Lake Dardanelle State Park
River Valley Region
For those who enjoy camping by a scenic lake with great fishing, this park
offers two areas on Lake Dardanelle, a 34,000-acre lake on the Arkansas
A Visitor center, marina (Dardanelle also), barrier-free fishing pier, miniature golf course, trail and interpretive programs are offered in the Russellville Area, as well as kayak and bicycle rentals.
Lake Dardanelle has been named a "Southern Travel Treasure" by the AAA Southern Traveler magazine.
Surrounded by the natural beauty for which the Arkansas River Valley is known, Lake Dardanelle is a sprawling 34,300-acre reservoir on the Arkansas River. These two water resources combined here have put this area into the national spotlight as a major bass fishing tournament site. Lake Dardanelle State Park offers two areas on the lake: one park site is at Russellville, and the other is located at nearby Dardanelle. Both the Russellville (main park) and Dardanelle locations offer camping (74 sites: Russellville--16 Class AAA, 14 Class AA, and 26 Class B; Dardanelle Area--18 Class B), launch ramps, standard pavilions, picnic sites, restrooms, and bathhouses with hot showers.
The Russellville site also features a striking 10,527-square-foot visitor center on the lakeshore overlooking Lake Dardanelle. Engaging interpretive exhibits and state-of-the-art touch screen kiosks share information on the park, the area’s water resources and its history. A fascinating aquatic exhibit in the center features four aquariums that hold fish found in the lake, the Arkansas River, and its tributaries; Piney Creek and the Illinois Bayou.
Another unique facility in the (Russellville) main area is the park's 1,861-square-foot, fishing tournament weigh-in pavilion, a world class facility and the first of its kind in the nation that serves as a staging area for tournaments. Near the weigh-in pavilion is a covered, barrier-free fishing pier, a popular facility for bank fishing enthusiasts, sightseers and photographers with its sweeping view of lake and Mount Nebo to the south.
The main park also includes a trail. Rental kayaks and bicycles are available here. And, it's here that park visitors can enjoy nature programs on a wide variety of topics by park interpreters. Note: You do not have to be an overnight camping guest to enjoy our programs. Local residents, day visitors, and nearby Mount Nebo State Park visitors are all welcome!
Privately-owned marinas and boat docks are located in both the Russellville and Dardanelle areas.
To reach each area: 1) Russellville, Pope County Side--From I-40 (Exit 81) at Russellville, take Hwy. 7 south, then turn right on Hwy. 326 and travel 4 miles to the main park; OR, from west on I-40, take exit 78, go left on U.S. 64, stay in the right hand lane and turn right on Hwy. 326 to the park. 2) Dardanelle, Yell County Side--From the town of Dardanelle, take Hwy. 22 west for 3.5 miles and turn right into the park.
Taming of a River Led to Creation of Lake Dardanelle State Park
By Kerry Kraus, travel writer
Arkansas's 24th state park, Lake Dardanelle, is located on a 34,000-acre reservoir and is popular for fishing tournaments and camping. To reach the Russellville area of the park, take exit #81 (Scenic 7 Byway) off Interstate 40 at Russellville. Turn south then immediately turn west on Ark. 326 and proceed four miles. The Dardanelle area is located four miles west of Dardanelle on Ark. 22. For more information call (479) 967-5516.
For hundreds of years, the Arkansas River ran rough-shod through the state, making the flood-prone river unsuitable for transportation or even recreation. After severe flooding in 1912, 1927, 1936 and 1937, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided something must be done. In the late 1930s, the Corps made the move to shift their emphasis toward comprehensive river basin development.
This rejuvenated the Little Rock office, which had been closed, and led to the creation of the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System. The objectives were: to make river traffic feasible again; limit flooding and stop erosion along the river's banks; produce hydroelectric power; and provide recreational opportunities. The plan called for a series of locks and dams to create five reservoirs in Oklahoma and two in Arkansas, Ozark Lake and Lake Dardanelle. President Harry Trumann signed the bill approving the project in 1946, but it took 10 years for money to be appropriated so construction could begin.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the Dardanelle Lock and Dam was held in 1959 even though funding was not secured until 1963. And when the flood gates at the Dardanelle Lock and Dam were closed in 1969, Lake Dardanelle was born.
Authorization for a state park at the lake came in 1966, and the lease with the Corps was signed in 1967. In the early days, the park was spread over three different locations -- Ouita, Russellville and Dardanelle -- and comprised 292 acres. Most of the initial construction in the park was done by the Corps of Engineers and included extremely primitive facilities. After the State Parks Division took possession of the park, the facilities were improved and expanded. (In 1995, the Ouita area was sold to the city of Russellville and is now a part of its city parks system.)
