Lake Catherine is one of Arkansas’ so-called “Diamond Lakes.” The five lakes in this group are (1) Lake Ouachita at Hot Springs, (2) Lake Hamilton, also at Hot Springs, (3) Lake Catherine near Malvern, (4) Lake Greeson, which is located between Glenwood and Murfreesboro, and (5) DeGray Lake, at Arkadelphia. The lakes aren’t remotely diamond-shaped and although diamonds can be found in Arkansas (near Murfreesboro) none have ever been found in these lakes. “Diamond Lakes” is simply a beautiful marketing phrase coined by the resort and recreational property developers of the area.
These lakes deserve a beautiful name, with or without diamonds. Collectively they provide wonderful fishing sites for largemouth bass, striped and hybrid bass as well as other sports fishing; recreational activities such as scuba diving, skiing and sailing; a resort with a championship golf course; as well as camping and hiking activities.
Lake Catherine State Park is located at 1200 Catherine Park Road in Hot Springs, Arkansas (71913). The lake itself covers 1,940 acres of the 2,180 acre park, which is situated around the lake’s shores. In addition to the fishing, boating, skiing and scuba diving, Lake Catherine State Park features rustic cabins, natural camping sites, well-marked hiking trails with varying degrees of difficulty and horseback trails.
The park features 68 campsites and 2 rent-a-camp sites with views of the lake. Many of the campsites have been renovated. Park interpreters are available for guided hikes, guided horseback rides and boat tours throughout the summer months and by appointment during the off-season months.
The Hidden Creek Trail is a 5/8 mile trail that begins very close to the visitor’s center and follows Slunger Creek for about a quarter of a mile, then loops back to the visitor’s center. It is rated as an “easy” trail, suitable for hikers of any level.
The Dam Mountain Trail, which cuts through the pine and hardwoods forest of the park to the top of Dam Mountain, is approximately 4 miles in length and is rated as “moderately difficult.” This trail is renowned for the wildflowers present in the spring and autumn, and for the many small waterfalls present on the meandering streams.
The Falls Branch Trail also cuts through the woodlands, from the campground area to the Dam Mountain trailhead. This trail is approximately 2 miles in length and is also rated as “moderately difficult.” It crosses the Little Canyon Creek multiple times along its length and terminates at the Falls Creek waterfall. That particular waterfall is only present during rainy months.
The Horseshoe Mountain trail shares the same trailhead as the Falls Branch and Dam Mountain trails, but this 3.5 mile trail runs along the spine of Horseshoe Mountain and features many interesting rock formations. It also is rated as “moderately difficult.”
The Diamondhead resort is located near the park, also on Catherine Park Road, and features a par 72 championship 18-hole golf course, an Olympic sized pool and several restaurants.
Lake Catherine State Park can be reached from Interstate 30, by taking Exit 97 near Malvern and following Highway 171 north for approximately 12 miles. Alternately, from Hot Springs, travelers can take Highway 270 east to Carpenter Dam Road, then turn right on Carpenter Dam Road to Highway 290, left on 290 and left again onto Highway 171. Highway 171 leads directly to the park.
The phone number for the park is (501) 844-4176, and the park’s website is http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/lakecatherine.