Gillham Lake, Arkansas, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Gillham Lake.

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Gillham Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - South - Arkansas - Ouachitas -

Gillham Lake is known as “The Bright Spot of the Cossatot” due to its location on the Cossatot River, a challenging white water stream in Arkansas. The calm waters surrounded by mountains and enchanting forest bring peace and tranquility to Gillham Lake visitors. Although not originally created as a recreational lake, Gillham Lake will keep lake visitors entertained with a number of activities including swimming, hunting, boating, canoeing, skiing, camping, fishing and picnicking.

Gillham Reservoir is located in the counties of Howard and Polk and was created after the construction of Gillham Dam. The project was approved by the Flood Control Act of 1958 for the purpose of water supply, water quality, and fish and wildlife conservation. The dam was completed in 1972 and is now owned and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Cossatot River is a big draw for Kayakers and brings visitors the Gillham Lake area, also known locally as the Ouachita Mountains Region. With a name like Cossatot, which is Native American for “skull crusher”, it is no wonder that Cossatot River is considered one of the most challenging whitewater streams in Arkansas. The River starts in the Ouachita Mountains where it flows down about 26 miles before its current ends at Gillham Lake. The Cossatot River is not recommended for novice canoeists; however Gillham Lake offers calm waters for those who just like to paddle. For those who rather enjoy the beauty of Cossatot River on foot will enjoy the many trails winding its way through the woods surrounding the river. The trails are located in the Cossatot River State Park which also offers primitive camping and picnic areas.

Although Kayaking is fun on the Cossatot River, the clam waters of Lake Gillham are more popular among anglers. Sport fish are abundant and include smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, walleye, channel catfish, flathead catfish and crappie. Anglers and boaters will find a number of boat ramps located around the lake. Wildlife is also plentiful, and as with most Corp lakes hunting is open to the public in areas not developed for the public or around the dam. Game species include whitetail deer, turkey, bobwhite quail, mourning dove, grey and fox squirrel, and cottontail rabbits.

Lake visitors do not have to Kayak or fish to enjoy Gillham Lake. There are many activities to please everyone. Campers will enjoy the many campsites offered by the U.S. Army Corps. These sites include electric and non electric hook ups. For visitors who like a relaxing swim will find a beach swimming area dotted with sun bathers.

The Corps of Engineers owns the land surrounding Gillham Lake and although there are no residential homes on the lake, property can be bought or rented in the surrounding areas. The sleepy little town of nearby Mena is surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest. It is not hard to find a delightful cabin tucked away due to the fact that most of the homes that are bought in Mena are used as vacation rentals or second homes.

After enjoying all that Gillham Lake has to offer, lake visitors may want to visit the sights that are close by. The Ouachita National Forest which covers 1.8 million acres in Arkansas and Oklahoma is only a short drive from Gillham Lake. The beautiful Ouachita Mountains can be explored while visiting the forest along with a number of addition nature related activities. Scenic drives will leave visitors spell bound, while an extensive trail system will give pedestrians a slow view of the scenery. The trail can be used for hiking, mountain biking, off road vehicles driving and horseback riding. Other outdoor recreations include hunting, fishing and camping. Also nearby right outside of DeQueen is the Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge. The public is welcome at the Refuge for wildlife observation, primitive camping, photography, hunting and fishing.

Whether its white water rafting on the Cossatot River or fishing leisurely on Gillham Lake, visitors will enjoy the beauty around them and look forward to coming back for more fun and relaxation. Gillham Lake is a vacation destination that the whole family can enjoy.

Custom Gillham Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Gillham Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • State Park
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Gillham Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Flathead Catfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Spotted Bass
  • Walleye
  • White Bass

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Gillham Lake

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Gillham Lake photo gallery

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Gillham Lake statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 1,370 acres

Shoreline Length: 36 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 502 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 465 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 569 feet

Average Depth: 21 feet

Maximum Depth: 30 feet

Water Volume: 33,113 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1975

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