One Tanks Travels: Lake Ouachita State Park
We invite you to have “More Fun Per Gallon” in Arkansas this year. Each day we will be blogging on different Arkansas destinations which can be reached on one tank of gas or less. This is basically every corner of The Natural State. We hope these suggestions help you in planning a trip to remember.
During the summer, most of my road trips center around water. Luckily, Arkansas has 600,000 acres of lakes and 9,700 miles of streams so a water source is never too far away.
The largest lake here is Lake Ouachita and it is a lure for many water lovers, including me. This year, Bassmaster Magazine selected the clear lake as one of the country’s Top 100 Bass Lakes (May 2012). As to the scope of this body of water, the 975 miles of rugged shoreline of the lake encircle 40,000 acres of sporting waters. Wide open waters and quiet coves offer a haven for water-skiers, wake boarders, sailing enthusiasts, kayakers and scuba divers.
The lake is also home to over 100 uninhabited islands. At the eastern end of the lake in the pine forest is Lake Ouachita State Park in Mountain Pine. The park and lake make a nice little day trip from Hot Springs. The 370-acre state park is located at the site of Three Sisters Springs, which has been an attraction in the Hot Springs area since the late 1880s.
Throughout the year at the park, interpreters offer programs. In the summer, these often focus on water based adventures such as lake tours on party barges, kayaking excursions, and snorkeling ventures. Kayak tours and overnight kayak expeditions with island camping are also scheduled several times a year. Another cool thing is the Bird Island Tour. In the summer, the island is a hot spot for purple martins and thus a hot spot for birders.
Bird Island is located in the middle of the lake and has been named an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the National Audubon Society. The narrow spit of land hosts 30-50 thousand purple martins in late July and early August. If you can land a spot on board one of these tours, definitely do so. It’s a sight to see.
There is also a chance to learn about the geology of the area. The lake’s geological formations, created millions of years ago when the earth’s
surface here was bent, twisted and deformed, are what set Lake Ouachita apart from other freshwater sites. The 16-mile “Geo-Float Trail,” the first water-based trail in the nation, was created to help shed light on these natural formations. Many stops featured on the trail-Zebra Rock, Whirlpool and Checkerboard Point to name a few-are now some of the lake’s most popular dive spots. (Local marinas and the park carry brochures of the trail.) Both the park and the Corps of Engineers provide tours of the trail.
If you want to camp at the park, scattered along the forest-covered lake- shore are around 100 campsites. There are also cabins. The park also has a full-service marina that provides ski boats, fishing boats and party barges, plus rental slips (covered and uncovered), mooring buoys and transient slips. Live bait, fuel and fishing supplies can also be found there. Launch ramps are located near the marina and in “Camp Area A”.
If you want to explore the land, hiking is always an option. The most popular route is the Caddo Bend Trail , which meanders through the forests and along the shoreline. The popular 4 mile trial reopened this year after being closed since last April due to extensive
If you are traveling from Hot Springs, Mid-America Science Museum is on the way to the park so if you have kids it’s a neat stop through. Along with their permanent exhibits, throughout the summer the museum is hosting a touring exhibit: Odyssey’s Shipwreck Pirates & Treasures. Encompassing 8,000 square feet, it features more than 500 authentic artifacts recovered by Odyssey from various shipwrecks in the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel, and the Mediterranean Sea. Here is also a link to learn more about the area. Enjoy!