Exploring The Best Water Activities at Ouachita Mountains

Purpose to explore the waters around the Ouachita Mountains as you enjoy your vacation here. Ouachita mountains have some of the best water bodies suitable for various water activities. The lakes, rivers, and streams will offer you enough space to enjoy fishing, swimming, and boat riding. But if you like scuba diving, there are specific areas that will let you have it all day long.

Exploring the Waters at the Ouachita Mountains

So, are you a water activity enthusiast and planning to visit the famous Ouachita mountains? Well, that’s the best decision you can ever make. This guide will help you know where to do your favorite water activities and the safety tips to observe.

1.    Fishing

Fishing is a great water activity that almost everyone enjoys. Everyone, regardless of their age, can fish either for fun or as an economic activity. You will enjoy fishing in Lake Ouachita or River Ouachita any time of the day and catch different fish. However, the fishing time and area where you fish will largely affect the species of fish you get out of the waters.

Fishing at the ouachita mountains

Common Fish Species

The following are the common fish species you’ll come across while fishing in lake Ouachita;


You will find largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, or spotted bass in any of the water bodies. Eating fresh bass fish is so satisfying that you should catch one to devour the delicacy. This kind of fish is a food source of vitamin B-12 which is good for your health.


The catfish is another popular fish you will catch while fishing in Lake Ouachita. You will be luckier if you catch blue catfish, the biggest in this family. It weighs about 68kgs and is 165cm long.

But channel catfish are the most targeted species by anglers as they’re many making them a good target. It’s the easiest to catch, encouraging beginners to enjoy fishing. You can find them at the banks or deep in the water.


You will get black or white crappie while fishing in Lake Ouachita. This fish is so sweet and easy to catch, making your fishing experience memorable. You can use worms or insects to catch crappie along the shorelines or wees beds.


Sunfishes are a rare fish you’ll come across while fishing in Lake Ouachita. The unique tasting fish has a flavor that some people compare to lobster or bass. Sunfish mostly like warm rocky, and weedy waters. You can fish for them in these areas within the lake, but the water must be slow-moving.

The best thing about coming across the sunfishes is that they’re more friendly than the other species. So, you’ll have some special moments with them as you fish. Sunfishes are a good source of potassium and folate so look for them to enrich your body with these components.

If you’re lucky, you can catch a variety of sunfishes in Lake Ouachita like bluegill, green sunfish, redear sunfish, warmouth, or green sunfish.


Have you ever come across yellow/olive fish? Your fishing trip to Ouachita Lake will enable you to see this noble fish that tastes good. It’s a healthy food that has several benefits when eaten. It’s a good choice for someone who likes mild flavor dishes with less fishy and blander tasting.

Gar, shad, carp or drum, buffalo, and minnows are also some species you’ll encounter on your fishing escapade on this lake.

2.    Canoeing

You should also purpose to go canoeing in the waters of the Ouachita Mountains. Canoeing or Kayaking as others call it, can be a great water activity if you know how to do it and the right spots for it. You can canoe in rivers like;

Upper Ouachita River

You can canoe about 70 miles of this river when the water conditions are okay. The river above Lake Ouachita has deep pools, stimulating rapids that will make the journey worthy. There is also beautiful scenery you’ll come across while canoeing here.

Saline River

Another water body to go canoeing in is the Saline River. If you want to canoe for a short time, go to the stretch between Benton’s Lyle Park and Cherry Gingles access. The distance is about 3 miles which is suitable for someone without much expertise in canoeing. However, you need to be extra careful as there’s a sharp drop at the river’s edge.

Kings River

Kings River is a peaceful canoeing spot with gentle and clear water. The river has several twists with deer at most of the streamsides. The 90-mile river will keep you busy on the waters, which is good on a day you set out to only canoe.

Ouachita Lake

You will also get excellent experience canoeing Lake Ouachita, the largest water body in the Ouachita mountains. The best thing about settling for this lake is that it has several islands which will allow you to explore more. You can also camp on the islands as you explore the many shorelines and islands in this lake.

The best thing about canoeing in Ouachita waters is that canoes are for hire. You can get one at will and adventure in the water. Since you can carry items on your canoe, carry your swimming costumes, and dive in the water to relax your skin, especially on a hot afternoon.

3.    Boating

If you want to experience the Ouachita waters through a boat, go to any marinas nearby and hire a boat that meets your demands. You can go boating on Shady Lake or Lake Ouachita with a smaller boat or peddle boats.

The upper white river with many fish will also make your boating journey worthy as you will catch several fish while here. It’s a long water body that requires a comfortable boat that will make your ride easy. It’s between the Bull Shoals Dam to Guion, about 90 miles long. You should have company as the scenery and fish can be confusing, leaving you at crossroads while in the water.

When you go to the marinas to rent a boat, you’ve got to have a boating license which is according to Arkansas laws.

4.    Swimming

If you enjoy swimming and want to try it in running water bodies as you vacation around the Ouachita mountains, go to any shoreline.

Best Swimming Areas

Swimming on a hot summer afternoon will enable your skin to rejuvenate and relax your muscles in the water. You can swim in areas like;

  • Lake Ouachita has two swimming beaches with ten buoyed-off areas where you can swim safely.
  • You can also swim in the rivers in the Ouachita mountains, like the Saline river. Swimming around this river is for great swimmers who can dare the high-running waters.
  • Cooling off in the Ouachita River is also a good decision during summer.
  • In Charlton, Arkansas, go swimming in Walnut Creek, a historic site.
  • You can also swim in clean Buffalo River water any time you’re around. Be careful of high currents when the river is high.

5.  Scuba Diving

Lake Ouachita is a great spot for scuba divers who don’t want to go to the ocean but need a great experience. The clean and clear water will improve visibility as you dive in. the 200 feet height also makes this water activity fun.

Scuba Diving at the ouachita mountain

Scuba Diving at the ouachita mountain.

There are about 30 scuba diving spots in Lake Ouachita. You can identify an island on this lake and enjoy scuba diving. For example, Crawdad island, east of the lake and 100 feet high, will give you the best experience. Wear a dry suit while here as the temperature is very low.

If you’re not experienced at scuba diving but are eager to try it, enroll in a diver’s course at Lake Ouachita and be a pro.

Water Safety Tips to Remember When Visiting the Ouachitas

As you know, big water bodies can sometimes misbehave or become unsafe for water activities. So, if you go out to any Ouachita water, keep in mind these water safety tips;

Never Go Out Alone

Remember to have company when you’re having fun in any Ouachita waters. While boating, someone in the boat can help you if you get exhausted or tell you of an impending danger if you’re not capable of seeing.

Having someone by your side as you swim is also good as you might slip and drown. Apart from your safety, someone in the lake or river makes the trip fun and enjoyable as you’ll talk, laugh, and make the trip memorable.

Avoid Deep Water Activities If You’ve No Experience

If it’s your first time in a big moving water body, it’s safe to stay by the shorelines. It will be easier to spot if you’re in danger and receive help faster in these areas. But if you go in deep water, people might assume you’ve enough experience, which is dangerous. If you get yourself deep in the water without anyone by chance, it’s advisable to stay calm and try to find your way back.

Know The Weather Before Setting Off

Check on the weather before setting out for any water activity in Ouachita’s. If it is likely to rain, it’s good to avoid going to the water as high waters can be a challenge to play in. Be keen on the weather as you swim or canoe in the water.

When it rains when you’re deep in the lake, it can be tricky to find your way back. Flooding on the lakes can also risk your life, so you better be safe. High water currents can also overcome you while going out in the water on a cloudy day may make objects like rocks invisible.

Wear Safety Vest and Know Bearings

You can be overwhelmed by the waters and be unable to swim out to safety. In this case, a life vest will help you stay afloat for some hours as you wait for the rescue team. Also, get to know your bearings to avoid getting lost in the water.

You can identify a landmark to guide you. Check if you’re on the right track as you swim or boat ride. If you’re swimming, it’s best to swim parallel to the shore instead of straight towards the middle. If you go fishing, it’s best to have a map to avoid getting lost in the waters.

Do Your Research Before Setting Off

Although Ouachita waters are safe, there are some rivers and lakes with wildlife around. Do your research before going out into the water. Know if there are any snakes, alligators, or leeches in the water, and plan well on how to tackle them in case you encounter them.

Also, ask about the surrounding areas like camping sites and nearby islands where you can take a rest when you’re tired, or things get tough.

Carry First Aid Kit

Have a safety kit box as you go boating or canoeing in the Ouachita waters. This is regardless of your location in the water, as anything can happen. Carry flashlights, bandages, cell phones, and insect bite treatment. Don’t forget to include medications in your first aid kit. Carry aspirin and antibiotic cream as they might prove helpful when you go for long hours in the water.

Be Careful with Sharps

This is mostly applicable if you go fishing. Remember, fish have sharp scales, barbs, and teeth that can harm/cut you when not on the look. Wear gloves to keep your hands safe. Also, be careful with the lures and hooks when casting, as they can be dangerous, especially to learners.


Can you Kayak Lake Ouachitas?

Yes. The lake will offer you a good chance to kayak without having a boating license. You can rent a kayak at any marinas around and have a good time in the water.

Are there alligators in the Ouachita River?

Yes. Alligators are one of the wildlife in the Ouachita River. It’s also amongst the largest animals you might encounter while in the water.

Can you swim at Lake Ouachita?

It will be fun swimming in lake Ouachita’s clean and clear waters. It has two swimming beaches and ten swimming areas that are buoyed off.


It’s common for most people to look for water activities to keep them busy during holidays in summer. If you’re around the Ouachita mountains, plan to explore the rivers, streams, and lakes and have a memorable experience. You can scuba dive, swim, fish, or boat and canoe. Don’t forget to keep safe in the waters to avoid regrets later.


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