Lake Village   
On the Banks of Lake Chicot, the Nation's Largest Natural Oxbow Lake   
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History of Lake Chicot


 aerial photo of lake chicot in lake village arkansas

Lake Chicot is the largest natural oxbow lake in the nation. It was formed about 1350 when the Mississippi River decided to change its course. Lake Chicot covers  5,300 acres and is located in extreme southeast Arkansas. Lake Village, the county seat of Chicot County, sits on the west banks of Lake Chicot. The lake has become  a popular vacation spot for anglers and tourists who enjoy camping and water sports.

Lake Chicot has a long and interesting history.  A Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, discovered the lake in the 1500's. He was given a water burial in Lake Chicot on his way back to the Gulf of Mexico after his discovery of the State of Arkansas.

The lake was given its name by sixteenth century French explorer, LaSalle in 1686.  LaSalle mistakenly thought the many cypress knees located in the lake  were stumps and gave it the name "Chicot", meaning stumpy.

In 1855, a small stream of water off of Lake Chicot was given its name, "Whiskey Chute",  when a steamboat laden with whiskey was sunk. John Murrell and his group of outlaws were raided by local officials during a drunken celebration.

In the early 1900's, people came from all parts of the nation to visit this hunting and fishing mecca. Lake Chicot and the surrounding land offered superb fishing for bass, crappie, bream and catfish. Hunting was excellent for deer and duck. The local businesses flourished and camps and week-end homes began to pop up along the banks of Lake Chicot.

But during this time, other events were changing the life of the lake. With bottomland timber forest being cleared to make way for croplands, the lake took on the burden of rain washed topsoil. The waters soon became so muddy, anglers considered using middle-buster plows in place of outboard motors on the john-boats.

In 1948, the Game and Fish Commission built a dam across the upper end of Lake Chicot hoping to isolate part of the lake from the run-off. But the deterioration of the waters continued. Fishing in the lower lake suffered and the fish population became mostly undesirable rough fish.

After many years of down hill travel, 1985 was the turning point for the once beautiful water of Lake Chicot. That year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pumping plant went on line to divert silt filled run-off into the Mississippi River. The lake quickly cleared. The rough fished were culled and a restocking of the popular sportsfish took place.

Once again, anglers are drawn to the clear water of Lake Chicot.  Bluegills, channel catfish, largemouth bass and redear sunfish make for good fishing. Crappie fishing is not up to desired level as in years past . The Arkansas Game & Fish has created a Lake Chicot Management Plan with the aid of a newly formed citizens advisory committee. They are working hard to revitalize the crappie population in Lake Chicot.

The upper lake has access at the Lake Chicot State Park  and the lower lake can be accessed from several points along  U.S.  Hwys. 65 & 82 and Arkansas Hwys. 144 & 159.

Lake Chicot has once again become such an attractive place to visit not only because it has been restored to its former beauty, but because of the variety of good facilities located on the lake. On the northern lakeshore, on Arkansas Hwy 144, is the Lake Chicot State Park. The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism facility has fully-equipped cabins, modern campsites, a fish cleaning station, a marina/store, boat rentals, picnic areas, swimming pool and more.  Lake Chicot County Park is located on the southern end of the lake. R.V. and camping areas, picnic facilities, a covered pavilion for groups and swimming areas make this a popular spot for the vacationer. For more information on facilities offered, click here to e-mail the Lake Chicot State Park.