Initiated in 1902, Ouachita-Black Rivers Navigation Project is a 337-mile long waterway with multiple locks and dams. The navigation project begins in Camden, Arkansas and travels all the way south to Jonesville, Louisiana. Here it joins with the Tensas and Little Rivers which then form the Black River.
The Ouachita-Black Rivers System in Arkansas and Louisiana has four locks and dams built on its confluence, namely H. K. Thatcher Lock & Dam, Calion Arkansas, Felsenthal Arkansas, Columbia Lock and Dam and Jonesville Louisiana. Initially, it started as six locks and dams, but later the outdated ones were replaced with the currently existing four.
Ouachita-Black River- Calion Pool or better known as H. K. Thatcher Lock and Dam in Calion, Arkansas is 79 feet deep and offers numerous recreational opportunities to visitors and mini-vacationers with its boat ramps, picnicking facilities, trails, and campsites. Even the world-famous Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge is located along the Ouachita River. Ouachita River also has an extremely rich history as the Natives relied heavily on this river system for sustenance and trade.
There are two recreation areas along the Calion Pool, H. K. Thatcher Lock and Dam Recreation Area, and Lock & Dam No. 8 Recreation Area. They offer numerous facilities and amenities that offer a comfortable and relaxing RV camping holiday.
Ouachita – Black River – Calion Pool is located a little over two hours drive from Craters of Diamond State Park. The river originates in Polk County, Arkansas. When driving by RV or car head south towards AR-301 N and onto AR-301 South. Continue on AR-19 S before merging on to AR-24 E and AR-7 S to the W Main Street in Franklin Township. Continue on W Main Street and take Crain City Road to New Lock 8 Road and you will ultimately arrive at your destination. The roads leading to the pool are wide and easily accessible by larger RVs and motorhomes.
COE campground, Lock and Dam Number 8 in El Dorado is situated on the banks of Ouachita –Black River – Calion Pool and boasts seven RV campsites with electric hookups. These sites are available all year and people of all ages are welcomed to stay. The campground is equipped with a two-lane boat ramp, water-borne comfort station, picnic tables, and clean toilets. The campground also offers paved parking for about 40 vehicles.
Ouachita – Black River – Calion Pool is a picture of serenity and very few people would pass up the opportunity of jumping aboard a boat and lazily floating the river. The landscape that surrounds Calion Pool is lavish green with rolling hills, tall trees, and deeply forested areas. If you visit here, make sure to have at least one boat trip.
There are three boat ramps around the pool in both of the recreation areas that are open to public access. The day-use area at H. K. Thatcher Lock and Dam has one boat ramp with two lanes whereas Ouachita Lock and Dam No. 8 also boasts a single-lane boat ramp.
Ouachita River is a haven for anglers. Grab your fishing poles, hook, bait, and select a spot where you can sit in peace for hours on end, admiring the scenic view and teeming waters. Anglers get the opportunity to catch a variety of fish species in these deep pool waters including channel catfish, flathead catfish, blue catfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass.
Practiced and novice anglers alike will find happiness in Ouachita Lake with its heavy fish populations and species variety.
With miles and miles of shorelines and the scenic Ouachita National Forest on the borders, it’s nearly impossible to pass the opportunity to spend a day picnicking by the shores of Calion Pool. Perhaps that’s why picnickers flock to the area and spend long hours of the day admiring the natural beauty before them and taking advantage of the various amenities and recreational activities available. There are two picnic sites at Lock and Dam number 8 that have picnic tables, grills, and firepits.
A two-hour drive away from H. K. Thatcher Lock and Dam, nestled under the scenic Ouachita Mountain lie Garvan Woodland Gardens. This botanical garden is maintained by the University of Arkansas and is a prime example of what nature is capable of when nurtured and cared for. The gardens are roofed by pines that protect the fragile flora and fauna. There’s a shoreline of four and a half miles, and the rocky slopes seem to be the replica of the Ouachita Mountains. If you are an aspiring photographer, this is a place you mustn’t miss.
An adventure waiting for you and your kids is about a two hours drive away from H. K. Thatcher Recreation Area. This miniature golf course in Hot Springs is sure to leave an imprint in your mind. As soon as you enter the landscape, you’ll find yourself in the 18th century, running through mountain caves and footbridges, slipping past cascading waterfalls, and trying to stealthily walk by the sleeping pirates in hammocks.
Constructed in 2013, DeSoto Bluff Trail is also a two-hour drive away from Calion Pool. This trail takes hikers past natural landscapes with markers and informative signs before the final reveal with the end of the bluff overlooking the Ouachita River.
Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto is the one who inspired the name of this bluff. He led expeditions into the southern U.S. and was among the first few non-natives to set foot in Arkansas.