How to Have a Perfect Lake Vacation at Lake Ouachita
In the middle of Arkansas's Ouachita National Forest is the state's largest lake, dotted with more than 210 islands and circled by 975 miles of tree-lined shore. Lake Ouachita, a reservoir created by the construction of Blakely Mountain Dam in 1948, is also one of the cleanest lakes in the United States. These crystal clear waters offer travelers plenty of fun things to do — though don't count out land-based activities on your trip to Lake Ouachita.
Getting to Lake Ouachita
Hot Springs, Arkansas is an easy, hour-long drive from Lake Ouachita, making it a popular home base for visitors. For out-of-state travelers, book a flight to Little Rock (an little over an hour from Hot Springs) and rent a car for your lake vacation.
Things to Do at Lake Ouachita
Because of the clarity of the water, Lake Ouachita is a great destination for scuba diving, as well as boating and fishing. Scuba divers won’t find the houses that once lined the lake’s bottom — they were removed before flooding — but you may spot a school bus.
Divers and swimmers can even spot rare, non-stinging freshwater jellyfish and sponges, which are found only in lakes with incredibly clean water. The lake is also home to larger creatures, including four varieties of bass, bream, crappie, catfish, and walleye.
Boaters can rent a variety of vessels and equipment from the Lake Ouachita State Park’s marina, from kayaks and canoes to water skis and tubes.
Travelers can also see enormous veins of quartz crystal both above as well as below the water at Lake Ouachita. Collect small amounts of crystal at the developed Crystal Vista area, or dive down to Zebra Rock, where white quartz sparkles against otherwise black sandstone.
Zebra Rock is part of a 16-mile water-based interpretive trail — the Geo-Float Trail — that is the first of it’s kind to be included in the National Trails System. Developed in 1984 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (who built the Blakely Mountain Dam creating the lake in the first place) as well as the Arkansas Geological Commission and U.S. Geological Survey, the self-guided boat tour is designed to show visitors 12 outstanding geologic formations. For groups of 15 or more people who provide their own boat, the Army Corps of Engineers will provide a ranger to interpret the sites.