Today Lake Dardanelle is one of the most popular recreational parks in the system, and according to Superintendent Jon Brown, campers, fishermen, boaters and hikers use the park most.
"Camping is a very popular activity at Lake Dardanelle. Some of the campsites have been remodeled to host recreational vehicles and campers with large vehicles," Brown said.
"We cater to all fishermen -- crappie, catfish, bass. We also have an Americans with Disabilities Act-approved wooden fishing pier, along with a 682-foot-long ADA-sanctioned rock breakwater with a six-foot-wide concrete walkway that provides access to the excellent fishing for catfish the lake is known for," Brown added.
Brown is particularly proud of the new Weigh-In Fishing Pavilion. "It's the first of its kind in the nation," Brown said. "This project is the only 100% fishing tournament facility in the United States." The pavilion provides a meeting and computer room, weigh-in scales, a public address system, LED weight read-out, a dewatering station, aerator tanks, catch and release tanks, and a first aid tank for the tournament participants and sponsors. The park also provides a "catch-and-release" boat to take the netted fish back to their natural habitat. According to Brown, Lake Dardanelle has been named as the number one bass tournament lake in Arkansas due to the overall production of tournament fishing the past several years.
Facilities at the park have improved greatly since the early days. Today there are 83 campsites with water, electricity, flush toilets, hot showers, picnic tables and grills and 14 campsites with sewer at the Russellville site. Also at the park are a miniature golf course, pavilions, launch ramps, visitor center, a marina, bicycle and kayak rentals, and hiking trail. Brown has seen many changes in the park since he became superintendent in 1984. "In the beginning, our basic responsibility was that of general maintenance in order to keep the park open. Today I see the need for providing quality programming and education as well."
Brown credits the park's success to the 1/8th-cent conservation tax passed in 1996 which has provided major funding for many improvements. Projects made possible by the conservation tax, in addition to the Weigh-In Fishing Pavilion, include the new $2.8 million Interpretive Center, now under construction. The theme of the state-of-the-art facility is "One River, Many Voices." It will be completed and open to the public in spring 2003. The theme alludes to the Arkansas River and the many voices are those of nature and the past -- the Cherokee and William Lively, the first federal Indian Agent in the area. The center will incorporate aquatic interpretive programs and provide a lake view.
"The staff at Lake Dardanelle State Park is committed to providing our children and their children education on both historical and environmental issues that face our ever-changing world," Brown said. "The new interpretive center is a part of that commitment and promises to provide that top level of education."
Did you know the Arkansas River forms 34,000-acre Lake Dardanelle?
Surrounded by the Ouachita Mountains to the south and the Boston Mountain Range of the Ozark Mountains to the north, 34,300-acre Lake Dardanelle offers some of the finest fishing and boating in Arkansas. Formed by the Arkansas River, this scenic lake in the Arkansas River Valley is a popular recreational destination, and is renowned as a fishing tournament favorite.
Lake Dardanelle State Park offers camping, picnicking and boat launch ramps at two separate areas on the lake. The main park campground at the Russellville Area offers 65 campsites (one barrier-free), and the Dardanelle Area has 18 sites. The Russellville area is open year-round; the Dardanelle Area closes from November 30 to March 1.
Spend a pleasant afternoon playing miniature golf in the Russellville Area or have a family picnic by the lake at one of the park's picnic sites. Group pavilions may be reserved at either area. The park's visitor center is located in the Russellville Area.
A marina is located in the Russellville Area, and a small boat dock is in the Dardanelle Area. Both are privately owned and operated. Although stringer-busting catches of crappie, bream and catfish are common, bass in the record weight class attract plug chunkers from all over the country. Take a short drive to the waters below the Dardanelle Dam and try your skills on the 40-pound plus catfish or the 200-pound-and-up alligator gar that lurk here in the depths of the Arkansas River.
Fun on Lake Dardanelle comes in many varieties: waterskiing, swimming in well-marked areas, sailing the open waters along the lake's 3l5-mile shoreline, or cruising by boat through the locks and dams of the Arkansas River northwest to Tulsa or down to the Mississippi River and on to New Orleans. Take a party barge or kayak tour, available at the Russellville Area. For those who wish to explore the lake area by land, bicycles may be rented at the visitor center.
Meadow Brook Self-Guided Trail
Length: 3/4 mile
Russellville Area - Take Exit #81 (Arkansas Highway 7)
off I-40 at Russellville.
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