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story.lead_photo.caption The beach at Lake Catherine State Park is busy on a sunny weekend afternoon.

When Arkansans talk about going to the beach, it's a good guess that they're planning a seaside vacation to the Florida Panhandle or the Texas Gulf Coast.

But they also might be heading on a day trip to a state park or some other body of fresh water in Arkansas. There are beaches for swimming and sunning in 10 of our 52 state parks, while another seven have pools. With the summer season officially arriving later this month, a splash at one of those beaches or pools can be a close-to-home pleasure.

On a sunny recent Saturday at Lake Catherine State Park, a dozen miles southeast of Hot Springs, the crescent-shaped sand beach teemed with families frolicking in the cool water. Adding color to the scene were beach umbrellas and a multi-hued flotilla of inflated rafts and toys. More than a dozen picnic tables, shaded by a pavilion and leafy trees, overlooked the water.

At the back edge of the beach, visitors could boost their knowledge of Lake Catherine's fauna and flora inside the Nature Cabin, open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. Cabin displays explain that the federal Civilian Conservation Corps developed the park in the 1930s. Buildings were used during World War II as rehabilitation facilities for wounded Army and Navy personnel.

At Lake Ouachita State Park, a toddler enjoys a shoreline splash.
At Lake Ouachita State Park, a toddler enjoys a shoreline splash.

Lake Ouachita State Park, a dozen miles northwest of Hot Springs, maintains two swimming beaches. The larger one close to the visitor center and marina has sometimes been closed recently because of the high level of the lake and the profusion of droppings from pesky Canada geese. Call (501) 767-9366 to check on the situation.

The park's second beach, busy on a recent Saturday, stretches along a more secluded spot at the eastern end of a paved shoreline road. Just above the beach stands Three Sisters Springs, a native-stone pavilion built in the late 19th century to shelter and collect mineral waters believed to have healing powers.

Beaches are also maintained at these state parks: Crowley's Ridge, DeGray Lake Resort, Jacksonport, Lake Charles, Lake Dardanelle, Mississippi River, Village Creek and Woolly Hollow. Most are open free of charge.

An array of other Arkansas beaches can be enjoyed, more than a dozen of them on lakes maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Among these federally maintained bodies of water are Table Rock, Norfork, Greers Ferry, Bull Shoals and Beaver lakes.

The tree-shrouded Ozark and St. Francis national forests shelter a number of spots where swimming is welcome. In the Ozarks, those include Cove, Spring, Horsehead and Wedington lakes. St. Francis forest offers Bear Creek and Storm Creek lakes.

Along with the beach possibilities, some state parks maintain swimming pools with lifeguards. Among them are Crater of Diamonds, Devil's Den, Lake Chicot, Lake Fort Smith, Mount Nebo, Petit Jean and Withrow Springs. There is a charge for swimming at these locations. The pools are well maintained, but they lack one bonus of the beaches: the soothing tickle of sand between the toes.

Information on parks with beaches or swimming pools can be found at Details on other beaches and swimming spots in the state are available at

Style on 06/04/2019

Print Headline: Arkansas swimming holes await: Ten state parks offer beaches for swimming and sunning


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