Bull Shoals Lake Information

Bull Shoals Lake sits in the Ozark Mountains, mostly in north central Arkansas, with two arms stretching into south central Missouri. Its shores touch Marion County and Baxter County in Arkansas, and Ozark County and Taney County in Missouri. Bull Shoals Lake offers hundreds of miles of arms and coves. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) manages Bull Shoals Lake and approximately 56,413 acres of land surrounding Bull Shoals Lake.  The boundary line between U.S. public land and private property is irregular and not a set distance from the lakeshore. The White River feeds Bull Shoals Lake. The Bull Shoals White River State Park in Arkansas sees 75,000 annual visitors. 

Bull Shoals Lake covers 70,000 acres and has about 1,000 miles of rugged shoreline with an average depth of 75 feet and a maximum depth of 210 feet. Its shoreline is hardy and heavily forested. Branson, Missouri, is the closest metroplex. A few small communities surround Bull Shoals Lake, but it remains mostly undeveloped and extremely rural with few retail businesses. 

With water smooth as glass, minimal traffic, stunning scenery, and crystal clear water, Bull Shoals Lake offers a unique slice of natural beauty where you can go biking, boating, fishing, hiking, swimming, scuba diving, and sightseeing, plus all kinds of water sports and wildlife viewing. Bull Shoals Lake is referred to as the Caribbean of the Midwest because its water clarity can reach 20 feet below the surface of its waters.

History of the Bull Shoals Lake Region

At its inception in 1947, the Bull Shoals Dam was the largest dam in the U.S. and the fifth largest in the world. To build the dam, the USACE constructed a continuous conveyor belt from Lee's Mountain Quarry seven and one-half miles away to the dam site, which brought in 2.1 million cubic yards of concrete to build the dam. 

WWII delayed the impoundment of Bull Shoals Lake until 1955. The USACE completed the dam in 1952 and had to move at least seven small cemeteries and 20 larger cemeteries to impound the lake. Shoals are submerged islands which fail to reach the surface. The “bull” part of the lake’s name comes from the French. 

The Bull Shoals region was known as the country of the “Six Boils” by explorer Edmund Jennings. In the French language, the correct spelling of “boills” translates to “great springs”. Jennings, the first English-speaking man from Tennessee to visit the area, lived with the Cherokee Indians for 15 years from about 1790. Edmund pronounced the French “boill” as “bull” when he returned to Tennessee, and the name Bull Shoals was born.

Major Jacob Wolfe, Cherokee Indian agent, was the first pioneer settler in today’s Baxter County, Arkansas, in 1809. Most of the pioneers moving into the area before the Civil War immigrated from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. By the 1850s, steamboats traveled the White River.

McBee’s Ferry was about one mile north of Cotter, Arkansas, on the White River, which is about 30 miles south of Bull Shoals Lake today. The railroads came in the 1880s and put the ferries out of business, but the White River continued to see steamboats until the early 1900s. By WWII, subsistence farms and ranching powered the area’s economy. When the lake came, it displaced residents, and many moved away. 

By the 1970s, tourist and retirement revenue, agricultural trade, and manufacturing fueled the economy of the Bull Shoals Lake region. Today, the economy of the area remains much the same with little population growth. 

Fishing Bull Shoals Lake

Predominant game species include, largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, striped, and white bass, bluegill, bream, channel and flathead catfish, black and white crappie, rainbow trout, longear sunfish, walleye, and warmouth. Shoreline fishing access is widely available along with nine public and private boat ramps. Bull Shoals Lake hosts numerous fishing tournaments.

The USACE partnered with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) to improve fish habitat and enhance fishing success. The two agencies and a small percentage of private citizens placed over 450 artificial reefs, fish attractors, and brush piles in Bull Shoals Lake. The lake regularly fluctuates between an elevation of 630 to 680 feet annually. 

Below the Bull Shoals Dam, the White River has gained a national following among trout anglers who come from miles around for trout opportunities. Anglers, nationwide, follow brown, cutthroat, and rainbow trout success. The Norfolk National Fish Hatchery, headquartered in nearby Mountain Home, Arkansas, on the Norfolk River, is a cold water hatchery.

The White River Fishery Area, established in 1961, manages and protects this unique trout watershed. The area is a multiple use area dedicated to trout fishing, hunting, canoeing, and other compatible outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. Tons of feeder streams, ponds, and several glacial outlet flows on the river give way to high-quality habitats for trophy trout. Bull Shoals Lake is stocked with 30,000 trout every spring. 

