Discover the Deepest Lake in Arkansas

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: August 3, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Lake Ouachita is an artificial reservoir located in the Ouachita Mountains of west-central Arkansas created in the 1950s as part of a dam-building project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • With over 40,000 acres of water and 970 miles of shoreline, Lake Ouachita is the largest lake in Arkansas and is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and water sports.
  • Lake Ouachita is known for its crystal-clear water, which is due to the fact that it is fed by several natural springs in the surrounding mountains.
Infographic for Lake Ouachita as the deepest lake in Arkansas
Lake Ouachita is the biggest and deepest lake in Arkansas with a wide area of recreational activities.

Arkansas is known for Hot Springs National Park, the majestic Ozark Mountains, and hundreds of beautiful lakes. The biggest lake in the state, Lake Ouachita, is surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest so it is extremely peaceful and serene.

Bull Shoals is not entirely in the state but is another large lake in Arkansas. This artificial lake is on the northern border of the state with Missouri. But are the biggest lakes in Arkansas also the deepest? What is the deepest lake entirely in the state?

Let’s find out all about the deepest lake in Arkansas.

What is the Deepest Lake in Arkansas?

The deepest lake in Arkansas is Lake Ouachita. This is the deepest lake entirely in the state with the deepest point being near the Blakely Dam. Lake Ouachita is the largest lake in Arkansas as well with an area of 40,000 acres.

What is truly remarkable about the lake is that the entire lake is surrounded by the beautiful Ouachita National Forest, and no residential homes are located on the shores. You can set up camp on many of the islands and coves around the lake making for a private camping excursion.

Lake Ouachita is the deepest lake in the state of Arkansas.

The deepest lake in Arkansas is Lake Ouachita with a depth of 200 feet.


How Deep is the Deepest Lake in Arkansas?

The deepest lake in Arkansas is 200 feet deep. In comparison, an average hockey rink is about 200 feet long, which gets to be pretty deep! Lake Ouachita is the deepest, largest, and cleanest lake in the state.

The waters are some of the cleanest in the whole US making for amazing scuba diving and excellent swimming. There are two official beaches on the lake, Spring Beach and Lake Ouachita Marina Beach as well as several designated swimming areas. There are also several diving spots including one where you can swim through a sunken school bus!

What else is at the bottom of Lake Ouachita?

Besides the sunken school bus, there are interesting dive sites with a sunken houseboat and sailboat as well as an underwater memorial. Fearless Rock was built to honor Adam Lee Brown who was a Navy SEAL that was killed in action in Komar Province, Afghanistan.

Brown was serving as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and was killed on March 16, 2010. The memorial is located near the Blakely Dam and due to the clear waters of the lake, scuba divers get a good view of the laser-etched black granite memorial. Chief Special Warfare Operator Brown was from Hot Springs, AR.

Where Is Lake Ouachita Located On a Map?

Lake Ouachita is found between Arkansas’ capitol of Little Rock and the state’s border with Oklahoma. The small towns of Buckville, Washita, and Mountain Pine are situated along the shoreline.

Are There Any Campgrounds on Lake Ouachita?

Yes! There are many different campgrounds on the lake including 93 sites at the Lake Ouachita State Park. Some of the sites are even right at the water’s edge! The State Park also has eight fully equipped cabins and four more basic camper cabins.

But for some of the best camping plot out a spot on one of the private coves of the lake and set up your own campsite. If you are lucky, your camping cove may also be one of the hottest fishing holes on the lake!

Camping on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas

There are many different campgrounds on Lake Ouachita with some sites right at the water’s edge.

© Byrd

How Is the Fishing on Lake Ouachita?

Just think how amazing a freshly caught catfish from one of the clearest lakes in the country would taste (Cajun fried with a side of coleslaw…of course!). The fishing in Lake Ouachita is epic with a variety of good catches like catfish, crappie, bream, largemouth bass, and stripers (striped bass).

Animals That Live in Lake Ouachita

Lake Ouachita is not only a beautiful place to enjoy outdoor activities, but it is also home to a wide variety of aquatic wildlife. Here are a few examples of the animals that can be found in the lake:

  • Largemouth Bass: Largemouth bass are a popular game fish that can be found in Lake Ouachita. These fish are known for their size and fighting ability, and they are a favorite target of anglers.
  • Crappie: Crappies are another popular fish species that can be found in the lake. These panfish are known for their delicious taste and can be caught using a variety of techniques.
  • Turtles: Lake Ouachita is home to a variety of turtle species, including the common snapping turtle and the softshell turtle. These reptiles can often be seen basking in the sun on logs or rocks near the shore.
  • Water Snakes: Several species of water snakes can be found in Lake Ouachita, including the northern water snake and the diamondback water snake. These non-venomous snakes are important members of the lake’s ecosystem and can often be seen swimming in the water or sunning themselves on rocks.
  • Mussels: Lake Ouachita is home to several species of freshwater mussels, which play an important role in maintaining the lake’s water quality. These filter-feeding animals help to remove impurities from the water, making it a healthier habitat for other aquatic life.

