Norfork Lake
Guide

Introduction

Norfolk Lake, a 22,000 acre lake in Northern Arkansas, is the ideal vacation spot for a variety of water activities, hiking, and fishing. The camping options here are plentiful and the 550 miles of shoreline are just waiting to be explored.

The Norfork Dam, close to the small town of Mountain Home, dams the North Fork River which creates Norfork Lake. Located mostly in Baxter County, Norfork Lake is lined with 19 developed Army Corps of Engineers parks making the opportunities for outdoor fun seemingly endless. If you happen to exhaust everything there is to do at Norfork Lake, you can also explore the 1.2 million acres of the Ozark National Forest located just to the south.

The highlight of any trip to this COE park has to be the lake. The clear waters invite you to immerse yourself on a hot day and access to the water is easy for fishing, waterskiing, and sailing. The many coves provide calm waters for exploring the shores by kayak or canoe. Scuba diving is another popular water activity here.

There are six campgrounds that surround the lake for visitors to stay one night or many. Large RVs and trailers are no trouble here and the impressive amenities coupled with the idyllic location make Norfork Lake one of the ultimate Arkansas destinations.

RV Rentals in Norfork Lake

Transportation

Driving

Access to Norfork Lake and all its surrounding COE parks is easy in any vehicle, including larger RVs and trailers. All main roads to the lake and inside the various campgrounds are paved.

Depending on where you are heading around the lake, you're likely to take highway 412 east from Mountain Home or 412 west from Gepp. This highway runs through the scenic Ozark Mountains, so have your camera ready. Highway 101 runs north/south and is the best way to reach the lake from Missouri.

Parking

Parking is available for RVs, trailers, and vehicles at each of the COE parks at Norfork Lake.

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Norfork Lake

Campsites in Norfork Lake

Reservations camping

Gamaliel Campground

Gamaliel Campground is found on the Bennetts Bayou part of Norfork Lake. The 64 sites accommodate rigs up to 42 feet and sites have electric and water hookups. Although the campground is close to the lake, most campsites do not have a view of the water.

It's easy to get a shaded spot at this COE campground since most of the campsites are beneath tall trees. If there is no natural shade, some sites have canopies that provide shade to the picnic table.

Popular activities here are swimming from the swim beach or water sports like waterskiing and scuba diving. There's a marina and boat launch to get you easily into the water. Other amenities include showers and a playground.

Cranfield Campground

Cranfield Campground features 69 campsites that have water hookups and the largest of them can accommodate an RV or motorhome up to 60 feet in length.

Onsite you'll find a marina and boat ramp to make getting on the water for some fishing or waterskiing a breeze. Swimming is also a popular summer pass time for visitors to this Corps of Engineers campground. There's an amphitheater and two playgrounds as well as flush toilets, showers, and a dump station.

Planning on a picnic or large gathering while you're here? The park also has two shelters available for day use that can be reserved in advance.

Bidwell Point Park Campground

Bidwell Point Park Campground is open from May to the end of October sits on the shores of Norfork Lake and provides east access to the refreshing water. This campground can fit a rig up to 70 feet and some sites have clear, unobstructed views of the lake.

There are a total of 49 sites here and water and electric hookups are provided along with flush toilets, a dump station, and a playground. This is the best campground to use if you are planning on hiking the popular David's Trail as the entrance is located in Bidwell Point Park.

If you're planning a large gathering, the group picnic shelter at Bidwell Point can accommodate up to 200 people. There are electric hookups in the shelter as well.

Henderson Park Campground

The Henderson Park Campground is one of the smaller ones at Norfork Lake and has 36 campsites that can fit RVs and trails up to a maximum of 50 feet. There are electric hookups and each campsite has a fire pit and picnic table and restrooms are available.

You can camp here as long as your visit is from the beginning of May to the end of September. Ideal for a summer stop, this Army COE campground is surrounded by the crystal clear waters of Norfork Lake. For access to the lake, there's both a marina and boat ramp.

Robinson Point Campground

Boasting 98 total campsites covering 25 acres, Robinson Point is a popular stop for visitors to Norfork Lake. Open from the beginning of April to the end of October, you'll have access to both water and electric hookups and sites can accommodate rigs up to 60 feet in length.

