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
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
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
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.