The section of the lake from Powersite Dam to Beaver Creek is where to go to get a taste of most of the prime game fish Bull Shoals Lake has to offer. Just below Powersite Dam is a popular area, accessible by boat or by foot, called the Pothole. Blue and white reflective signs on the shoreline mark the fish attractors. Boats must steer 20 to 30 feet away from them. 

Top Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Spots

  • Jimmy’s Creek Island
  • Barren Fork
  • Big Creek
  • Bronie Yukonis Walk in Access
  • Deep Hump
  • Gunnel Fork
  • Jimmy’s Creek Island
  • Sugarload Ledge
  • The Chute Bluff
  • Yokum Ledge

Productive Bank Fishing Access Spots

  • Dam Site Park: Boat launch and bank fishing
  • Brown's Beach: Boat launch and bank fishing
  • Point Return Public Use Area: Bank fishing
  • Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock: Boat launch and services/supplies

Check out experienced local pro guides on our Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Guides page. 

Boating Bull Shoals Lake

Bull Shoals Lake sports eleven marinas and boat rental options conveniently located around the lake. All water sports plus excellent scuba diving opportunities abound for outdoor enthusiasts on Bull Shoals Lake. At Bull Shoals Lake, one of the clearest water bodies in the U.S., you can see at least 20 feet below the surface on most days. 

Magnificent views of the Ozark Mountains and wildlife watching opportunities flourish on Bull Shoals Lake for cruisers. Hundreds of coves and inlets allow for great water sports, private anchoring, and secluded beaches. Bull Shoals Lake is a top U.S. lake destination for lake lubbers. Boaters and scuba divers visit from all over the U.S. 

High-quality scuba diving adventures await. Crystal clear, pristine, unpolluted water gives underwater visibility of 20 to 30 feet and over a dozen dive spots to explore. Divers discover multiple species of fish, sunken boats, 200-foot-high rock walls penetrated by caverns, vast underwater forests of oak and hickory, remnants of original settlements, and old farming implements. 

The water never freezes, with temperatures ranging from the 50s in the winter to the 80s in the summer. Do you want to experience scuba diving but have no training or equipment? Any of the Bull Shoals Lake’s dive shops with training sessions and package deals are ready to outfit your diving adventure. 

Top 15 Dive Spots in Bull Shoals Lake 

  • Wreck of the S.S Minnow: 20 feet deep. Off the south side of Gilligan’s Island, swim south from the 2 willow trees to a depth of 20 feet. Turn east to the line and follow it to the wreck.
  • Destroyer Escort: 30 feet deep. East of Gilligan’s Island, near the clump of the willow trees, swim east to a depth of 20 feet. Turn north to the line to the wreck (careful of the live torpedo).
  • Iowa Farm: 35 feet deep. North side of Gilligan's Island. About the center of
  • Troop Transport and Escort: 45 feet deep. Sunk during World War II by German U-Boat still has a live torpedo on the port bow. (Be careful! It could go off!). There is a total of 3 boats. Near the Point 3 sign on the west side, find the line at a depth of 25 feet and follow to troop transport. Two escorts are just north of the main boat.
  • Bus Stop: 55 feet. Wreck of the Bull Shoals Express. From east point at the entrance of Sister Creek, swim in a southwest direction to a depth of 25
  • Bermuda Triangle: 25 feet deep. Near the west side of Sister Creek, swim at 30 feet to line. Follow it to boats.
  • Spanish Wrecks: 20 feet deep. Just inside of cove. Find the line in 15 feet of water and follow it to boats (any gold found must be turned in to dive shop).
  • Key Hole: 50 feet deep. Wall dive and then swim through a large hole as you descend. A second hole is 30 feet deeper.
  • Rotortiller: 25 feet deep. A good search and recovery tool used to teach liftbag techniques.
  • Frost Wall: A good wall dive.
  • Shear Terror: A good wall dive with overhangs.
  • Alien Landing: 20-40 feet deep. From the east Point 7 sign, swim in a westerly direction at a depth of 20 feet. Follow the line to the space ships. (Can you figure out what the writing says on the ships?).
  • Pirate Longboat Frost Point Wall: 85 feet deep. Legend has it that the notorious pirate “Jeff the Bloodthirsty” hid his treasure along the shore here. Afterwards, he murdered all four of his crew then sank the bodies with the longboat in order to keep the location secret.
  • Russian Submarine: 25 feet deep. Follow the line from Rototiller.
  • Sailboat: 45 feet deep. Go west from the Russian submarine.

Shop or sell a boat on our Bull Shoals Lake Boats for Sale page.

Plan your trip to Bull Shoals Lake by calling one of the marinas today on our Bull Shoals Lake Marinas page.