The location here is key. It overlooks the North Fork River and the waterfront campsites are abundant. Luckily, the prime location doesn't mean you have to give up any amenities. There's showers, flush toilets, and a dump station. For a little fun, there's a playground and boat launch for visitors to use.

Given the easy water access at this COE campground, it's not surprising that the most popular activity here is swimming. Some campsites even have direct access to the swim beach. There's also ample opportunities for hiking and boating here too.

Dam-Quarry Campground

The Dam-Quarry Campground at Norfork Lake has 71 total campsites and can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 64 feet in length. This Army COE campground provides water and electric hookups and pets are welcome.

One of the main features of this campground is its location. It is just downstream of the Norfork Dam. It sits at the banks of both the North Fork River, which feeds Norfork Lake, and Dry Run Creek. You can expect picturesque views of the forested hills of the Ozarks right from your campsite.

Sites are available by online reservation and each campsite has a picnic table and fire pit. Convenience is key at Dam-Quarry with all the amenities you would want like showers, flush toilets, and a dump station.

The most popular activity at this campground is fishing for trout. They make it easy with a marina located close by, just above the dam, and an onsite boat ramp.

Seasonal activities in Norfork Lake

In-Season

Swimming and Scuba Diving

One of the main draws of Norfork Lake is the clear water that is perfect for a summer swim. Many of the parks that line the lake have swimming beaches that provide easy access to the water. For more seclusion, consider taking a boat to one of the natural, quiet coves and jump right in.

If you're a little more adventurous, you can also do some scuba diving at Norfork Lake. There are places to rent equipment if you don't have your own. Swim through a sunken cave or play on an underwater playground surrounded by fish. It's easy to see why the 29 different dive sites near Hand Cove and the Jordan Recreation Areas draw divers from across the US.

Visit Sand Island

A very popular place visit during the summer is Sand Island. It's the only naturally-occurring island made of sand in the Ozark Mountain lakes. Accessible only by boat, this beach is a great place to spend a day sunbathing and swimming. The trees on the interior of the island provide a welcome break from the hot sun.

The island is found in the center of the Big Creek Arm, between the Hand Cove and Jordan Recreation Areas. There are no services here so make sure you bring all the items you need for your trip with you.

Boating

The varied waters of Norfork Lake make it a fantastic destination for boat lovers. You can use your kayak, canoe, motor boat or sailboat here. The many shoreline coves are ideal places to take a relaxing trip in a canoe or kayak. The open waters of the lake provide the perfect opportunity for waterskiing and sailing.

If you don't already have a boat, many of the marinas scattered throughout the lake offer rentals. At Cranfield Park, for instance, you can rent both motor boats and pontoon boats.

Off-Season

Wildlife Viewing

When you're exploring the areas around Norfork Lake, make sure you bring your camera. Not only will there be stunning views, but you can expect to encounter wildlife too. You may see white-tailed deer in groups of eight or more, wild turkey, rabbits, and quail.

For bird lovers, there are several types of songbirds, hummingbirds, road runners, and woodpeckers along with owls, eagles and various water birds.

Hiking

There are ample hiking options for all ages and experience levels at Norfork COE. David's Trails is a great place to start and can be accessed easily from the Gamaliel Campground.

Designed to encourage an active lifestyle, try the Panther Bay Loop portion of the trail which is three miles and suitable for most hikers. Dogs are welcome on this trail as long as they are on leash.

The Robinson Point National Recreation Trail is a 2.5 mile loop trail that is geared towards people looking for a moderate hike. The scenic trail can be accessed easily and year-round from the Robinson Point Campground. Dogs are welcome on leash.

Fishing

Lake Norfork is one of the best locations in Arkansas to fish for striped bass. It's not unheard of to catch a striped bass that weighs over 40 pounds. The lake is stocked every year and contains many different types of game fish to entice anglers. Generally speaking, you can find species of bass, crappie, bream, walleye, and catfish in Norfork Lake or its tributary North Fork River.

Night fishing is also becoming popular here where visitors can fish in the dark using lights to catch crappie and white bass.

You can fish from a boat, a pier, or shore, depending on your preference. Always check with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for catch limits and licensing requirements.

A wide array of fresh water game fish are found in the lake, which is fed by the North Fork River and its tributaries. Bass, walleye, crappie, bream and catfish all make their home here.