Sandwiched neatly between the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests in Arkansas, Dardanelle Lake has dozens of recreational sites and is noted for its excellent fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities. This Army Corps of Engineers created reservoir is part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation system which allows barge transportation from the Mississippi River to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Lake Dardanelle is an easily accessible lake with a myriad of activities for RV campers. The lake itself comprises an area of 40,000 acres which is a delight for boaters, watersport devotees, and fishing enthusiasts. The lake extends west from Dardanelle Dam, through several counties, and reaching 50 miles upstream. With 315 miles of shoreline, and a width of up to two miles in some places, there is plenty of lake environment to enjoy. Multiple recreation areas and campgrounds along the lake offer boat launches, serviced campsites for RVs, and amenities like drinking water, dump stations, group picnic shelters, and boat docks. Dardanelle Lake is open all year around, with mild winters allowing activities in the off season.
There is a visitor center for Dardanelle Lake in the western U.S Army Corps of Engineers park area that has five aquariums and provides natural and historical displays for visitors to learn about the region. While RVing in the area, you can check out other great natural areas and campsites at nearby Mount Nebo State Park and Lake Fort Smith State Park. Don’t own an RV but want to try out some local RV campgrounds in the region? There are plenty of opportunities to rent one at Lake Dardanelle State Park.
The Corps of Engineers sites at Dardanelle Lake, Arkansas can be reached from Interstate 40. Take exit 81 onto State Highway 7, then turn left on highway 7, proceed to the Highway 7 spur and turn right. At this point you should arrive at the Russellville Project Office/Lake Dardanelle Field Office.
Piney Bay Campground is on the north side of Dardanelle Lake and can be reached from London, Arkansas by traveling on US-64 west to route 359. Continue on Route 359 and follow the signs to the Piney Bay campground.
To get to the Old Post Road Campground, located on the east side of the lake, near Dardanelle, from State Route 7 take the Lock and Dam Road for one mile and follow signs to the campground.
The COE Shoal Bay Campground on the south side of the lake can be reached from New Blaine, Arkansas. Follow route 197 north for two miles and follow signs to the Shoal Bay Campground.
Roads are paved and easy to travel with RVs and trailers. Many services are located within an easy drive of the lake, recreation areas, and campgrounds for RV campers looking to restock supplies and food during their stay.
Shoal Bay is only open during the peak season from March until October. This shady campground is located on the Shoal Bay arm of Lake Dardanelle and is known for its scenic beauty. There are 45 reservable campsites at Shoal Bay, and most have electric hookups for RVs.
Facilities at the compound include a boat ramp proving access for fishing and water sport enthusiasts to the lake. The lake is a popular fishing spot and provides excellent recreational opportunities A swimming area provides a designated area for campers to swim in the lake, and good news, there are hot showers located here, which are a great amenity after a day in the lake.
Other services available at the Shoal Bay campground include a dump station, paved parking and road access, a playground for little ones to enjoy, and two large group picnic shelters. Enjoy the natural beauty and wilderness habitat near the campground which are ideal for hikers and wildlife viewing.
This campground is only open during the peak season from March until October. The Piney Bay campground has 68 reservable campsites with electric hookups. Campsites also have fire pits and picnic tables. Campers are reminded that they should obtain firewood on site rather than bringing it in to prevent the spread of disease. This campground has a swimming beach and swimming area so be prepared for some fun in the water! Fishing and watersports are also popular from this campground, which has two boat ramps providing access for motor boats to the lake. The lake is known for its fishing, so anglers camping at Piney Bay will be able to take advantage of the lake access and excellent fighting grounds. Amenities at the campground include hot showers, group picnic shelters, a playground, dump station, and accessible parking. The campground is located on the northside of Dardanelle Lake and is heavily treed so campsites are well shaded and have plenty of privacy.
There are 37 reservable sites at the Old Post Road COE campground, located in the beautiful river valley by Lake Dardanelle. Sites have 50 amp electrical service and water hookups available. Some sites can accommodate RVs up to 55 feet in length. All campsites have picnic tables and fire pits.
The campground is open all year around, with the peak reservable season being between March and October. The Old Post Road COE campground has many recreational activities to entertain visitors. There is a playground, soccer and baseball fields, tennis and volleyball courts, disc golf course, mountain biking trails, hiking trails, and a boat ramp providing lake access. Boating, fishing, and watersports are popular activities here.
There are group picnic shelters also situated here, some with electric services and some without. Amenities in the park include accessible flush toilets and showers, drinking water, and a dump station. Bald eagles make this area their home in winter months and can often be seen perched on trees along the shoreline.
Looking for a different activity? Try Disc Golf at the Old Post Road Park. A Disc Golf course for this unique sport is located at this COE Park and the course is open all year round.
This unique sport is much like traditional golf, but with a flying disc you throw. This sport is fun and inclusive for all ages and ability levels. Starting from the “tee”, a designated area, throw the disc towards the target, keeping track of how many throws it takes to hit the target to determine your score.
The Old Post Road Park has a network of bike trails and a mountain bike trail that has been added to the park by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The mountain bike trail is situated above the Corps Office at Old Post Road Park. The trailhead is located at Caudle Overlook and there are restroom facilities and parking at the trailhead.
The Old Post Bike trails are a network of trails, about 8 miles in length, that run through wooded areas and along some old fire roads. There are some small hill climbs and rough terrain with twists and turns, but trails are well maintained. Be sure to wear appropriate safety equipment when mountain biking on natural terrain.
Multiple hiking trails in the Dardanelle Lake area provide a great way to get out and enjoy the natural area while getting in a little exercise. Two popular trail systems located on project land include the Bona Dea Trails and Sanctuary system and the Bridge Rock Trail. T
he Bona Dea Trails and Sanctuary are located just north of the city of Russellville. There are six miles of trails in this system meandering through 186 acres of wetland habitat. The Bridge Rock Trail is a Corps of Engineers project situated in Shoal Bay Park. This trail has three different options for different ability levels, and is about one mile in length. The terrain on the trail is rugged on a slope that overlooks the “Narrows” section of Shoal Creek.
The Dardanelle Lake area has excellent wilderness habitat nearby, and is home to a variety of wildlife that visitors can spot and capture on film. The nearby Ozark And Ouachita National Forests provide large habitats for wildlife like deer and waterfowl.
An outing to the nearby Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge, just 11 miles southeast of Dardanelle, provides excellent opportunities to view and photograph local wildlife. American Bald Eagles makes the Dardanelle Lake area their winter home, and they can be seen perched on stands of trees or snags around the lake and river, hunting for fish. Holla Bend and the Old Post Road Park are popular wildlife viewing areas where eagles can be spotted from fall until spring.
During hunting season, designated hunting areas around Dardanelle Lake contain excellent game for hunters. Deer, wild turkey, and waterfowl are abundant in the area, due to the lake, river, large forests, and wildlife preserves in the region.
There is a large, healthy population of Canada Geese around the lake and river for hunters to harvest. Hunters should take steps to obey all Fish and Game regulations for the state of Arkansas, have a valid hunting license, and take steps to ensure a safe hunt.
Fishing is the most popular activity at the COE parks along Dardanelle Lake. There are multiple sites where boat launches are located. There is no closed season on the lake and mild weather all year allows for year round fishing activities.
The lake is known for its population of large catfish. Bream and largemouth bass are also resident in the lake and the best largemouth bass fishing is located at the upper end of the river near Russellville. Hybrid striped bass up to ten pounds have been found just below the Ozark Dam during the fall and spring runs. The river is also home to white bass which are native to the river system.