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Lake Norfork Recreation - All Year Round

Recreation Seasons

Norfork Lake has over 550 miles of shoreline and 22,000 surface acres. Boating, sailing, water skiing, scuba diving, and swimming are popular from mid May through mid September. Fall weather is short-sleeve comfortable through October with fall foliage usually occurring the last week of the month. Fishing is good through the winter. Spring wild flowers begin blooming in early March, and trees are leafed out by May 10 most years. The cooler months of April, May, September, and October offer excellent fishing, hiking, and exploring.

Lake & River Fishing

Norfork Lake offers great fishing for both largemouth and smallmouth bass, white bass, stripers, hybrid bass, crappie, bream, walleye, and catfish. Fishermen are active here throughout the year as there is no closed fishing season on Norfork and the mild winters do not freeze the lake. Several fishing guide services savvy to the ways of the lake's sport fish populations operate on Norfork. Lodging facility owners are also quite good at fishing and will share fishing strategies with their guests.

The North Fork River tailwater fishery below the dam is where the former All Tackle World Record German brown trout was caught. The trout is still the second largest brown trout ever caught. The North Fork continues to produce line class record rainbow, brown, brook, and cutthroat trout. It is one of the few rivers in America where a person can catch four trout species in one day. Many of the guides who operate on the lake also conduct trout fishing trips on both the North Fork and White Rivers. Fishers visiting Norfork frequently alternate between lake fishing and river fishing.

Exploring Nature

The lake is surrounded by land owned and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. No buildings may be built on Corps property thereby preserving the primitive experience sought by many outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Over 25,000 acres of Corps property is under careful Wildlife Management programs. These Wildlife Management Areas are open to the public and give amateur naturalists, birders, and hunters an excellent place to engage in their pursuits. 

Within 45 minutes of Norfork Lake is some of the most unique and fascinating scenery in the Ozarks. The Sylamore District of the Ozark National Forest offers thousands of acres of Ozark Wilderness where you'll find many easy-to-walk logging roads that were abandoned many years ago. These old roads give birders, photographers, hikers, and hunters easy and peaceful access to creeks, oak/hickory/pine forests, and awesome karst geology formations.

Wildflower enthusiasts can explore Cliffty Canyon Special Interest Botanical Area, a large tract of Ozark ecosystem set aside due to its rare wild plants and wildflowers. The Sylamore also has some 100 caves, many of which are open to the public provided strict guidelines are followed.

Pigeon Creek National Recreational Trail System

Mountain bikers and day hikers enjoy some 16 miles of stacked loop trails along the lake shore. These well maintained trails were built for off road mountain biking but hikers are also welcome. Well marked trails lead through several different eco systems including both hardwood and pine forests. Level of difficulty ranges from beginner to intermediate.


Norfork Lake is considered to be in the top ten list of American lakes with the best underwater visibility. The underwater terrain offers a range of experiences from shallow to deep dives of up to 195 feet. Since the building of the dam flooded what was once an active farming valley, there are a number of underwater attractions. The scuba shops all offer equipment rentals and Scuba certifications.

Lodging and Recreation Providers

The best way to enjoy Norfork Lake is to book a stay at one of the lake's many lodging facilities. Most rent a wide range of watercraft for fishing, cruising, and skiing. The lodging facilities are small resorts owned and operated by husband/wife teams who give their guests the level of service only an owner can. The owners have a wealth of area knowledge and will help arrange guided fishing trips and other recreational activities. The family atmosphere at these resorts has started many great friendships when guests meet around the swimming pools and boat docks. The best way to consider a trip to Norfork Lake is to fill our the Lodging Information Request and let the resort owners send you information.