Our lakes have helped happy visitors make some of the best memories of their lives. Float a canoe. Kayak to islands. Hook a bass. Camp on a shore. Wade by a waterfall. Or, just relax and soak it all in.
Lake Ouachita, Lake Hamilton and Lake Catherine – all created by dams along the Ouachita River – offer a wide range of activities, each with its own unique character and scenery.
Lake Hamilton fuses natural beauty and urban excitement. Restaurants, luxury resorts and palatial vacation homes line the shores only minutes from downtown Hot Springs. Hop off your boat and pick up a pizza, or grab a table to dine on the wharf. Shop for anything you need for the day or fuel your boat at the dockside stores. The lake offers more guided boat expeditions than any other. Take a pontoon boat tour or a duck boat tour. Or, if you'd prefer to be at the helm, check out one of many boat rental options at a handful of marinas in town.
Moving down stream, the waters from Lake Ouachita flow through Blakely Dam and into Lake Hamilton. The main body of water located right in town, on the south and west ends of Hot Springs. It is smaller, about one-sixth the size of Lake Ouachita, and is residentially and commercially developed, with grand houses, condos, restaurants and docks all along its shoreline. Consequently, it is a much busier lake with pleasure boaters out all summer long.
Entergy Arkansas performs an annual drawdown typically in early November. The size of the drawdown varies each winter, in part, to curb growth of nuisance vegetation. A vegetation management plan developed in conjunction with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission usually calls for alternating 3-foot and 5-foot drawdowns. The annual lowering of the lakes also is valuable to owners of shoreline facility, allowing them an opportunity to inspect and repair their structures and fortify the shoreline.
Entergy has used drawdowns on Lake Hamilton since 1996 to help control the spread of certain underwater plants that interfere with recreation.
From Lake Hamilton, the water flows through Carpenter Dam and into Lake Catherine. Located just southwest of town, this wooded oasis is the more secluded sister lake to social hotspot Lake Hamilton. Known for its serene charm as well as water sports and fishing, Lake Catherine is a 1,900-acre gem with trees rising all around and a natural, undeveloped feel.
There are good opportunities for swimming and boating, especially at Lake Catherine State Park, which has a nice swim beach, year-round boat rentals and the only full service marina on Lake Catherine. There are also 20 waterfront cabins, RV parking, a campground, playgrounds and a short hiking trail that leads to a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole.
Entergy Arkansas performs an annual drawdown typically in early November.
The cleanest lake in the country and Arkansas’ largest lake is Lake Ouachita. Of the three manmade lakes along the Ouachita River, Lake Ouachita is the first on the river’s 600 mile journey from west-central Arkansas to north-central Louisiana. There is a restriction on commercial and residential building so the scenery comprises the all-natural wooded hills of the Ouachita National Forest. Lake Ouachita has between 600-900 miles of shoreline (depending on the water level) and about 40,000 acres of water.
Popular activities include bass and striper fishing, swimming, scuba diving, recreational boating, water skiing and other water sports. You will see all kinds of water craft on the lake from small kayaks and canoes to sailboats and houseboats. If you own or rent a boat, you can access the lake’s numerous uninhabited islands for free, primitive camping.
There are also several marinas, campgrounds and day use areas along the shoreline, including Lake Ouachita State Park, located about 15 miles from Hot Springs. The park offers family-friendly programs year-round including boat and kayak tours during the summer and bald eagle watch tours during the winter.
Take a drive up to Hickory Hill overlook for the most panoramic and spectacular view of this expansive lake. It is a fantastic place to picnic! There are also similar views from nearby hiking and biking trails, such as the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT).