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The essence of small-town life is vastly different from one community to the next and in the Arkansas River Valley, Harris Brake Lake gives the tiny town of Perryville much of its big personality. Lying within the Ouachita tourism region, the reservoir attracts individuals who wish for a quiet retreat in the central portion of the state.
Harris Brake Lake was built in 1955 by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and remains the third largest lake owned by the state wildlife agency. The surface of the lake spreads across approximately 1,300 acres in Perry County and has an average depth of six feet. The lake is part of the Harris Brake Wildlife Management Area (WMA), which totals 2,788 acres. Harris Brake Lake is adjacent to an 800-acre green tree reservoir, a lowland area typically flooded during the fall and winter to attract waterfowl and to prevent tree mortality.
The reservoir adjoining Harris Brake Lake makes a prime target for waterfowl hunting. The majority of ducks hunted in the green tree reservoir are mallards, though wood ducks, teal, gadwalls and widgeons have also been harvested.
Lake activities run the gamut but the mood on Harris Brake Lake runs apace with the sedate, slow-moving fish that live in the lake. Anglers arriving at the lake with hopes of ensnaring various fish species will not leave unhappy: below the surface swim bluegill, channel catfish, black crappie, hybrid striped bass, largemouth bass, redear sunfish and many other species. Supplies can be stocked at various bait shops located around the lake. Anglers are granted access to the lake at multiple boating ramps.
Fishing and hunting may be the lake's biggest draw, but canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts enjoy dipping their paddles into Harris Brake Lake's serene waters. Discover Doughty Cove near the lake's southern shores or paddle into the north portions of the lake near the dam site. Kayakers and canoeists gliding along the smooth, calm waters are afforded views and moments rarely experienced by those who stick to to the lake's shores -- explore hidden coves, watch deer drink from the lake, or observe puffy, white clouds disappear into the horizon.
Bird enthusiasts sit at the water's edge, listening carefully as songbirds reveal their daily orchestra. Bring a bird identification book to spot new species or snap photos of a bird's daily routine as the sunlight filters through the trees. Walking quietly through the woods uncovers additional wildlife, including rabbits, squirrels, deer, doves, turkeys and furbearers, such as mink or beaver.
Harris Brake Lake's amenities do not end with the beautiful scenery. Get back to the basics with the kids by picking out a camp site and roasting marshmallows while listening to a crackling fire. Those looking for additional luxury can lean back in an armchair at the lake's RV park, motel or in the lakeside home and cabin vacation rentals which are open throughout the year.
The vacationer looking to get more out of their trip need not venture far from Harris Brake Lake. Rolling hills dominate the landscape, making for a quick but memorable five-minute drive to Perryville. Experience small town life by sinking your teeth into slabs of barbecue ribs or sitting down with locals to talk about the old days.
Directly to the west of Harris Brake Lake lies Ouachita National Forest, the oldest national forest in the South covering 1.8 million acres of forest in both Arkansas and Oklahoma. Miles of winding hiking trails and hours of plentiful fishing and await at this next door retreat. Residing closer to Harris Brake Lake is the Flatside Wilderness Area, located within the Ouachita National Forest, offering hours of recreational possibilities. The total area covers 10,000 acres but there are 10 miles of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail open to heart-pumping hikers and wilderness-exploring horseback riders.
Visitors looking to open the door to calm and quiet shores need look no further: vacation rentals and real estate on Harris Brake Lake promise to fulfill your dreams. Be it snagging that prized largemouth bass or capturing the memory of strolling down a dock during an early morning sunrise, this small town lake has big opportunities for water lovers.
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