The 10 Best Arkansas Lakes For Swimming

Lake Ouachita in Arkansas.
© mwesselsphotography/Shutterstock.com

Written by Patrick Sather

Updated: May 20, 2023

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Arkansas’s current official nickname is the natural state, and it’s easy to see why. The state contains approximately 2,400 named lakes and many unnamed lakes, ponds, and swimming holes. So if you want to beat the summer heat but don’t want to head to your local pool, consider taking a trip to one of the best swimming lakes in Arkansas. In no particular order, here is a list of 10 of the best Arkansas lakes for swimming. 

1. Lake Catherine

Lake Catherine is a 1,940-acre man-made located near Hot Springs, Arkansas. The lake was formed in the 1920s due to the construction of the Remmel Dam along the Ouachita River. 

Lake Catherine State Park rests on the south shore of the lake and features a swimming area and a small beach. The swimming area is cordoned off with ropes from the rest of the beach. With water ranging from 1 to 3 feet deep, the swimming area of Lake Catherine is perfect for young kids wearing a life vest. The water gets deeper the closer you get to the ropes, so make sure to keep smaller children close to the shore. 

For more adventurous swimmers, you can also try swimming in the main body of the lake as well. Just make sure to pay attention to buried debris, as there are lots of submerged trees in the lake. 

Lake Catherine

Lake Catherine was formed in the 1920s due to the construction of the Remmel Dam along the Ouachita River.

©David7/Shutterstock.com

2. Lake Bennett

Lake Bennett lies at the center of the 40-acre Hoody Hollow State Park, just a few miles outside of Greenbrier, Arkansas. The Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration built the lake back in 1935. The lake shares its name with Dr. Hugh H. Bennett, the first person to lead the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. 

Originally built for the purpose of studying the effects of soil erosion and water run-off, today, Lake Bennett mostly serves as a popular tourist destination. People come to the lake to camp, picnic, and boat. It goes without saying, it is a great lake for swimming in Arkansas!

Lake Bennett features a lifeguarded swimming beach on the north side of the lake. Nearby amenities include restrooms and showers, as well as a snack bar that is open during the summer.  

3. DeGray Lake

DeGray Lake is a man-made reservoir located on the Caddo River just south of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Construction of the lake began in 1962 and finished in 1972. The lake serves as a flood control reservoir on the Caddo River and provides electricity via the power plant in the DeGray Dam. 

In addition to flood control and power, DeGray Lake offers a wide array of recreation opportunities for visitors. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains numerous facilities around the lake, including 9 campgrounds, 2 playgrounds, and 5 swimming areas — definitely one of the best lakes for swimming in Arkansas!

DeGray Lake Resort State Park rests on a peninsula on the north shore of the lake. The park features a popular sand beach open daily from 8 am to one hour after sunset. Along with a designated swimming area, the beach also has restrooms and picnic tables. 

DeGray Lake serves as a flood control reservoir on the Caddo River and provides electricity via the power plant in the DeGray Dam. 

©Warren Price Photography/Shutterstock.com

4. Lake Ouachita

Located just west of Hot Springs, Lake Ouachita is the largest lake located entirely in Arkansas. Lake Ouachita was formed in 1953 because of the construction of the Blakely Mountain Dam on the Ouachita River. The reservoir provides power, flood control, and drinking water to nearby residents. However, it also operates as a hub for local wildlife and a popular tourist destination.

Lake Ouachita attracts visitors thanks to its wealth of recreation opportunities, including boating, fishing, and water sports. The lake also offers visitors a chance to cool off by taking a dip at one of the lake’s several swimming beaches. 

The Spillway Recreation Area is tucked away in a quiet cove in the southeastern corner of the lake. This day-use area features a swim beach, a rentable pavilion, and a boat ramp. Alternatively, you can visit Spring Beach in Lake Ouachita State Park, just a few miles to the north. This sandy beach boasts picnic tables and a marina where you can rent boats, kayaks, and fishing gear.  

Lake Ouachita is the largest lake located entirely in Arkansas.

©iStock.com/Kathy Byrd

5. Lake Sylvia

Nestled within the northeast corner of Ouachita National Forest lies Lake Sylvia. This serene 18-acre lake is located just 38 miles west of Little Rock, making it a perfect day trip for people who want to swap the hustle and bustle of the city for some beautiful mountain scenery.

Lake Sylvia Recreation Area provides visitors with plenty of recreation opportunities. Popular activities include hiking, backpacking, trail running, and camping. 

Lake Sylvia’s swim beach is relatively small, which means it can get rather busy on weekends. That said, the lake’s cool and clear water makes it well worth the visit. Just off the beach, you can find bathhouses and covered picnic sites that give visitors a respite from the rays of the sun.  

