Enjoy the water at Moro Bay State Park
Moro Bay State Park is a key spot in Arkansas to enjoy the beauty of the state’s lakes and rivers. It is located at the union of three waterways, Raymond Lake, Moro Bay, and the Ouachita River, and this beauty can be accessed in many ways including by boat, hiking, and kayaking.
“It all depends on what you are looking for,” said Paul Butler, Superintendent at Moro Bay State Park. “Some come to just relax and enjoy the view on the back porch of one of our premier cabins and that can be done without leaving the park,” he said. “However, the beauty of the area is best seen out on the water by boat or kayak. I recommend the bay for viewing the natural wildlife and large scenic cypress trees and a ¼ mile paddle to the local sandbar if it's June or July. A trip up or down the river is also fun and enjoyable as you can see many local camps, the sandbar, wildlife, and more.”
From Memorial Day to Labor Day the park offers regular weekend programs and boat tours on the Ouachita River. Visitors can rent boats, boat slips, or kayaks at the park’s marina. For those with their own boat, the park also has the only marina on the Ouachita River in Arkansas with gas and boat slips for rent. The park also offers year-round fishing and birding.
"The Low Water Trail in the early morning is a great place to see multiple species of woodpeckers, songbirds, a few species of hawks, barred owls, and the occasional Bald Eagle,” said Butler. “For wading birds its best to visit in late summer, from late July to early September, and boat up in the shallow areas of the bay. Then you can see wood storks, several species of herrings, egrets galore, and other wading birds.”
History is also part of the park and the union of the waterways has a central role in it. “Before modern highways and bridges this was the ideal spot to cross the river in this area,” said Butler. “So from 1882 up until 1992 this is the spot where the Moro Bay Ferry transported people across the river. In the early days of American Settlement river travel was easier than traversing the rugged backcountry on land. A small town of Moro Bay emerged in this area and the bay was used as a shipping port. Cotton was loaded on to steamboats and transported down river as far as New Orleans. As agriculture changed other crops were transported from the bay here and in more recent times gravel. The waterways here offer fishermen and birders good opportunities as well as those seeking water recreation. Two sandbars exist in close proximity to the park accessible by boat that are popular for swimming.”
The Moro Bay Ferry is now an exhibit at the park that permanently displays this interesting piece of Arkansas history.
“In the years before the local bridges, the Moro Bay Ferry was essential for all who sought to travel from Union to Bradley county as it was the only means of crossing between these two counties within a 1.5 hour drive up until 1992,” said Butler. “It was managed and operated by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department from 1965 to 1992 and could transport 6 vehicles or 60,000 pounds. It would make upwards of 300 trips a day in its heyday.”
As to overnight options at Moro Bay State Park, the five well furnished cabins there are on stilts and offer a birds eye view over the water. The campground, which was completely redesigned and rebuilt a few years ago, is all 50 amp with sewer and water and all sites are 60 ft long and most are on the water.
Moro Bay State Park is located around 20 miles northeast of El Dorado on U.S. 63. Overnight bookings can be made at arkansasstateparks.com.