It’s laid back. It’s action packed. It’s whatever floats your boat. Comprising Lake Hamilton and nearly 200 miles of shoreline, the expansive Lake District is all about feeling good and having fun. Grand houses, hotels, condominiums, restaurants and marinas overlook the glistening water while the Ouachita Mountains roll in the background. Book a lakefront hotel room and enjoy stunning views from your private balcony or rent a boat and hop on the water. Boating, tubing and wakeboarding are especially popular in the large channels of deep water, while the quiet coves are an angler’s paradise. The lake is stocked annually with trout, walleye, catfish and bass, and hosts some of the country’s biggest fishing tournaments. The District is also home to some of Hot Springs’ biggest tourist attractions, including a 210-acre botanical garden and an award-winning science museum.
Created by dams along the Ouachita River, Lake Hamilton is a 7,200-acre lake that stretches for 18 miles as it meanders around Hot Springs’ western and southern edges. The lake lights up three times a year with Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day fireworks, while pleasure boaters keep it buzzing all summer long. Join the fun and launch your boat from one of several public boat ramps or rent a boat from a local marina, then head over to Electric Island and hike the little known two-mile loop trail. No boat? No problem! You can tour the lake aboard an amphibious World War II DUKW with the National Park Duck Tours, or enjoy some lake time at three different city parks. Hill Wheatley Park has a sandy beach with a designated swim area and a boat launch, plus a walking trail, picnic tables, grills, and a pavilion. Entergy Park, on the opposite end of the lake, has lakefront walking trails, a fishing pier, and a boat ramp, as well as an expansive area just off the lake with two playgrounds, a fishing pond, picnic tables and a pavilion. Lastly, Carpenter Dam Park is located just below the dam where Lake Hamilton flows into Lake Catherine. This tree-studded park has picnic tables, a boat launch, and a fishing pier.
On Lake Hamilton’s eastern edge is one of the state’s largest and most attractive tourist destinations – Garvan Woodland Gardens. The 210-acre botanical garden is a stunning display of natural beauty with expansive gardens, a wildflower overlook, and a nature preserve – all beneath a towering canopy of pine trees. Plant varieties include over 160 different types of azalea, Japanese maples, Oriental dogwoods, and thousands of daffodils and tulips each spring. There’s also a Children’s Adventure Garden with an impressive multi-level treehouse; and a wood-and-glass chapel designed by the renowned architectural firm of E. Fay Jones.
The Lake District is the spot for summer fun but when you’re ready to get out of the heat, there’s no place cooler than Mid-America Science Museum. This award-winning, interactive museum boasts over 100 hands-on exhibits, and is home to the Guinness World Records’ most powerful conical Tesla coil, producing a whopping 1.5 million volts. The “caged lightning” exhibit celebrates the life and work of inventor Nikola Tesla and includes a brief presentation followed by a live display of the Tesla Coil in action.
Arrive by boat (or car) at these locally-owned lakefront restaurants and enjoy delicious food along with expansive views: Fisherman’s Wharf Steak & Seafood, Backporch Grill, Sam’s Pizza Pub, Trejo’s Del Lago, and Bubba Brew’s On Lake Hamilton, a sports pub serving locally-brewed beer and pub fare.
Lakefront accommodations include the DoubleTree by Hilton Hot Springs, Home2 Suites by Hilton Hot Springs, Lookout Point Lakeside Inn, Baymont by Wyndham Hot Springs On the Lake, and The Hamilton. There are also dozens of privately-owned lake condos available for short-term rentals.
Other District Highlights: Andrew H. Hulsey State Fish Hatchery
Boundaries: The Lake District includes the areas south and west of the Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway, and extends west just past the bridges on Highways 270 and 70; and south just past the bridges on Highways 7 and 128.
A swimsuit, a coverup, and hat, plus plenty of sunscreen!
Lake Hamilton is best enjoyed during the dog days of summer.
By boat! (You’ll probably need a car at some point too.)