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Formed by the completion of the Ozark-Jeta Taylor Lock and Dam and Powerhouse in 1969, Ozark Lake is a 10,600-acre lake located between the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas. The lake stretches across Franklin, Crawford, and Sebastian Counties and extends for 36 miles along the Arkansas River. Its 137 miles of shoreline and multiple parks make it an excellent lake for fishing, boating and other water related activities.
Ozark Lake is part of a multi-purpose plan for development of the Arkansas River and tributaries, known as the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System which connects Tulsa, Oklahoma to the Mississippi through 440 miles of waterways. Hydroelectric power generation, navigation, recreation, water supply, erosion control, and enhancement of fish and wildlife resources were the primary objectives of the project completed in the 1970s. In addition to the lake acreage, 6,349 acres of land surrounding Ozark Lake have been included in the project and are used for hiking, biking, horseback riding and hunting. Recreational facilities constructed along the shoreline of Ozark Lake include picnicking and camping areas complete with grills, tables, pavilions, boat ramps, canoe rentals, swimming areas, drinking water, showers, restrooms, and playgrounds.
Thanks to the flowing waters of the Arkansas River, all game fish native to Arkansas can be found in Ozark Lake. Fishing is good year round for catfish, bream, crappie, white bass and largemouth bass. For variety, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission stocks the lake with striped sea bass and sauger. Anglers will find great success whether fishing from boat or shore. To enjoy some of the best sauger fishing, try the water below the Ozark-Jeta Taylor Lock and Dam. From late fall until early spring, this is a very popular spot. Eating fish from most Arkansas lakes and streams is safe, but several counties have issued a fish consumption advisory. Check the link at the bottom of this page to see which areas are affected.
The public land surrounding Ozark Lake is heavily used for hiking, biking, hunting and camping. There a number of campgrounds around the lake and in the wooded areas near the lake. The River Bluff Trail is approximately 7/8 of a mile in length and winds its way to the high bluffs overlooking Ozark Lake. An overlook shelter at the top of the bluffs is a great place for photos and an incredible view of the area. Hunters will find an abundance of deer, quail, squirrels, rabbits, dove, wild turkey, ducks and geese during state hunting seasons. Cabin and vacation rentals are available for hunters and those seeking the perfect vacation retreat.
Wildlife enthusiasts visiting Ozark Lake won't want to miss a trip to the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests. Located north of Ozark Lake, the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests are two separate forests. The Ozark National Forest covers 1.2 million acres of land, mostly in the Ozark Mountains. The tallest mountain in the state, Mount Magazine, and an incredible, underground cave, Blanchard Springs Caverns, can be found in this forest. The St. Francis National Forest covers 22,600 acres and is one of the smallest and most diverse forests in the country. The Forest contains two large lakes, Bear Creek Reservoir and Storm Creek Lake, where anglers will find large populations of largemouth bass, crappie, warmouth, and channel catfish. Both forests offer recreational opportunities for camping, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, fishing, hunting, boating, scenic drives, picnics sites, and opportunities for wildlife viewing. Several National Scenic Byways cross the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, including the Scenic 7 Byway which runs from Missouri to Louisiana, 60 miles of which are within the Ozark National Forest.
Two of the largest wineries in the state are located 7 miles east of Ozark Lake in the town of Altus. Visitors will find large grape vineyards and fine wineries for tasting and purchasing wine.
35 miles south of Ozark Lake sits the town of Fort Smith, named for General Thomas A. Smith, commander of the 9th Military Department. The original fort was the scene of much activity during the Civil War. Fort Smith sits on the banks of the Arkansas River and is today the second largest city in Arkansas. With a blend of the Old South and the Old West, Fort Smith offers visitors of all ages a peek into the past with its restorations and museums and a view of the future with its modern malls, water parks, and golf courses.
Ozark Lake a great place to take the entire family for a few days or even a week of fun. You can spend the day fishing, canoeing, or hiking into the lush forests. Cool off and go for a swim or ride a horse to the top of a mountain for some spectacular views.
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