Bull Shoals-White River State Park
Arkansas’s seventh state park, Bull Shoals-White River State Park, is near Mountain Home (Baxter County) in northeast Arkansas on the White River, one of the nation’s premier trout-fishing streams, and Bull Shoals Lake, one of the region’s major man-made lakes. The site was adopted into the state park system in 1955 after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the lake by constructing Bull Shoals Dam on the White River.
Bull Shoals was named by early French hunters and trappers who used the word “Boill,” meaning a large spring, to describe the area. Edmund Jennings, the first English-speaking person to visit the “Six Bulls” country, lived among the Indians for fifteen years before returning to his home state of Tennessee. He called the Ozark region the “country of the Six Boills” but pronounced “boills” as “bull.” The boills, or bulls, were great springs feeding the shoals. Pioneers moving into the area continued using Jennings’s pronunciation, and Bull Shoals has retained its name.
The dam, 2,256 feet long with a maximum height above the streambed of 256 feet, was built to provide flood control as well as power generation. Dam construction started in 1947 and was completed in 1951.
The state park began as an undeveloped piece of property leased by the state in 1955 from the Corps. The state inherited little as far as facilities from the Corps. At first, the park consisted mainly of a cleared field for camping and one light pole. The property did include an old lodge that was constructed early in the dam project. During construction of the dam, the lodge was the headquarters used for overnight accommodations at the park. Dilapidated, it was removed in 1979.
The only major improvements initially installed by the state were two bathhouses, but Arkansas began expanding its park facilities in 1975. At Bull Shoals, it established a wastewater treatment plant, bathhouses, paved roads, and campsites. In 1998, the state paved the pads for the campsites.
The 732-acre park has lakeside and riverside facilities. The lakeshore section is a day use area with picnic tables, a playground, and the one-mile Lakeside Trail. The main section of the park is on the river below Bull Shoals Dam. It features campsites for tent camping or recreational vehicles, bathhouses, a sanitary trailer dump station, picnic areas, a pavilion, playgrounds, trails, a gift shop, a boat ramp, and a trout dock offering supplies, equipment, and boat, motor, and canoe rentals.
Within the park, the James A. Gaston Visitor Center offers a dramatic view of the White River, Bull Shoals Dam, and Bull Shoals Lake. The center features an exhibit hall, johnboat theater, observation tower, and gift shop.
Park interpreters provide guided scenic lake and river cruises throughout the year for a small fee. Many interpretive programs are offered annually, including trout fishing basics, birding hikes, guided nature walks, slide presentations, lake cruises, and Dutch oven cooking demonstrations. The activities are supplemented with special events throughout the year, including Fall Frenzy (with outdoor programs for viewing the scenery and peak fall colors), Troutfest, Ozark Birders Springtime Retreat, and Wildflower Weekend. Throughout January and February, eagle watches are offered, giving visitors a chance to spot the bald eagles that winter in the area. Bull Shoals Lake is a popular destination for water sports, including swimming, boating, skiing, and fishing.
For additional information:
Arkansas State Parks–Bull Shoals-White River. http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/bullshoalswhiteriver/ (accessed June 4, 2014).
Staff of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Last Updated: 05/27/2015