Area Lakes and Waterways

Contributed by Joy Cressler

Western Arkansas flows abundant with rivers and lakes that provide plenty of recreation of all sorts. Below are some of the most popular waterways in the Fort Smith and surrounding area:

Arkansas River

Thirty-seven public access points, from the western border to central Arkansas, provide easy river entrance for recreational boating and fishing and are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A series of locks and dams along the Arkansas River create pools which are stocked by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission with bass, crappie, stripers, catfish and bream. 

In addition to making the wide tree-lined river more enjoyable, the navigation system also created two lakes, which are recreation havens for outdoors enthusiasts.

Ozark Lake

The Ozark Lake covers 10,600 acres and extends 36 miles along the Arkansas River. The shoreline of the lake varies from steep bluffs and tree lined banks to open farm lands and level fields. Ten parks offer a total of 157 campsites along the lakeshore.

Lake Dardanelle

Lake Dardanelle is one of the most popular lakes in Arkansas for fishing tournaments, because of large populations of catfish, white and largemouth bass, bream and crappie. Dardanelle stretches some 50 miles through the Arkansas River Valley and has more than 34,000 acres of boating and fishing waters.

Lake Fort Smith

Lake Fort Smith is now a much larger lake, due to the recent merger with Lake Shepherd Springs to meet additional municipal water demands in the Fort Smith area. The reservoir now totals 1,390 surface acres. The lake is surrounded by Lake Fort Smith State Park and features campsites, a group lodging facility, picnic sites, a pavilion, a marina with boat rentals, a swimming pool and a visitor center with exhibit gallery.

Lee Creek

Lee Creek starts near West Fork in Washington County and flows south to the Arkansas River, passing through Crawford County near the Arkansas-Oklahoma state line. It then flows from Arkansas into Oklahoma and returns to Arkansas before its confluence with the Arkansas River near Van Buren, Arkansas. The creek is stocked with brook trout and bluegill.

Mulberry River

From its beginnings deep in the Ozarks to its confluence with the Arkansas River, the 55-mile Mulberry River is a good place to swim, wade, skip rocks and fish. The Mulberry winds through narrow canyons, tree-lined bluffs and dense woods – and is well-know for prime canoing. The river is an excellent choice when angling for smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass, as well as sunfish.

Shores Lake

Shores Lake is an 82-acre lake in the Ozark mountains north of Mulberry, Arkansas. Facilities include campsites, flush toilets, showers, drinking water, picnic sites, swimming, boating and a pavilion.

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