Route 7: Scuba diving in Lake Ouachita

This week's stop on Route 7 takes us to the largest lake in the state.

It's an activity some wouldn't think of in Arkansas.

Lake Ouchita's almost 700 miles of tree-lined shores and over 40,000 acres of water attract all water sports.

But to really see the exotic - yes, exotic - sights the lake has to offer, Channel 7 turned to Rick's Dive Shop to explore below the surface.

"Some people will come into the store and their only thoughts are going to someplace like Cozumel or the Bahamas to dive," said Rick's Dive Shop instructor John Taft. "They don't realize that you can dive our lakes."

Taft said people actually come from around the country to dive Arkansas lakes.

There's no shortage of fish: sunfish, bream, catfish, and huge bass, some around 40 pounds.

"When you get out there and you get into large numbers of fish like I did earlier today, it's incredible," said instructor Leroy Boje. "It's pretty much awe inspiring to see that many fish around you under water."

The lake also has freshwater sponges and even jellyfish, found in only a few of the cleanest lakes, according to the instructors.

"Most people don't know that in our freshwater lakes we have little freshwater jellyfish," Taft said. "They don't sting. Usually they're about the size of a dime."

"Here at Lake Ouachita we've got several boats, there's an old school bus all sorts of neat stuff to see," Taft said.

Although the buildings were moved, the remnants and cornerstones of several old towns and railroads originally in the Ouachita valley are now under the lake.

Lake Ouachita was created in the 1950s by when the Blakely Mountain Dam was built on the Ouachita River.

"I've dove a lot of wrecks around the U.S. and our waters here in Ouachita are much clearer," Taft said. "Ouachita has a lot of natural formations to dive and it's really pretty."

"Some people don't have the opportunity to go outside of Arkansas, so this provides them a great opportunity of seeing what we have here," said instructor Amy Ross.

The next time you're casting your line or taking in the sights at Lake Ouachita, don't forget what lies under ripples.

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