These are just a few examples of the many animals that can be found in Lake Ouachita. Whether you are an angler, a nature lover, or just someone who enjoys spending time outdoors, there is plenty to see and appreciate in this beautiful lake.

Are there any Fishing Records from Lake Ouachita?

Yes! There are two state records from Lake Ouachita with one being set just this year. The biggest channel catfish ever caught in Arkansas was pulled from Lake Ouachita on June 3, 1989. The record breaker channel cat weighed in at 38 pounds even, caught by Joe Holleman, from Waldron, AR. Channel catfish are the smaller of the three most common catfish found in Arkansas.

Flatheads are typically bigger and blue catfish are usually the biggest of the three. The biggest flathead catfish in Arkansas was 80 pounds (caught in the Arkansas River) and the biggest blue cat was 116 pounds 12 ounces (caught in the Mississippi River).

The second state record from Lake Ouachita was a big fish for its species but not exactly a big fish when compared to catfish. Just this past January, on January 26, 2022, the yellow bass record was set by Craig Viscardis, from Hot Springs, AR.

His yellow bass weighed in at 2 pounds 4 ounces. This is an impressive catch because the world record yellow bass is only a few ounces more. According to the International Game Fish Association, the biggest yellow bass was 2 pounds 9 ounces, caught by John Chappell on the Duck River in Waverly, Tennessee.

Fishing on Lake Ouachita, Arkansas

Fishing is popular on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas with a variety of fish such as catfish, crappie, bream, largemouth bass, and striped bass.

©Bonita R. Cheshier/

How Deep is Bull Shoals Lake?

Bull Shoals Lake is 210 feet at the deepest point. The average depth of the manmade lake is 75 feet. The lake is part of the chain of lakes along the White River that are used for flood control. The other lakes include Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo, and Beaver Lake. Bull Shoals is not entirely in Arkansas with the northern portion of the lake in neighboring Missouri.

Is the Fishing in Bull Shoals Better on the Arkansas Side or the Missouri Side?

Well, you can’t argue with the stats. When you compare the state fishing records, Missouri has more records from Bull Shoals than Arkansas. Missouri has five rod and reel state records from Bull Shoals Lake and Arkansas has two.

An impressive 65 pounds 2-ounce striped bass was caught on the Missouri side of Bull Shoals along with the record-breaking walleye (21 pounds 1 ounce), largemouth bass (13 pounds 14 ounces), quillback (5 pounds 13 ounces), and yellow perch (2 pounds 7 ounces).

On the Arkansas side, the two record breakers from Bull Shoals are a 7-pound 15-ounce spotted bass and a 7-pound 5-ounce smallmouth bass. For now, it looks like the fishing is better on the Missouri side but there might be a 14-pound largemouth bass just waiting for you to snag on the Arkansas side…keep at it!

How does the Deepest Lake in Arkansas Compare to the Deepest Lake in the US?

Crater Lake National Park

The deepest lake in Arkansas, Lake Ouachita, is 200 feet deep, far short of Crater Lake at 1,949 feet.


The deepest lake in Arkansas, Lake Ouachita, is 200 feet deep. Crater Lake in Oregon is the deepest lake in the US with the deepest spot being 1,949 feet deep! That really is quite a bit deeper. How does a lake in the US get that deep?

While Lake Ouachita is a manmade reservoir, created when the Ouachita River was dammed, Crater Lake was formed when an ancient volcano erupted and created a crater at the top of the volcano. The crater filled with fresh water from rain and snow melt to create the lake. Crater Lake is also incredibly clear and the beautiful blue coloration of the water makes Crater Lake a popular destination.

Is there a Sunken School Bus at the Bottom of Crater Lake?

No. There are no school buses, houseboats, or sailboats at the bottom of Crater Lake. Access to the lake is very limited. The only legal way to hike down to the lake’s edge is along the Cleetwood Cove Trail. The trail is only open from mid-June to late October due to snow cover so plan ahead if you want to make it down to the lake’s shoreline.

You can fish from shore but be sure to use only artificial lures and bait, no live lures to be sure to keep invasive species out of the pristine lake. The only two kinds of stocked fish that are still in Crater Lake are Kokanee salmon and rainbow trout.

You won’t find salmon or trout at the bottom of Crater Lake, 1,949 feet is just too deep for these fish. Researchers have found moss and bacteria at the bottom of Crater Lake, not nearly as exciting as a school bus!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Barbara Kalbfleisch/

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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  1. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Available here:
  2. Missouri Department of Conservation, Available here:
  3. Arkansas State Parks, Available here:
  4. Bass Online, Available here:
  5. Lake Ouachita, Available here:
  6. The International Game Fish Association, Available here: