I enjoy free camping in Arkansas because…well, it’s free. Also, some of the some beautiful campsites are in these free/dispersed areas. Currently, we have a friend hiking the CDT and we’ve been keeping up with his hike through reading his posts. I’ve noticed that his hiking day revolves around water sources. Sometimes that water source is a solar well on a remote section of a ranch and other times it’s a stream.
In a way, free camping is similar to an adventure on the CDT. If you find a good stream or river to camp by, you might be able to stay longer. Now, this all depends on your filtration system. Our CDT hiker friend carries a small water filtration system with him for this purpose.
But, not only does camping near water mean you could stay longer, it also means that you might find a great swimming hole or an excellent place to fish!
Free Places to Camp near Water in Arkansas
All of these free camping areas are secluded and loved by Arkansans. They are all great free places to camp near a lake, creek, or river. They will not disappoint you!
Lee Creek Dispersed Campsite near Chester
This is a free campsite that is open 365 days a year. There are about 10 campsites at this location with fire rings built by other campers.
GPS: 35.702461, -94.328064
You can find more camp areas like Lee Creek here: Free and Cheap Camping in Northwest Arkansas
Jack Creek near Booneville
“Jack Creek Recreation Area is located in a picturesque setting alongside towering rock bluffs and flowing waters. Jack Creek offers day use and a primitive campground at no cost. Also from Jack Creek Recreation Area is a trailhead for the Hole-In-The-Ground Mountain Hiking Trail and Sugar Creek Hiking Trail.” -source
Jack Creek Recreation Area has picnic tables, toilets, restrooms, and water/electric are available.
You’ll find Jack Creek Recreation Area here:
Latitude : 35.0335806
Longitude : -93.8462750
Lenox Marcus on DeGray Lake
Lenox Marcus is the only free camping on DeGray Lake. People love to camp out here for the quiet and the great fishing.
“Lenox Marcus Area – Open camping (200 Acres).
Facilities: Include flush toilets, potable water, boat ramp, and picnic tables.
Camping Fees: No Charge
All campsites are non-reserve and available as “first come-first serve.” –source
If you haven’t camped on DeGray Lake before, you’re going to love it. On DeGray, you will find excellent fishing and water sport opportunities. This lake offers over 13,400 acres of water surface. So, bring your boat!
You will find Lenox Marcus Recreation Area here:
Bismarck, AR 71929
GPS: 34.2722, -93.216
Bard Springs Recreation Area near Athens
“Small campground with Adirondack-type shelters in a remote mountain setting on a small scenic stream. It provides a good site for a base camp for hikers in the Caney Creek Wilderness.” -source
This recreation area offers picnic tables and vault toilets.
You’ll find Bard Springs here:
Latitude : 34.3911861
Longitude : -94.0108750
Free Camping is also allowed in the Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests. You can venture out there and find your own private stream to camp near!