Beautiful Lake Ouachita

Interesting facts you may not know

Story and photography by Corbet Deary

Story and photography by Corbet Deary

I think it would be safe to say that practically everybody living within the coverage area of this magazine is aware of Lake Ouachita. I’ll go one step farther, suggesting that those who have spent any time on this reservoir will be quick to agree that we have a diamond right here in our own backyard.

That in mind, I thought I would share a few facts about this reservoir. Although these details will not likely prove life altering, I suspect getting better acquainted with an outdoor destination that draws masses from abroad will prove interesting, at the least.

Considerations to build the dam began in the 1930s. Preparation began for the lake in 1947. Construction of concrete intake structures started in the early spring of 1950. By 1952, the Ouachita River Valley had been cleared and a huge earthen-built dam was complete. It was time to close the gates and allow the water to start backing up.

The man-made structure was impressive, much larger than Remmel and Carpenter dams, both of which were already in operation. Blakely Mountain Dam towered 231 feet in the air, and was 1,100 feet wide. And its span was in the neighborhood of a quarter of a mile.

Although the annual spawn is already behind us, bass fishing will continue to be superb on Lake Ouachita during the next few months.

Although the annual spawn is already behind us, bass fishing will continue to be superb on Lake Ouachita during the next few months.

But its impressiveness would prove essential, considering the vastness of the reservoir it would contain. The lake was approximately 36 miles long. Upon reaching normal pool, the water’s surface area consisted of more than 40,000 acres, which was contained by almost 1,000 miles of shoreline.

The average depth of Lake Ouachita is 50 feet. However, waters reaching more than 200 feet deep can be found near the dam. And, as a result of a rugged and mountainous terrain, flats and other shallow water is also prominent throughout the lake.

The terrain typical to the Ouachitas is also responsible for producing around 200 islands. As the water level fluctuates about 10 feet throughout the year, the number of islands protruding above the surface changes with the seasons.

The aforementioned attributes, along with more than 25,000 acres of public land surrounding the lake, are a recipe for an outdoor destination unrivaled. That in mind, the recreation areas and access points are abundant.

Twenty recreation areas can be found perched on the banks of the reservoir. And it sports 29 locations that are designated for loading and unloading boats. According to www.lakeouachita.org, there are approximately 801 designated camping sites located on the shores of the lake.

As one might suspect, some of the recreation areas are more luxurious than others. Generally speaking, the areas situated on the north side of the lake are much more primitive. Most lack showers and some do not have running water. And as for electricity, it varies by location. But, fortunately, they all have, at the least, vaulted toilets.

With more than 40,000 acres of water surface, Lake Ouachita has something to offer to just about anybody with a passion for the outdoors.

With more than 40,000 acres of water surface, Lake Ouachita has something to offer to just about anybody with a passion for the outdoors.

Many of the remaining locations, dispersed throughout the lake, however, offer many of the amenities of home. Of course, these recreation areas are most popular, and rightfully so. But it is nice to know that those who are more into getting back to the basics have options, as well.

Lake Ouachita offers outdoor opportunities throughout all seasons. The spring and summer are the busiest months, as the reservoir is an impressive fishery, and is a popular stop during the early spring.

The white and striped bass make their run near the beginning of April. And shortly thereafter it’s time to take advantage of the crappie and black bass’ annual spawn. Breaking fish are fun to chase from May on into the summer and bream are on their beds during this time.

It appears that Lake Ouachita is transforming into a reputable walleye fishing destination, as well. I have recently boated several and hear stories of others sharing the fun. And, of course, let’s not leave out catfish, as they are plentiful and often eager to bite.

Crappie fishing is a popular sport on Lake Ouachita during all seasons.

Crappie fishing is a popular sport on Lake Ouachita during all seasons.

A group of folks who don’t find fishing as their sport of choice will begin frequenting the lake as the air and water temperature grow more conducive to splashing and having fun.

The roar of personal watercraft will intensify in the weeks to come and it will not be uncommon to see skiers zipping to and fro. And I would suspect that scuba diving enthusiasts are anxiously gearing up as the annual season nears.

With the return of the frigid days of winter, there will be a few hardcore anglers willing to battle the cold. Bass fishing will be decent and some crappie anglers will hopefully catch their preferred species by the droves.

With the most comfortable season upon us, it’s time to get out and enjoy what Mother Nature has bestowed upon us. And I can’t think of a better location than Lake Ouachita to enjoy the wonderful outdoors.

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