Bull Shoals Lake Rental Cabins 

Because of Bull Shoals Lake’s mountainous, undeveloped shoreline, rental cabins and cottages are available in several resorts, but it is hard to find private cabin rental landlords. Vacation home rentals exist mostly near Bull Shoals Lake’s southern borders. These cabins, cottages, and homes feature amenities from rustic to modern amenities that sleep two to ten. Book early because Bull Shoals Lake is a tight market for rental lodging. 

Find the perfect vacation home on our Bull Shoals Lake Cabins page. 

Bull Shoals Lake Real Estate 

Bull Shoals Lake is extremely rural with a mostly undeveloped shoreline. There are only three towns right on the water: Bull Shoals, Diamond City, and Lakeview, Arkansas. The average price for a home on Bull Shoals Lake is $140,000 in 2022. 

The Cotter, Flippin, Lead Hill, and Mountain Home School Districts serve the Bull Shoals Lake region. The only Walmart Supercenter is 15 miles southeast of Bull Shoals, Arkansas, which is on the southern border of the lake, in Mountain Home. Branson, Missouri, is 20 miles northwest of the northern arm, but Bentonville, Arkansas, is the nearest city. 

To find your dream home, explore our Bull Shoals Lake Homes For Sale page. 

Bull Shoals Lake Camping

The USACE manages eleven campgrounds on Bull Shoals Lake. Most of the USACE parks feature sites with electric and water hookups, restrooms with showers and flush toilets, and sanitary dump stations. Season dates vary by park, but most are open from April through October. You can make campsite reservations through the National Recreation Reservation Service online at http://www.recreation.gov/ or by calling 1-877-444-6777.

Other campgrounds on the White River are just a few miles from the southern edge of the lake include the Bull Shoals White River State Park, the Cooper Johnson Resort, Gaston’s White River Resort, Stetson’s Resort on the River, and White Hole Resort. In all, there are 19 campgrounds and parks at Bull Shoals Lake Campground. 

The Bull Shoals White River State Park is a 725-acre park in Arkansas on both the lake shoreline and the White River above and below the dam. Its visitor center features an exhibit hall, overlook, and theater that shares the Bull Shoals region history. 

The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism operates the Bull Shoals White River State Park. It has 113 tents sites from primitive to RV sites with water, electric, and sewer, plus three rent-an-RV sites. Interpretive programs include campfire-cooking demonstrations, trout fishing workshops, and nature walks.

There are four more campgrounds operated by county or municipal government agencies. Of 11 marinas located on Bull Shoals Lake, 10 are located inside USACE-managed multiple use parks.  

Check out our list of campgrounds and RV parks for your family adventure on our Bull Shoals Lake Camping page.

Hunting Bull Shoals Lake

Hunting opportunities for white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkey, and waterfowl at Bull Shoals Lake are abundant. Numerous boat ramps and parking areas provide access to large parcels of little used public land. Licenses for hunting and fishing are required in accordance with state and federal laws in Arkansas and Missouri. 

Hunters can use portable waterfowl blinds, but they must be removed at the end of each day's hunt. A permit for a semi-permanent blind can be obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Office in Mountain Home, Arkansas, to construct a blind from natural materials and/or construction materials, which must be removed at the end of waterfowl season.

Hunters may not construct permanent deer and turkey blinds in the area. Portable blinds may be left standing from one week prior to the first day of archery season to one week after the last day of archery season, but must be labeled with the hunter’s name, address and phone number. Commercially made “screw-in” type climbing steps may be used, but no nails, spikes, screws, or other objects may be driven into trees. A safety belt or harness is required. 

Hunting is prohibited in developed parks. All other land that is managed by the Corps of Engineers is available to the public for in-season hunting. The USACE Mountain Home Project hosts an annual mobility-impaired hunt at Bull Shoals Lake.   

Hiking Trails at Bull Shoals Lake

Trails at Bull Shoals White River State Park

Bull Shoals Lakeside Trail

This 1.0-mile loop trail is  considered an easy route. This is a popular trail for birding, hiking, and running.. The trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Bull Shoals City Park Trail 

This is a 2.3-mile loop trail rated moderate. It is popular for  birding, hiking, and running..The trail is open year-round. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Heritage and Habitat Trail

This is a 0.6-mile easy trail for running and walking. The trail is open year-round with a scenic overlook. It is paved and handicapped accessible. 

Gaston Wildflower Garden Trailhead

This memorial wildflower garden loop trail meanders through three acres of wildflowers that change each week through the season. Wildlife, including birds and butterflies, can be seen throughout the trail at feeders and rest areas. The area is under constant development and memorial contributions may be made at any time.

