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With 1,940 surface acres, Lake Catherine is a relatively small lake, but it has big recreation opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts and anglers alike. With its proximity to the resort town of Hot Springs, visitors can enjoy the quiet relaxation of the lake, and have access to all the amenities they could want. Nestled at the base of the Ouachita Mountains, Lake Catherine is a freshwater Ozark pearl.
Lake Catherine's size belies its historical importance. The lake is an impoundment of the Ouachita River created by the Remmel Dam. Harvey Couch, the founder of Arkansas Power & Light, built the dam in 1924-1925 as part of his "Helping Build Arkansas" plan to bring new industry and jobs to the state. Lake Catherine was the first of a three-dam system on the Ouachita River. Lake Hamilton, created by the Carpenter Dam in 1932, is Lake Catherine's sister lake. The third lake, Lake Ouachita, was created by the Blakely Dam in 1953. Lake Catherine's dam and powerhouse were a significant leap forward for the entire area.
Lake Catherine was named after Army Col. H. L. Remmel who used his influence on then Secretary of War, Jack Weeks, to expedite the meetings to approve the three-dam project. The lake that resulted from the creation of the dam was named after Mr. Couch's only daughter, Catherine. She was six years old when the lake was finished. Because of its importance in the early development of AP & L, in 1992 Remmel Dam was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The dam is credited with making AP & L a major utility company, supplying power for Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. AP & L, now know as Entergy, still controls the dam and lake. Entergy lowers the water level by five feet each winter for shoreline maintenance and aquatic vegetation inspection. Entergy coordinates the drawdown with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Today visitors to Lake Catherine can enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities. Boating is a popular pastime with a full service marina open in the summer and boat rentals available year round. There is also white water paddling below the dam. The lake never freezes, offering anglers four seasons of challenging fishing. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission built an unusual lake shore nursery on land donated by AP & L. The nursery allows young game fish to be released directly into the lake, improving the survival rate of many species including largemouth bass, black bass, channel catfish, walleye, and striped bass. In the winter, anglers will find the fish biting where water from the Lake Catherine Steam Electric Station is discharged. The water is ten degrees warmer than the lake, and the fish are drawn to it. Below the dam, the trout fishing is exceptional.
Along the shore of the lake, Lake Catherine State Park is a great place to visit for the day or a longer stay. The state park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937, and the buildings have the CCC's trademark rustic charm. From 1942-45, the park was used as a rest and recreation facility for the wounded soldiers in the Army-Navy hospital in nearby Hot Springs.
Visitors to the park can learn about its history and the history of the lake and dam at the visitor's center or on a guided hike or boat tour. There is also a horse stable with guided horseback trails. In the summer there is a swimming area with a sand beach and bathhouse. Overnight accommodations at the park range from primitive backpacking to fully equipped lakeside cabins.
With the resort town of Hot Springs and Lake Catherine's sister lake, Lake Hamilton, minutes away, visitors can have the best of both worlds. Lake Catherine has a rich history, rustic charm, and peaceful serenity with all the comforts of home.
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