The Ol' Swimming Hole Lives On in The Natural State
As we become more modernized, we sometimes forget that simple things often bring the most joy. Like spending a laughter-filled day at the ol' swimming hole. If you close your eyes, you can see Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer swinging from the rope as they dangle in mid-air before plunging into the cool waters below. There are plenty of great swimming holes in The Natural State -- places to take in the scenery, keep the heat at bay and become a kid at heart again no matter what your age.
One of the best known Arkansas swimming holes is Blanchard Springs Recreation Area or
just north of Mountain View in north central Arkansas. At the recreation area, you'll find ample opportunities for swimming, fishing, picnicking and hiking, surrounded by picturesque bluffs. There are also outdoor theater programs in season, and tours are offered at Blanchard Springs Caverns. To get to Blanchard, take Ark. 9 north from Mountain View for seven miles; go west for six miles on Ark. 14, then take Forest Service Road 1110 for three miles.
Also nearby is Gunner Pool, located northwest of Mountain View. To get to Gunner Pool, take Ark. 87 from Mountain View for 16 miles to the community of Fifty-Six, then go three miles north on Forest Service Road 1102. At Gunner Pool, you'll find a clear mountain stream backed by high bluffs, fishing and hiking.
Eighty-two acre Shores Lake also offers "the ol' swimmin' hole" atmosphere. Located about 15 miles north of Mulberry on Ark. 215, the lake is in a mountain setting and provides access to the Ozark Highlands Trail. You can also fish, hike and picnic here.
Any place along the Buffalo National River is considered a good place to splash the day away but a good "hole" is located at Buffalo Point. Take Ark. 15 about 15 miles south from Yellville. You'll find rugged mountain scenery and nature trails, an overlook, fishing, and nature programs in season.
A big natural pool can be found on Big Piney Creek at the Long Pool Recreation Area near the Scenic 7 Byway near Dover. Head north on Scenic 7 from Dover for six miles to Ark. 164, then go west for three miles to the access road. From there, follow Forest Road 1901 for three miles, then go two miles on paved Forest Road 1804. High bluffs, fishing, hiking and canoeing are other amenities to this swimmin' hole.
One-hundred-two-acre Lake Wedington is a picturesque oasis within minutes of the bustling corridor of Fayetteville/Springdale/Rogers. Hidden in the Arkansas Ozarks, this small impoundment was constructed by the Works Project Administration in the 1930s. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, it is one of northwest Arkansas's best-kept recreational secrets. Located 13 miles west of Fayetteville on Ark. 16.
Forty-acre Lake Bennett at Woolly Hollow State Park is another popular place to wile away the hot summer hours. Situated 18 miles north of Conway near Greenbrier, you'll find a sandy beach and lifeguards on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day. To reach the lake, take U.S. 65 north from Conway through Greenbrier to Ark. 285, then go six miles east to the state park.
Sixteen-acre Lake Sylvia, located on the Perry-Saline county line in the Ouachita National Forest, has long been a popular Central Arkansas place to cool off. Facilities include a swimming beach, picnic sites, a wildlife interpretive trail, a tree identification interpretive trail for the physically challenged, and outdoor theater programs in season. Travel Ark. 10 west of Little Rock for 30 miles to Ark. 324, then drive about four miles to the campground and swimming area.
A highlight of the region is the sandy-beach swimming area at 25-acre Shady Lake back in the middle of nowhere. It is located on the Howard-Scott county line just out of Athens in southwest Arkansas. At Shady Lake, you'll find fishing, a playground and hiking. There are also seasonal outdoor theater program, a tree identification interpretive trail, and a trail around the lake. The best way to get there is to take U.S. 70 for five miles southwest of Glenwood, then go west for 23 miles on Ark. 84 to Athens. At Athens, travel two miles west on Ark. 246, then go three miles north at the Shady Lake Road sign on Forest Road 38. The site is adjacent to the Caney Creek Wilderness area.
A dammed portion of Walnut Creek at the Charlton campground near Crystal Springs west of Hot Springs forms a longtime favorite Ouachita National Forest swimming hole. The facilities, including the bathhouse, were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935. A tree identification interpretive trail, a hiking trail to Lake Ouachita, and outdoor theater programs during summer months are some of the other attractions. The site is three miles west of Crystal Springs on U.S. 270, or 20 miles west of Hot Springs.
Lake Hinkle, found at the Little Pines Forest Service Campground, is another picturesque swimming area. In addition to swimming in the 1,000-acre lake, you'll also find hiking. To reach the campground, travel four miles west of Waldron on Ark. 248, then west on a paved county road for seven miles.
