WORDS and IMAGES courtesy arkansas.com
Pack your swimsuit and come splash the summer away on an Arkansas beach or swimming hole! Among the twenty-three state parks located on lakes or rivers, many offer Arkansas beaches.
2027 State Park Entrance Road, Bismarck, Arkansas
Near Hot Springs and Little Rock, Arkansas’s resort state park is located on the shores of beautiful DeGray Lake. Here, you’ll find first-class lodging and amenities along with outdoor fun and adventure year-round. DeGray Lake Resort offers a ninety-room lodge with conference center just offshore and on an island; eighty-one Class B campsites, and three Rent-A-Yurts; an eighteen-hole championship golf course with driving range, practice green, and pro shop; disc golf; swimming; tennis; and hiking trails and guided horseback riding that are available in the park with world-class mountain biking trails nearby. The full-service marina has bait and tackle, fuel, and boat rentals including party barges, kayaks, and pedal boats.
The lodge offers stunning views of DeGray Lake and includes a conference center, heated swimming pool, indoor hot tub, fitness room, and more. The lodge’s Shoreline Restaurant offers a full menu, plus banquet catering services that can accommodate groups and special requests. Swimming beaches, boat launches, pavilions, bicycle rentals, and an amphitheater round out DeGray’s offerings. It’s also known for its interpretive programs, including sunset cruises, snorkeling trips, guided hikes, birding tours, and more. Outdoor workshops and special events are held throughout the year, including winter eagle watch tours on DeGray Lake. For mountain bikers new to the area, the Iron Mountain Trail System is located nearby and hosts a variety of events throughout the year. DeGray Lake Resort State Park is a perfect place to stay if you’re in town racing or riding.
LAKE CATHERINE STATE PARK
1200 Catherine Park Road, Hot Springs, Arkansas
This peaceful park is located on Lake Catherine, one of five lakes in the beautiful Ouachita Mountain region. The only full-service marina on the lake is here at the park and open in the summertime for bait, snacks/drinks, and fuel. The park also includes a launch ramp, pavilion, picnic sites, playgrounds, and a well-marked trail that leads to a waterfall.
The park has twenty fully equipped cabins, including one two-bedroom cabin with a patio overlooking the water and private access to the lake from its own fishing pier. The park offers seventy campsites (forty-seven Class AAA and twenty-three Class B), six primitive tent sites, and one Rent-A-Yurt. Many of these sites are on the lakeshore. Park interpreters offer hikes, lake tours, and programs year-round.
LAKE CHARLES STATE PARK
3705 Hwy. 25, Powhatan, Arkansas
A half-hour from Jonesboro and about one-and-a-half hours from Memphis, Lake Charles State Park is a peaceful place located on a 645-acre lake filled with bass, crappie, bream, and catfish. In fact, it’s the place where the largest number of twenty-inch bass have been caught in Northeast Arkansas. A full line of bait and tackle is available at the visitor center from March through October. There are sixty campsites, a third of which are Class AAA, with many spots right on the water. A yurt offers an additional lodging option. The park is also a great getaway in fall and winter months with four hiking trails and a 3-D archery range (open November through February).
LAKE DARDANELLE STATE PARK
2428 Marina Road, Russellville, Arkansas
This park is located in two areas on Lake Dardanelle, a 34,300-acre reservoir on the Arkansas River. The main site is in Russellville where you’ll find the Sport Fishing Weigh-in Pavilion, a fishing pier, swimming beach, boardwalk, trail, and visitor center with five aquariums, and the Lakeview Room meeting facility. Park interpreters lead a variety of programs and lake tours. There are fifty-seven campsites in the Russellville area of the park (sixteen Class AAA, fourteen Class AA, and twenty-seven Class B) with eighteen Class B sites in the Dardanelle area of the park. Lake Dardanelle State Park is a certified Trail of Tears National Historic Site. The visitor center, located on the Russellville side of the park, offers spectacular views of the river, along with exhibits that tell more of the removal story.
