Bull Shoals Lake: a Complete Guide

The crystal waters of Bull Shoals Lake have invited Branson visitors to boat, fish, swim and camp for decades. With plenty of lake adventures in store, it's no wonder guests keep coming back to Bull Shoals for more!


Bull Shoals Lake is part of a recreation and water sports paradise that features nearly 20 developed parks around its wooded borders. The area boasts pavilions, boat docks and a variety of campgrounds, which can accommodate everything from pop-up tents to luxury RVs. Sand bars found around the lake also serve as popular camping destinations. Spanning the borders of both Missouri and Arkansas, Bull Shoals Lake is the perfect waterfront escape. In an easy 20-minute drive from Historic Downtown Branson, you can access lake fun quickly! 

History of Bull Shoals Lake 

The artificial lake was created in 1951 by the construction of Bull Shoals Dam in order for the Army Corps of Engineers to impound and prevent flooding from the White River, as well as to produce hydroelectric power. The dam is the last stop before the river is impounded as it flows toward its mouth on the Mississippi River. Therefore, the lake levels regularly fluctuate from 630 to 680 feet above sea level. Because of its importance to protect flooding for White River Basin residents, farmers and business owners, Bull Shoals' forested shoreline is mainly undeveloped, and features robust Ozarks' scenery, including steep bluffs and rock ledges.

Boat and Equipment Rentals


Bull Shoals Lake is an ideal destination for those interested in tubing, wakeboarding, jet-skiing, swimming and boating. Calm waters and smaller crowds make Bull Shoals a favorite among visiting families and Branson locals. Boaters set sail on more than 70,000 acres of water surrounded by about 1,000 miles of rugged shoreline. 

Marinas along the lake offer a variety of boat rentals – some even feature guided bow-fishing trips. In fact, Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock provides everything in fishing and boating, from pontoons and houseboats to bait and tackle. The marina also outfits everything you need for other forms of water recreation, including wakeboards and scuba gear, both popular activities on Bull Shoals. Several other marinas, including K Dock Marina, also rent visitors boats, including pontoons and fishing boats.


A popular fishing destination, Bull Shoals is famous for its white large-mouth and spotted bass populations. Because Bull Shoals is considered a warm water lake on average and seldom freezes, it has no closed season. Premier trout fishing is offered not only at the world-class trout fishery near Bull Shoals Dam, but also where the lake's headwaters cross the tailwaters of Lake Taneycomo.

Record catches on Bull Shoals include a 13-pound, 14-ounce largemouth bass; a 65-pound, 2-ounce striped bass; and a 21-pound, 1-ounce walleye. Crappie, bream and catfish of all sizes can also be found in Bull Shoals. Walleye are abundant in the lake, setting it apart from neighboring Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo. In fact, it's not uncommon for anglers to land walleye in the 10-pound range.

Anglers and boaters on Bull Shoals Lake should always be aware of what section of the lake they access, since applicable regulations vary from Missouri to Arkansas.

Fishing Guide Services


At Bull Shoals, visitors can embark on a memorable fishing trip with the help of fishing guides. Head back over to the Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock, where professional guides understand the unique techniques needed to successfully fish the lake, day or night. Likewise, anglers looking for a guide with decades of experience fishing the area can reserve a fishing trip with Stone's Guide Service, where Phillip Stone, a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed-and-insured fishing guide, offers more than 20 years of experience fishing in the Tri-Lakes area.

Hoping to hook crappie, trout or even catfish while fishing Bull Shoals Lake? Catch 'Em Guide Service promises the trip of a lifetime fishing for all of the above around the Bull Shoals Lake Reservoir, particularly crappie. Anglers can even spend a day with a professional. Elite Guide Service is run by Fishing League Worldwide Touring Pro Eric Olliverson, who guides and fishes full-time on the waters of the Tri-Lake area.

Visiting Bull Shoals Dam

Looking for an activity you can do on dry land? Bull Shoals Dam totals an impressive 2,256 feet long and 256 feet high and is considered one of the largest concrete dams in the United States. It's located approximately 7 miles north of Cotter, Arkansas. The dam features massive equipment used to produce hydroelectric power and is located within the Bull Shoals-White River State Park. A popular camping destination, the park features a visitor center situated on a high point across the dam with sweeping views of the White River, Bull Shoals Dam and Bull Shoals Lake. Interpretive exhibits are featured throughout the lobby, gift shop, Johnboat Theater and 1,720-square-foot Exhibit Hall filled with images of the river, lake and dam. These state-of-the art exhibits share the history of the area and tell of the fish found in nearby waters. The center also includes an observation tower, gift shop and classrooms.

Feeling inspired for your next outdoors adventure in Branson? Discover more outdoor activities in Branson here!

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