. Norfork Lake near Mountain Home has great f resh water fishing, along with every other popular water sport. Surrounded by the Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Jack Lee is a popular south-central Arkansas birding, fishing and camping destination Lake Maumelle is just 10 miles f rom Little Rock and is a popular fishing, boating, canoeing and kayaking destination. The oldest Corps of Engineers Arkansas project, Nimrod Lake in western Arkansas, is a popular fishing destination. Lake Hamilton, near Hot Springs, is a destination with a variety of accommodations and recreational opportunities. Just north of Murfreesboro, Lake Greeson provides wonderful scenery and recreation in each of its 15 parks. Lake Chicot is adjacent to the Mississippi River and at 20 miles in length is Arkansas’s largest natural lake.

Ready to get your toes wet in one of Arkansas’s wonderful lakes? Start planning your visit at arkansas.com.

by Dave Bodle