Lake Ouachita, the largest lake (40,100 acres) located entirely within Arkansas, is renowned for its scenic beauty and clear waters. Created when Blakely Mountain Dam impounded the waters of the Ouachita River near Hot Springs, the lake is virtually surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest and has one of Arkansas's most pristine shorelines at some 970 miles. The 40-mile-long lake is a favorite of sailors for its vast stretches of open water. Scuba divers enjoy the clear waters. Recreational boating, water skiing and other water sports are also very popular on Lake Ouachita, which boasts more than 100 uninhabited islands for primitive camping. Available rentals include houseboats, sailing crafts, fishing rigs and more. Contributing to make the lake one of Arkansas's finest outdoor destinations are Lake Ouachita State Park (with cabins), commercial marinas and resorts, and more than 400 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' campsites.
Fishing: Bassmaster Magazine selected the impoundment as one of the country's Top 100 Bass Lakes (May 2012). For anglers, Lake Ouachita is well-known for its prolific fishing opportunities, especially for striped bass and largemouth bass fishing. It consistently ranks in the top 10 nationally for largemouth bass fishing. Mark Davis, 1995 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year, spends a great deal of time on the lake. Fishing guides are available. Ouachita's acres are at normal pool level, with a crooked, rugged shoreline and an abundance of islands, especially in the lower (east) end of the lake. There are also many shallow areas that provide excellent feeding and holding places for bass, with deep-water escape just a few fin strokes away. Bass fishermen do well around these islands and shallow areas using surface lures, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs and plastic worms.
Deep, crystal-clear, with a floor of rocks, trees and other cover, and plenty of baitfish, Ouachita is ideal for big stripers. One of the most popular methods for catching them is trolling with downriggers along the river channel from near the dam to where it is joined by the Little Blakely and Big Blakely creek channels. In May, many stripers also congregate in the upper end of the lake, especially in the area around the Ark. 27 bridge.
Lake Ouachita boasts an unusual feature, created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is the Geo-Float Trail, a marked route that can be followed by boaters guided by a brochure that details prominent geologic features to be seen on the lake.
Hot Springs, near the east end of the lake, is Arkansas's leading tourist destination and home to Hot Springs National Park and many other attractions. At the lake's western end, Mount Ida is famous for its rock shops and quartz crystal mines, many of which are open to the public for a fee.