Big Bluff Trail

The first part of this loop trail is a level walk over the remains of the railroad tram built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to bring in steel and lumber from Cotter, Arkansas to construct Bull Shoals Dam. Once the trail crosses the paved road, it goes up the hillside to an area overlooking the White River, Bull Shoals Dam, and the Ozark hill country. The trail then leads through cedar glades, mature deciduous forests, and across streams. 

The Oakridge Mountain Bike Trail

This is a 3.0-mile, moderate trail for day use mountain biking and hiking. This multi-use trail offers hikers and mountain bikers access to remote areas of the park. The trail traverses the oak-hickory upland forest with creek crossings, dirt roads, open meadows, long downhills, and taxing uphills. 

Depending on the direction of travel, its loop trail allows users to choose from two levels of difficulty: clockwise, marked with blue blazes and moderately difficult with strenuous uphill slopes, and counter-clockwise, marked with green blazes and moderately easy. Bicycle helmets are strongly recommended. 

USACE Trails

Dogwood Trail, Wildwood Trail, and the Forsyth Trail enable nature observers and photographers to view nature through the change of seasons. Spring-flowering trees, shrubs, and wildflowers add subtle colors, while fall brings the hills ablaze with the fall colors of oaks and hickories.  Viewing wildlife is a popular activity on these trails and around the lake, and these trails provide access to a variety of habitats.

The Dogwood Trail

The Dogwood Nature Trail is a pleasant 3-mile out-and-back hike that is 1.5 miles each way that starts in the Lakeview Park Campground, a USACE Recreation Area. The highlight of the trail is the bluff vista at the end. It is a beautiful area with magnificent views of Bull Shoals Lake in all directions, but be careful on the bluffs. Most of the trail is a pleasant wooded walk with a stream crossing. 

Things to Do at Bull Shoals Lake

There are only a few things to do near Bull Shoals Lake besides enjoying its beauty and playing on the water. There are quite a few restaurants and clubs in Bull Shoals, Arkansas, and on the southern end of the lake. Some marinas also serve food and drinks. 

Take an in-depth, informative tour of the inside of Bull Shoals Dam. It features interpretive exhibits, a theater showing the history of the dam and the area, an observation tower and deck, and a gift shop. You can catch perfect sunrises and sunsets from the observation tower. It is located at 153 Dam Overlook Lane, Bull Shoals, Arkansas. 

The Diamond Hills Country Club, located at 20701 Highway 7 North, Diamond City, Arkansas, features a challenging, 18-hole, par 71 course. Memberships are available, but day players are welcome. 

The Lost Woods Golf Course and Pub, located at 131 Lost Woods Drive, Theodosia, Missouri, is a scenic, public, 9-hole, par 35 course. Memberships are available. 

Check out the Bull Shoals Caverns, one of the world’s oldest limestone caverns in the Ozark mountain range. At 59 degrees  year round, the caverns have streams flowing throughout the cavern and a waterfall is located at the deepest part. 

Sluice for gems and view stalactites, stalagmites, drapolites, box work, columns, cave pearls,and flow stone,  plus other formations on a paved, lighted pathway. The caverns are open from March 15th to October 31st, Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. The caverns are located at 1011 CS Woods Boulevard, Bull Shoals, Arkansas.

Use our What To Do at Bull Shoals Lake page to plan your next trip.

Bull Shoals Lake Weather & Climate 

Bull Shoals Lake sees an average of 53 inches of rain per year, with 3 inches of snow and 213 days of sunshine. The winter low in January is 30 degrees and a summer high in July of 90 degrees. April, May, and October are the most comfortable months for this region. July and August are the least comfortable months. 

Keep your eyes on the skies with our Bull Shoals Lake Weather Forecast page. 

Bull Shoals Lake Zip Codes

Baxter County, AR:  72653, 72635.

Marion County, AR: 72634, 76253, 72661, 72668, 72687.

Ozark County, MO: 65729, 65733, 65761, 65762, 65765, 65766, 65729.

Taney County, MO: 65627, 65679.

Bull Shoals Lake Flora and Fauna

Grab your binoculars and observe the hardwood and pine forests with over 240 tree species that attract specific species of birds like eagles, hawks, nesting warblers, tanagers, and woodpeckers.  On the shoreline, keep an eye out for elk, black bears, lizards and turtles. 

Over 300 species of wildflowers and over 150 species of butterflies paint the Bull Shoals region. You and your camera can spend many hours of quality time together in this land of 115 different eco land types.

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Bull Shoals Lake Weather Forecast


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Bull Shoals Lake Water Level (last 30 days)

Water Level on 9/21: 42.34 (-618.66)