I’m aware that maybe dams seem a little boring to some, but hear me out before you make the choice to click away from this article. You know what’s the absolute opposite of boring? Arkansas lakes, rivers, streams, and springs. You know where dams are located? That’s right: on Arkansas lakes, rivers, streams, and springs. The truth is, you can have a great time at Arkansas’s many dams, and you may even learn a little in the process. Mostly they’re just fun, with a side of significant. Today I’ve chosen the best and most interesting dams in the Natural State, and every single one offers the best dam time you can have in Arkansas.
1. Beaver Dam (Beaver Lake)
Arkansas’s Beaver Dam wasn't built by delightful woodland creatures out of sticks and logs, it was built from by the Army Corps of Engineers out of modern materials. This dam created one of Arkansas’s most popular lakes, Beaver Lake. Today you’ll find the Beaver Dam Site Park, along with some great camping on the shores of the White River just below the dam, and of course the incomparable Beaver Lake above the dam. To find Beaver Dam, go to Beaver Lake. It’s hard to miss.
2. Natural Dam (Mountain Fork Creek, north of Van Buren)
Natural Dam isn’t man-made at all. It’s 200 feet wide and spans the entirety of Mountain Fork Creek, making it look like someone stacked enormous stones to make a rock wall across the creek. Actually Natural Dam is a natural formation that both dams the creek and forms a gorgeous waterfall that’s one of the easiest waterfalls to get to in the whole of the Natural State. It’s located about fifteen miles north of Van Buren.
3. Big Dam Bridge (Arkansas River, Little Rock)
Okay, so it’s not exactly a dam, but this bridge is built over a dam, and it has “dam” right in the name, so it counts, right? The awesomely named Big Dam Bridge soars 90 feet over the Arkansas River and 30 feet over the dam, and it has only ever been open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. In fact, with a span of 4,226 feet, it’s the biggest bridge in North America never to be open to train or automobile traffic. You’ll find some incredible views of Little Rock on Big Dam Bridge, but you’ll also find a marker proclaiming its name and a beautifully developed riverfront area and 14 miles of trails that are all connected by the Big Dam Bridge. The Big Dam Bridge is hailed as one of the United States' most incredible bridges.
4. Mammoth Spring Dam (Mammoth Spring)
Above Mammoth Spring Dam you’ll find a scenic lake, fed by the seventh largest natural spring in the world. Below you’ll find the headwaters of the Spring River, a great place for waterfront recreation and trout fishing. The hydroelectric facility at the dam was built in 1925, and it adds so much to the experience of the little state park built around the spring. The spillover from the lake creates what is basically an enormous man-made waterfall over the dam, and it’s definitely a must see. Mammoth Spring Dam can be found at Mammoth Spring State Park.
5. Mirror Lake Dam (Mirror Lake)
This CCC built dam is featured on many lists, including lists on this website. It’s another manmade wonder, as the dam has created a totally gorgeous two-tiered waterfall. Just above the dam is another of the Natural State’s wonders, Mirror Lake. Above the lake you’ll find the incredibly scenic Blanchard Springs, which flows from the incomparably lovely Blanchard Springs Caverns. In short, drive up near Mountain View and spend a weekend with this whole area. You won’t regret it.
6. Bard Springs Dam Number 1 (Blaylock Creek)
Located in the scenic Ouachitas, Bard Springs Dam Number 1 is one of only four CCC constructed structures remaining in its immediate area. This historic dam was built in 1926 on Blaylock Creek, and it’s easily one of the most picturesque areas in Arkansas. You’ll find a day use area and all that beauty at Bard Springs Recreation Area near Athens.
7. Narrows Dam (Lake Greeson)
This one looks like a big waterslide, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. It’s called Narrows Dam and it’s what created Lake Greeson. One of the more interesting features of this dam is its unique shape, which is all part of a comprehensive plan to control flooding in the area. Lake Greeson is set up in levels, and the lowest level is always kept full to ensure that the powerhouse at Narrows Dam is producing electricity. You’ll find Narrows Dam, Lake Greeson, and Narrows Dam Campsite just north of Murfreesboro.
8. Greers Ferry Dam (Greers Ferry)
We can thank this stately dam for the creation of Greers Ferry Lake and the popularity of nearby lake town, Heber Springs. This one also saved some homes, as the Little Red River had frequent flooding problems in the area during the first half of the twentieth century. Above this dam you’ll find incredible beaches and the clean, gorgeous waters of Greers Ferry. Below, the fantastic Little Red River awaits.
9. Bull Shoals Dam (Bull Shoals)
When it was finished in 1951, Bull Shoals Dam was one of the biggest concrete structures of its time. The dam was built to help control flooding and to produce electricity, but the byproduct, Lake Bull Shoals, is the best part. At the visitor center there, you’ll learn all about the history of the White River. This beautiful place can be found on the border of Baxter and Marion counties.
10. Blakely Mountain Dam (Lake Ouachita)
The production of clean energy, the flood control now possible on the Ouachita River, and the pristine and vast Lake Ouachita are three results of Blakely Mountain Dam. That’s right, this large earthen dam creates electricity AND manages to be the instrument of creation for the largest lake entirely inside the state of Arkansas, which also happens to have more than 100 islands in it and is one of the cleanest lakes in the world. So if you’re near Hot Springs, stop by Blakely Mountain Dam and tip your hat to this extraordinary dam.