Two lakes at Village Creek State Park, located between Forrest City and Wynne in eastern Arkansas, provide the swimming hole experience for its visitors. Even though both Lake Austell and Lake Dunn are probably known more for their fishing opportunities, they are both enjoyable spots for taking a dip. The two lakes are spring-fed and make great swimming areas because only small boats are found here. Austell has a sandy beach and wood deck for sunbathing.
The St. Francis National Forest in the eastern Arkansas delta may be the smallest in size in the United States but it is definitely not the smallest when it comes to beauty. It is considered to have some of the finest bottomland hardwoods in the country. The two lakes -- Storm Creek and Bear Creek -- found in the national forest and now a part of Mississippi River State Park are both popular for recreational activities and both have swimming beaches.
These are just some of the "ol' swimming holes" in The Natural State. Nearly every major lake in Arkansas has some secluded coves that can become your own personal "swimmin' hole."
Although Arkansas is blessed with many beautiful bodies of water, the top lakes for SCUBA diving are Beaver, Bull Shoals, Norfork, Greers Ferry, Ouachita and DeGray. SCUBA services offered by companies listed below range from air tank refills, equipment and spear gun rentals, to instruction and guided dives.
Downloadable Lake Maps
Paradise Dive Adventure
Ocean Impact Dive Shop
Scuba and Archery Center, Inc.
J&T Dive Shop
Jordan Marina Dive Shop
Dive Shop II
Scuba Doo Dive Shop
North Little Rock
Rick's Dive 'N' Travel Center
Ocean Extreme Dive and Travel Center, Inc.
Scuba Equipment Rentals, Sales And Service (By Lake)
These businesses offer some type of service for divers, whether it's a complete dive shop or just tank refills.
Lost Bridge Marina
SCUBA gear and accessories; approved SCUBA air station; spear fishing; lake dive sites map
Bull Shoals Lake
Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock
Equipment sales, service, rentals, repairs; instruction, certification; spear fishing; specialty dives
Hwy. 125 Marina
Air tank refills
101 Boat Dock
SCUBA air tanks refilling
Dive shop; lake dive sites map; SCUBA gear; diving boat rentals; PADI-certified instructors; spear fishing
Lacey's Narrows Marina
PADI-certified SCUBA tank refilling
Heber Springs Marina
Largest scuba air facility on Greers Ferry Lake
Lake Ouachita Dive Center
SCUBA instruction; SCUBA, snorkeling and spear fishing equipment rentals and sales; air tank refilling
Echo Canyon Resort & Marina
Dive shop; air tank refilling
Ocean ExtremeTM Dive and Travel Center, Inc. at Mountain Harbor Resort
SCUBA equipment rental, repair; PADI-certified instructors; specialty courses
Ocean ExtremeTM Dive and Travel Center, Inc. at Iron Mountain Lodge
SCUBA equipment rental, repair; PADI-certified instructors; specialty courses
Water Theme Parks:
One of the most popular ways to beat the summer heat is to spend the day at a water theme park where all types of wet and wild or placid fun can be found. Arkansas boasts three major parks which are complements by smaller aquatic pools in communities across the state.
Wild River Country is located just off Interstate 430 in North Little Rock; Crystal Falls is part of the Magic Springs Theme Park in Hot Springs.
Wild River Country is the state's largest water park with a long list of attractions. Areas with names such as Cyclone, Vertigo, the Sidewinder, River Rapids, the Vortex and Black and White Lighting let you know this is a high energy place. The Lazy River plus the Tad and Wave Pools provide laid-back fun. There truly is something for all age groups.
After exploring Magic Springs Theme Park, hitting the water at sister park Crystal Falls is a great way to round out the trip. Here you'll find the Crystal Cove wave pool, the High Sierra Slide Tower, and the Kodiak Canyon Adventure River, or you can just drift along the Kodiak Canyon Lazy River, wiling away the day.
Some other aquatic facilities around the state are:
Alma Aquatic Center
Arkadelphia Aquatic Park
Crenshaw Springs Water Park, White Hall
Diamond Springs Aquatic Playground, Crater of Diamonds State Park, Murfreesboro
Holiday Springs Water Park, Texarkana
Jones Center for Families, Springdale
Paragould Aquatic Center
Parrot Island Waterpark, Fort Smith
Splash Zone, Jacksonville
Lake/River State Parks
Twenty-five of Arkansas's 52 state parks deal with water in one way or another. The majority of the parks are based on lakes - small lakes such as Cane Creek, Moro Bay, and Lake Bennett, medium-size lakes such as Greeson, Charles, and Catherine, and large lakes like Ouachita, Bull Shoals, DeGray, and Chicot. Others are on rivers - the Cossatot -- or overlook rivers such as the Arkansas, and creeks - Lee Creek at Devil's Den and Cedar Creek at Petit Jean. Discover what each unique park has to offer the water enthusiast in your family by clicking here.