Fishing and Camping: the Perfect Arkansas State Park Combo

Accessible outdoors for everyone.

Ouachita National Forest tent view of campsite

Arkansas is home to 52 state parks spanning the diversity of ecosystems within its boundaries. State parks offer a slightly tamer version of the outdoor experience with various amenities that make a campout or day’s adventure less work and more fun. Many Arkansas state parks also offer fantastic angling opportunities within or just outside their borders. So pack the tent, the chairs, and all the ingredients for s’mores—but don’t forget your rods and tackle box. 

Village Creek State Park

Mammoth Spring State Park Mammoth Spring Arkansas Photo taken April 19, 2021 Water flowing out of Mammoth spring into Spring River. This is the source of Spring River. The spring is slightly higher than the river and rushes down creating a beautiful set of rapids.

Village Creek State Park, near Wynne, stands out as a prominent destination for fishing enthusiasts. Lake Austell and Lake Dunn, both within the park, just beg for a cast or several. Visitors can expect to reel in a variety of species, including largemouth bass, catfish, and panfish.

Crowley’s Ridge State Park

Situated near Paragould atop the unique geological formation known as Crowley’s Ridge, this is an overlooked gem of a place. While the park itself may not have its own lake, it serves as a gateway to six small public lakes and all are loaded with bass, catfish, and panfish. Spring bass fishing on Crowley’s Ridge is said to be phenomenal. 

Mississippi River State Park and St. Francis National Forest

Marianna, Arkansas – December 28, 2020: Sign for Mississippi River State Park and St. Francis National Forest visitor center located along county road 44 near Marianna, Arkansas.

Mississippi River State Park near Marianna is an unmissable destination. The L’Anguille River joins with the St. Francis—both teeming with fish—just before the St. Francis flows into Old Man River. Crappie and catfish are headliners for the table, but largemouth bass are everywhere, too.

While not a state park, the St. Francis National Forest covers a vast expanse along the Mississippi River bottomlands. The forest includes 625-acre Bear Creek Lake. Largemouth, crappie, and catfish take top billing but don’t overlook the redear sunfish, also known as “shellcrackers” because they are equipped to eat snails and mussels, for lots of action, surprisingly hard pull, and excellent eating.

Moro Bay State Park

For a more upscale state park experience, visit L.A. (Lower Arkansas) and Moro Bay. Near Jersey in the south-central region of the state, Moro Bay State Park offers some of the finest cabins in the region and fantastic fishing where the Ouachita River joins Raymond Lake. There’s a marina for boat rentals and tackle needs as well as hiking trails, a bathhouse, and loads of information about the rich history of the area. There’s almost enough to forget about the fishing. I kid. There’s never too much of anything to make you forget about the ample angling opportunities for largemouth, crappie, catfish, and bluegill. 

Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area

Legend says that “Cossatot” is a Native American word that means “skull crusher.” During high-water periods, the Cossatot River looks like it will do just that. But during more languid times, the river is known as a producer of quality smallmouth bass for the wading or floating angler. Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area extends along 12 miles of the National Wild and Scenic Cossatot River and offers primitive camping facilities and water access for the smallmouth aficionado who is not afraid of rocky riffles and some intimidating lore.

Visit Arkansas Tourism to plan your trip.