We love it when friends and relatives come to visit us in our little piece of paradise on Bull Shoals Lake in North Central Arkansas.

We decided to make our vacation/lake home our permanent home five years ago, so the only time we get to see our beautiful area as tourists again is when our friends and family venture here for a getaway. We can truly say that showing them the sights never gets old.

When my in laws came to visit over the summer, it was the perfect time to take them out on the lake. They live on a Midwestern body of water, Lake of the Ozarks, a highly developed lake in Missouri, about a three hour drive north.

The first morning we took them out on the boat, they were utterly amazed at the lack of development in our area. The Ozark Mountains rise above the crystal clear water of Bull Shoals Lake, sometimes creating pebble rock shoreline; other times majestic cliffs that hover hundreds of feet above the lake.

Unlike many developed fishing lakes, Bull Shoals has managed to maintain an air of natural beauty, thanks in part to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains a buffer between shoreline and home/hotel developments and limits the number of boat docks in the water.

Bull Shoals embodies the state’s moniker of The Natural State with its 45,000+ acres of water and 700 miles of shore and the fishing in the region is outstanding for whatever floats your boat. It is home to a number of fish species, but Bull Shoals is known for its walleye, crappie and large and small mouth bass and is named one of the 100 Best Fishing Lakes in the country by Bass Masters. Cold water fishermen can also experience some awesome trout fishing, just on the other side of the Bull Shoals Dam, on the White River.

After we took my in-laws for an early morning spin on the boat, we decided to head over to the town of Bull Shoals on our way to Bull Shoals White River State Park.

The town itself is the land time forgot. Developed in the 1950s and early 1960s for outdoor enthusiasts, the town quickly succumbed to the more aggressive campaign to draw Ozark tourism in Branson, Missouri, just a little over an hour away. Older motels of the period dot the highway. If you aren’t into camping at one of the sites in the state park, you can still find gems for accommodations near Bull Shoals, including Gaston’s White River Resort and Cedar Springs Country Inn Bed and Breakfast.

We also took my in-laws to the Mountain Village 1890, as my father in-law loves history and this recreation of an Ozark settlement, complete with log cabins, a general store, blacksmith shop and small chapel, among other historic buildings, is a must see for history buffs and children alike. The property is also adjacent to Bull Shoals Caverns. I personally think if you’ve seen one cave, you’ve seen them all, but my husband and father in law enjoy them and we did manage to see an old moonshining still and we learned, about the area’s moonshining history during prohibition that took place in in caves. 

At the James A. Gaston Visitor’s Center at the dam at the Bull Shoals White River State Park, my mother in law and I enjoyed browsing the gift shop, while our husbands wondered at the state record fish, antique fishing gear and john boat on display in the museum. We climbed the stairs up to the climate controlled observation deck and could see both bodies of water – Bull Shoals Lake and the White River – flowing into and out of the dam.

We watched the short documentary once again telling the story of the region and purchased tickets for the evening pontoon excursion on the water. At just $6 per adult ticket, this 1 ½ hour ride around the lake with a guide detailing facts about the lake and dam is always a good bargain. We can always take visitors out on our boat, but this ride allows us to also enjoy the beauty of the lake and hear about the depth, fish and maybe even spot some wildlife. The rides are offered May-September and there are special excursions planned during eagle season in January.

We skipped the dam tour due to my in-laws earlier trek in the cave, but no trip to Bull Shoals would be complete for us without a trip to the Bull Shoals Boat Dock and Marina, located just a short drive from the dam. In addition to houseboat, fishing boat and jet ski rentals, they have a gift shop and we wondered around the dock, getting permission from the marina staff to look around a couple of the houseboats.

A big draw to the dock is feeding the carp with fish food, available for .50 cents a bag. Hundreds of the large fish, as well as geese and ducks, hang out by the marina waiting for handouts from tourists.

The Bull Shoals area, also known as The Twin Lakes area, which also includes Lake Norfork a few miles south, isn’t just known for its outdoor recreation. Tourists interested in antiques can find a wide variety of flea markets and antique malls, especially between Mountain Home and Lake Norfork.

We shared with them one of our favorites, Remember When , located on Hwy 62 just outside of Mountain Home, where my husband purchased for me that day an antique silver bracelet with costume sapphires for our anniversary.

Afterward, we went down the road and ate at Fred’s Fish House, which overlooks Lake Norfork and where you can get southern style fried catfish and hushpuppies (and no southern fish meal is complete without a slice of fresh onion and a pickle spear). If you have your own catch, you clean it and Fred’s will cook it for you.

We ended this perfect day showing off our area with our in-laws on the pontoon boat ride back on Bull Shoals Lake, watching the sun set on the beautiful Ozark Mountains from one of the most awesome bodies of water in the U.S.