Lake Sylvia, Arkansas

The Lake Sylvia Recreation Area is located in the northeastern portion of the Ouachita National Forest, tucked amid picturesque pine and oak-covered slopes.

©BierstadtMassif, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

6. Greers Ferry Lake

Greers Ferry Lake lies approximately 60 miles north of Little Rock, Arkansas. The Little Red River feeds this 40,500-acre reservoir which formed in 1962 due to the construction of the Greers Ferry Dam. 

Visitors can enjoy various activities around the lake, including fishing, scuba diving, boating, and camping. The lake also features numerous swimming areas and cliff diving spots. These include Old Hwy 25, Sandy Beach, Dam Site, Shiloh, and Devils Fork. 

Most of the beaches on Greers Ferry Lake charge a day-use fee of a few dollars. Alternatively, you can purchase an annual pass to enjoy the swimming areas throughout the warmest parts of the year. 

Greers Ferry Lake

The Little Red River feeds the Greers Ferry Lake which formed in 1962 due to the construction of the Greers Ferry Dam. 

©iStock.com/Lauren Faurie

7. Lake Wedington

Lake Wedington is located off State Hwy 16, just 13 miles west of Fayetteville, Arkansas. This 102-acre lake lies within the 424-acre Lake Wedington Recreation Area, which features lush hardwood forests. 

Visitors to the lake often agree that it ranks as one of northwestern Arkansas’s best-kept secrets. The lake allows visitors to engage in numerous recreational activities, including boating and fishing. You can also work up a sweat at the nearby sand volleyball courts or hiking trails before taking a dip in the lake’s cool water. 

The swim beach at Lake Wedington Recreation Area is accessible for day use for a small fee. You can also rent floating equipment and paddle boards near the beach that you can use in the swim area.  

Lake Wedington is near Fayetteville in the Ozark St. Francis National Forest.

©Keith Caselman/Shutterstock.com

8. Lake Hamilton

Lake Hamilton rests on the Ouachita River directly south of Hot Springs, Arkansas. This 7,200-acre lake gets its name from Hamilton Moses, a former chairman of the Arkansas Power and Light company. Created in 1932 due to the Carpenter Dam’s construction, the reservoir is a popular tourist destination thanks to the many resorts, restaurants, and hotels along its shores. 

Lake Hamilton offers its fair share of recreation activities, including fishing, boating, and jet skiing. However, if you want to swim in its waters, you’ll likely want to find one of the quieter areas of the lake. In that case, you should consider checking out Hill Wheatly Park near the northwestern end of the lake. 

Hill Wheatly Park features arguably the best swim beach on Lake Hamilton. The beach also features grills, restrooms, picnic tables, and a boat ramp with a dock. 

Lake Hamilton rests on the Ouachita River directly south of Hot Springs.

©kan_khampanya/Shutterstock.com

9. Lake Charles

Lake Charles is a 645-acre lake located in northeastern Arkansas. The lake resides just 45 minutes northwest of Jonesboro and about 1.5 hours west of Memphis, Tennessee. 

Lake Charles ranks as one of the best bass fishing lakes in northeastern Arkansas. Other popular activities at the lake include hiking, camping, boating, and – of course – swimming. 

Visitors to Lake Charles remark that the lake is quiet and peaceful. The swimming area at Lake Charles State Park features restrooms and hot showers, as well as picnic areas and a boat ramp. If you want to enjoy a quiet weekend getaway and swim in a cool, clear lake, you could do a lot worse than Lake Charles. 

10. Mirror Lake

The smallest lake on this list also ranks as one of the most beautiful lakes for swimming in Arkansas. 

Located just 14 miles north of Mountain View, Mirror Lake is a 3-acre lake fed by the water from Blanchard Springs Caverns. The lake formed in the 1930s after the Civilian Conservation Corps built a stone and concrete dam to create a fishing and recreation area near the caverns. 

The water at Mirror Lake measures a comfortable 58 degrees. Visitors remark on how clean and cool the water feels and the stunning scenery of the surrounding forests. If that wasn’t enough, the lake also features some of the best rainbow trout fishing in Arkansas!

The smallest lake on this list, Mirror Lake, also ranks as one of the most beautiful lakes for swimming in Arkansas. 

©JB Manning/Shutterstock.com

Summary Of The 10 Best Arkansas Lakes For Swimming

RankLakeLocation
1Lake CatherineHot Springs
2Lake BennettGreenbrier
3DeGray Lakejust south of Hot Springs
4Lake Ouachitanear Hot Springs
5Lake SylviaOuachita National Forest
6Greers Ferry LakeCleburne County
7Lake Wedingtonnear Fayetteville
8Lake HamiltonHot Springs
9Lake CharlesPowhatan, Lawrence County
10Mirror LakeMountain View


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