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Lovable Lake Dardanelle, Russellville

Fishing on Lake Dardanelle
Fishing on Lake Dardanelle

Witness dramatic sunsets, view watchable wildlife and experience educational interactive programs at a state-of-the-art visitor center. Lake Dardanelle State Park is located where the Arkansas River flows into a 34,300-acre reservoir — the beautiful Lake Dardanelle. Come discover why visitors have been coming to this park for decades, to play on the water, camp and make memories in one of the most scenic locations in Arkansas.

Lake Dardanelle State Park is actually located on two separate sites on the lake – in Russellville and Dardanelle. Both sites include opportunities for fishing and family-friendly activities as well as all the amenities campers need for a great Natural State escape.

Located around the halfway point between Little Rock and Fort Smith, visitors can access this park easily from Interstate 40. In addition to sites at the park itself, there are around 250 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campsites around the lake, so there will always be plenty of places to set up camp and enjoy recreational opportunities.

The park offers 16,000 activities by park interpreters each year. These include lake tours by boat, bald eagle watches, spring wildflower walks and so much more. You don’t even have to be an overnight guest to enjoy them. Locals and day visitors are always welcome!

Boating on Lake Dardanelle
Boating on Lake Dardanelle

Fishing & Boating

The site of several major bass fishing tournaments each year, Lake Dardanelle is a bass angler’s paradise. Park staff handles the release of all tournament fish, and the park is home to a 1,861-square-foot tournament weigh-in pavilion, which is located in the Russellville area of the park. This world-class facility is the first of its kind in the nation, serving as the primary staging area for tournaments.

The water is easily accessible by launch ramps, so you can explore the coves in your fishing boat or enjoy aquatic sports like waterskiing, jet skiing, wake boarding and tubing. The bottomlands are perfect for casting a line from your canoe or kayak. No boat? No problem. Boat rentals are available at the marina along with fuel, food and other supplies and services.

However, you don’t need a boat to enjoy a quiet day of casting and catching. Close to the weigh-in pavilion, you’ll find a covered, barrier-free fishing pier in addition to 315 miles of shoreline. The lake is stocked with crappie and largemouth bass and includes great habitat for big catfish, bream and Arkansas River striper around the mouths of the major creeks and streams.

Take a short drive to the Dardanelle Dam where the catfish have been known to reach 40 pounds and the alligator gar lurking in the depths of the Arkansas River can reach up to 200 pounds!

Lake Dardanelle Visitor Center Aquarium
Lake Dardanelle Visitor Center Aquarium

Visitor Center

Children and adults alike will find a wealth of exciting and educational activities at the 10,527-square-foot visitor center overlooking the lake. The exhibit area houses 8,000 gallons of freshwater in five aquariums where you can get the best views of the fish found in the lake – catfish, gar, crappie, carp, largemouth bass and many others. Kids can even take “selfies” with small turtles at the aquatic turtle touch table.

In addition to the aquarium, there are interpretive exhibits and state-of-the-art interactive kiosks to learn geological and ecological facts about the rivers and tributaries surrounding Lake Dardanelle.

There is also a fascinating exhibit on the state insect of Arkansas – the honeybee! Did you know that our state and national agricultural industry depends on this busy insect to pollinate 80 percent of the crops in the country? You’ll learn facts like these and much more.

The visitor center is also a National Park Service-certified site on the Trail of Tears water route. Several southeastern tribes were removed from their homes and faced a harsh reality in this region along the route of the Indian Removal Act of the 1830s. A video detailing this dark time in our nation’s history and the historical significance of this location is shown throughout the day in the orientation room.

Waterfront Camping on Lake Dardanelle
Waterfront Camping on Lake Dardanelle

Waterfront Camping

Is there anything more peaceful than waking up and enjoying the sunrise over the water? Luckily, at Lake Dardanelle State Park, there are plenty of campsites with lake views and all the amenities for cozy camp life including 50-amp hookups, picnic tables, fire rings and freeze-proof water connections.

The park’s 75 campsites include 16 Class AAA, 14 Class AA and 27 Class B sites in the Russellville area and 18 Class B sites in the Dardanelle area of the park. Sanitary dump stations are located at both the Russellville and Dardanelle areas. Tent campers will appreciate the modern bathhouses and a table and grill at each site.

There are also plenty of exciting ways to fill your days at Lake Dardanelle State Park. Soak up some rays or play in the water at the swim beach, which includes a sand volleyball court. Campers can also take a walk through the wilderness on the Meadowbrook nature trail. The park offers guided hikes, nature talks, and demonstrations throughout the park and at the visitor center, plus evening presentations at the amphitheater in the main park in Russellville.

Campers are encouraged to bring their bike to explore the area’s mountain bike trails. Perhaps the best part of each day is ending it with a sunset stroll along the boardwalk.

Waterfowl in front of the Visitor Center
Waterfowl in front of the Visitor Center

Birdwatching

The River Valley is famous for views of the American Bald Eagle during the winter months. From late fall through early spring, these majestic creatures can be seen perched on trees along the Arkansas River and Lake Dardanelle as they hunt their prey. The park offers free lake cruises for the best chance to catch a glimpse of our nation’s proud symbol as well as other migratory birds and waterfowl that visit Lake Dardanelle each year.

In addition to eagles, there are more than 350 types of birds that flock to Lake Dardanelle each spring and fall including various ducks, geese and songbirds. The park even provides a map with the best vantage points to see these avian species and a checklist to mark off each one you see.