Arkansas is full of great places to camp but nothing compares to the adventures of island camping on Lake Ouachita.
Lake Ouachita is the biggest lake in Arkansas and is also one of the clearest lakes in the nation. What makes this lake truly unique is the 200 Islands within the lake. Since these islands are part of the Ouachita National Forest, you can camp here for free!
Lake Ouachita Island Camping
Many people enjoy loading up all of their camping supplies on their kayak or boat and floating over to the island of their choice. Some of the islands are wooded while others are more of a large sandbar. That means there is an island for everyone and every adventure!
Some of the BEST camping in Arkansas can be found on these islands.
Several of these islands are named and are popular with island campers while others simply have numbers. If you are looking for a more remote experience, you will want to choose one of the islands that are numbered on the north side of the lake.
Can you camp on the Lake Ouachita Islands for free?
Keep in mind that this will be a primitive camping experience. There are no amenities offered on these islands but the camping is FREE!
Lake Ouachita Island Camping Guidelines
“With over 200 islands, Lake Ouachita is an extremely popular site for island camping. Be sure to Leave No Trace. If you carry it in, please carry it out-this will eliminate litter. Protect water sources from contamination – use biodegradable soap, or try hot water soapless dishwashing, bathing and clothes washing. When using soap (even biodegradable) and toothpaste, dispose of the wastewater at least 100 feet away from natural water sources. Remember that nails and wires should not be used on trees because they can cause serious damage to trees, and that burn damage will permanently scar or kill a tree. If building a campfire make sure that you keep it contained with rocks and build it at least 10 feet away from trees and other brush.” –source
Best place to leave your vehicle while island camping
Many people choose to leave their vehicles at the Crystal Springs recreation area while island camping on Lake Ouachita. There is a nice, big boat ramp there with plenty of parking.
Crystal Springs Recreation Area location
Crystal Springs Recreation Area is located here:
Latitude: 34° 32′ 33.0252″ N
Longitude: 93° 21′ 15.7284″ W
Another good option is the Brady Mountain Campground. It is in a great location and has a large parking area.
Brady Mountain Campground location
You will find Brady Mountain here:
Latitude: 34° 34′ 56.1792″ N
Longitude: 93° 15′ 55.5912″ W
17 Pro Tips for Island Camping on Lake Ouachita
- Don’t forget toilet paper!
- Island camping is free!
- If your transportation to the island is a kayak, head out early in the morning and hug the bank to keep away from the main boat traffic.
- Always bring your rain gear because you never know what the Arkansas weather might do.
- The north side of the lake is where you will find more remote islands and coves.
- The south side of the lake has more traffic because the marinas are located there.
- Most of the popular island campsites will get taken on Friday by folks in power boats. If you’re getting there by kayak, get a head start to beat them.
- If you get onto the lake later in the afternoon, you’ll have a better chance of finding an island campsite on the north side of the lake.
- Always leave the island and your campsite better than you found it.
- During the summer, be sure to check the weather and be aware of the forecasted winds so you can camp on the side of the island that the wind is blowing into. You’ll stay cooler that way.
- It wouldn’t hurt to take some sort of power source and fans for sleeping at night. Arkansas summer nights can get quite muggy.
- Bug spray is always a good idea.
- Bring a clothes line to hang up your swim clothes and towels.
- You will probably want to bring along a portable toilet since there are no amenities.
- Some islands don’t have good shade so having a canopy along can make your stay more pleasant.
- Bring your own firewood. It’s illegal to cut anything down.
- Just do it! You will find that island camping will become one of your favorite ways to camp!
Things to do near the Lake Ouachita Islands
There are many great things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas if you choose to leave your island and go into town or hit the hiking trails.
Hot Springs is home to iconic restaurants, excellent activities and fantastic hiking trails. It is one of my favorite cities in the state!
You will love these ideas near Lake Ouachita
- 5 [AMAZING] Hiking Trails in Hot Springs Arkansas
- 14 BEST Restaurants in Hot Springs, Arkansas
- 9 [Unforgettable] Activities for Kids in Hot Springs, Arkansas
- Mid-America Science Museum Review (Hot Springs, AR)
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