The Ouachita River begins in western Arkansas at the base of Rich Mountain, the state's second highest peak. Its upper section flows freely through the Ouachita Mountains of Polk and Montgomery counties into the western end of Lake Ouachita, the largest lake contained entirely within the state. Major features include clear water in sparkling shoals and long pools, interesting rock formations and overhanging trees. An extensive portion of the river's upper stretch lies within the Ouachita National Forest. Photo opportunities include shoreline wildlife, such as deer, wild turkey and wading birds. Riverside resorts, cabins and camping areas are available. Inns and other lodging can be found in cities near the stream.
Relatively new is a whitewater playground on the Ouachita River northwest of Malvern that has been drawing a growing number of Arkansans, with visitors also reported from surrounding states and from as far away as Illinois. At the Rockport Ledge, a drop-off and collection of boulders that span the river a few hundred yards above Interstate 30, kayaking enthusiasts gather to practice skills such as rolls, ferries, eddies, surfing and freestyle tricks.
The water comes from upstream Lake Catherine in scheduled weekend releases, generating electricity as it passes under Remmel Dam. In addition, continuous but smaller releases have made the Ouachita between the dam and I-30 a reliable but gentle float throughout the year.
Information on the Lake Catherine releases is available by phone at (501) 620-5760 and on the Entergy Hydro Web site. Instructions for receiving periodic e-mail updates (usually issued weekly) on release plans are available on the site.
Fishing: Smallmouth and spotted bass are prime targets on the upper Ouachita, as are green and longear sunfish. Spawning runs of white bass from Lake Ouachita attract spring fishermen to the river. Cold water releases from Blakely Mountain Dam (Lake Ouachita) and Carpenter Dam (Lake Hamilton) provide good cool season fishing for put-and-take rainbows for short stretches below each dam, from the bank or from a boat. Stream-running walleye are also found in the Upper Ouachita.
Waterway information for the Ouachita River