LAKE OUACHITA STATE PARK
5451 Mountain Pine Road, Mountain Pine, Arkansas
Arkansas’s largest lake, Lake Ouachita offers 40,000 acres of clear, clean water surrounded by the scenic Ouachita National Forest. Swimming, skiing, scuba diving, boating, kayaking, and fishing are enjoyed here. Bream, crappie, catfish, striped bass, and largemouth bass can be caught in open waters or quiet coves. The park has ninety-three campsites (fifty-eight Class AAA, twenty-three Class D, and twelve walk-in tent sites), some right on the water. There are eight fully equipped cabins with kitchens and the comforts of home, most of them overlooking the lake. Four camper cabins are an affordable option and are right in the campground. They include one room sleeping for four, screened porch, heat/air, picnic table, outdoor grill, and lantern hanger. A bathhouse is nearby. Bring your own linens, cooler, and cooking supplies. They are dog friendly. There are also exhibits and a gift shop inside the visitor center. Interpretive programs such as guided hikes, eagle cruises, and kayak tours are offered year-round.
VILLAGE CREEK STATE PARK
201 County Road 754, Wynne, Arkansas
Village Creek State Park encompasses nearly 7,000 acres of beautiful, forested hills and clear streams to create an environment found nowhere else in Arkansas. There are thirty-three miles of multi-use trails, campgrounds with bathhouses, an equestrian campground with stable facilities (includes Class B campsites), ten cabins, two lakes, a day-use area with pavilions and picnic sites, outdoor and indoor theaters, a small museum, and a visitor center with a gift shop. The park features an Andy Dye-designed twenty-seven-hole championship golf course, the Ridges at Village Creek. Three distinct nines offer outstanding golfing with water coming into play on twelve holes.
82 Woolly Hollow Road, Greenbrier, Arkansas
This is a classic state park experience with fishing, boating, and swimming on forty-acre Lake Bennett in Greenbrier about eighteen miles north of Conway. It offers a launch ramp with canoes, kayaks, pedal boats, and fishing boats for rent at the park. Bring your own pole, bait, and tackle. A snack bar is open near the lifeguarded swimming beach in the summer. Park facilities also include thirty AAA campsites, ten tent sites, and a bathhouse for hot showers. The 9.4-mile Enders Fault is a mountain biking destination. Hikers have four trails to choose from.
2092 Hwy. 168 North, Paragould, Arkansas
Atop the forested hills in Northeast Arkansas, Crowley’s Ridge State Park is situated on a unique geological formation and has a rich history. Native log and stone structures, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, set the tone for this park’s rustic quality. Facilities include five bunk cabins for group lodging, four duplex cabins with kitchens and fireplaces, one rustic cabin with kitchen, twenty-five campsites (seventeen Class B and eight tent sites), picnic areas, hiking trails, pavilions, a thirty-one-acre fishing lake, and three-and-a-half-acre swimming area. The park offers fishing boat, kayak, and pedal boat rentals.
JACKSONPORT ON THE WHITE RIVER
111 Avenue Street, Newport, Arkansas
In the 1800s, steamboats made Jacksonport a thriving river port. During the Civil War, Confederate and Union forces occupied the town because of its location at the confluence of the White and Black rivers. Jacksonport became the county seat in 1852, and the restored courthouse now stands as a museum. Admission is free. Facilities also include twenty Class A campsites (50 amp service), a swimming beach, pavilion, picnic sites, a playground, and the half-mile Tunstall Riverwalk.
SWIM ALL SUMMER
Fifteen U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes in Arkansas have sandy shores. The crystalline blue waters of Beaver, Bull Shoals, Greers Ferry, Norfork, and Table Rock lakes are all tucked away in the mountains. Three of the sparkling Diamond Lakes, Ouachita, DeGray, and Greeson, are Corps properties. Lakes Catherine and Hamilton are two privately owned bodies of water. Eight watery playgrounds are located in the confines of the tree-shrouded Ozark and St. Francis national forests. Cove, Spring, Horsehead and Shores lakes, plus Lake Wedington and Long Pool are located in the Ozarks. The St. Francis in the eastern part of the state has Bear Creek and Storm Creek lakes. In the Ouachitas, Albert Pike, Charlton, Jack Creek, and Knoppers Ford recreation areas are on the banks of mountain streams and small lakes. Lake Sylvia and Shady Lake are also popular swimming destinations. Other swimming destinations here include city-owned properties such as Lake Leatherwood in Eureka Springs, Beaverfork Lake in Conway, and Hill Wheatley Park on Hot Springs’ Lake Hamilton.
Visit Arkansas.com for additional details on the destinations listed. Be sure to call before you travel for up-to-date availability hours of operation and rates.