Jill M. Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
JORDAN, Ark. – Norfork Lake was created in the early 1940s by the damming of the North Fork River. One of four lakes constructed by dams on the upper White River Basin, it is unlike all of the others because the land was clear-cut before it was flooded. The lake is popular with scuba divers.
Good recreational diving can be found at 20 feet to 40 feet on Norfork Lake, says Dan Weber of Jordan Marina near Mountain Home. Out of 31 marked dive sites, some are as deep as 70 feet with a couple wall dives down to 150 feet below the surface. Diving on this lake is best from April to October with greatest visibility between 40 feet and 60 feet in the spring. The closer you get to the dam the clearer the water, Weber adds.
Here are 31 sites to dive for:
- 1A Wrecks – 25 feet: Two hundred feet north of 1A sign, flat gravel bottom. Contains several small boats and one pontoon boat deck.
- Rickety Wreck – 25 feet: Tape marker in 10 feet to 15 feet of water to left of small point. Stepping stone type wall. Here sits a 28-foot cruiser.
- School Bus – 25 feet: Look for tape marker in 10 feet to 15 feet of water. School bus body attached to steel barge. Once was a unique houseboat.
- Cave Dive – MUST be cave certified! Located below houses on the hill. Cave goes back 100 feet into a large room, then narrows. Mouth right below water line.
- Blankenship Point: Strewn with giant square stones that create alley-ways that draw every species of fish in the lake.
- Playground – 5 feet to 20 feet: Junior divers of all ages can play on the equipment found here.
- Sunken Ridge/Bulldozer – 20 feet: Sudden rise of underwater mountain top is in 20 feet of water. 1939 Caterpillar used in lake construction sits here. Tape marker over east edge of ridge marks the bulldozer.
- Farm Site – 40 feet: Foundation and cistern of three buildings. Hard to locate exactly, but interesting historical perspective. Long stone walkway, boiler, and debris field.
- Indian Island – 5 feet to 50 feet: Was once a Native American campsite where arrowheads were made. Ledges and overhangs hold lots of fish. Favorite night dive spot.
- Moody Homesite – 30 feet: Cistern and stone foundation of old farm house.
- Slo-Poke Cruiser – 15 feet to 40 feet: Wreck of 30-foot cruiser. Follow tape marker down step rocks to rear of boat. Also nice flat 15-foot bottom of shale rock.
- Campground Bluff – One of the few shore dives: Good walls and steep slopes. Treasure hunting favorite.
- Rock of Gibraltar – 25 feet to 50 feet: Stone pillar rising from 50-foot depth to just 25 feet below surface. Out from elephant rock on shore. Turn to your right at 50 feet.
- VW Van – 15 feet: Sits between rock of Gibraltar and shore. Loaded with fish.
- Underwater Bluff – 35 feet to 150 feet: Out from flooded cottonwood trees. Sandy slope stops at rim of bluff. Wall starts at 35 feet. Can go straight down to 70 feet to 150 feet.
- White Bluff and Arch – 15 feet to 60 feet: Tall limestone bluffs contain natural arch big enough to swim through. Very clear water. Ledges at 15 feet, 30 feet, and 60 feet.
- Tool Truck – 70 feet: Panel truck that went down in 1955, loaded with tools. Rests on ledge in 70-foot depth out from mark on shore.
- Fruit Cellar – 15 feet to 25 feet: Concrete bunker-like structure built in the early 1900s in 15-foot depth. House foundation and well in 25 feet of water. Rope goes from fruit cellar to home site.
- Fireplace – 70 feet: Intact fireplace with chimney and foundation of large home. Old Model T engine, used to run sawmill, sits atop fireplace. Unexplored sawmill lies in deeper water.
- Gypsy Boat Wreck – 25 feet: 24-foot wood cabin cruiser sits on flat gravel bottom at 25 feet. Nearby an abrupt drop of 150 feet. Tall pinnacle rocks. View large fish here.
- Fish Market – 15 feet: Flat shale rock point has large area of flat bottom in 15-foot depth with nearby slope to deeper water. Good concentration of fish found here.
- Walleye Wall – 10 feet to 150 feet: Short run of rock bluff with steep incline. Wall-type dive. Home of the lake’s walleye population.
- Bunch ‘O Boulders – 20 feet: Very large, rounded rock formations in 20-foot depth with gravel bottom.
- Don’s Dynamite Shack – 40 feet: Once stored explosives during dam construction. Underground building made of railroad ties covered with gravel. Has air vent that looks like dog house located in 40 feet.
- Dam Corner: Usually the clearest dive on the lake. Nice cut stone rocks, steps. Has parts of wooden light towers lying on bottom.
- Devil’s Backbone – 20 feet: Long, shallow reef-like point rock formations. Looks like giant skeletal vertebrae of some prehistoric creatures.
- Thumb Print Home Site – 60 feet: Very large barn foundation and home site with inlaid intricate tile floor. Lots of history. Far from shore.
- Hank’s Bluff: Long wall dive. Straight drops good for deep dives and exploration into the unknown.
- The Rocket – 25 feet: Wooden boat with Oldsmobile “Rocket” engine.
- Chrysler Cliff – 5 feet to 150 feet: Abrupt drop of 150 feet. Great wall dive. Usually great visibility.
- Drain hole for the lake – 30 feet: Perfectly round hole reportedly used to drain the lake in high water conditions. Usually found plugged.
If you dive every site (excluding the cave dive for which you must be certified) you receive a free T-shirt and have your name engraved on a plaque at Jordan Marina. The marina has GPS coordinates for most of the dive sites and a map of dive locations.
Jordan Marina is a full-service marina and dive shop. Weber and his wife Denise offer dive lessons in small classes or individually. You can rent jet skis, ski boats, pontoon boats and nightly or weekly boat stalls. It’s also a great place to get pizza.
Weber says a lot of dive clubs and dive shop groups from Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma are drawn to Norfork Lake. “The diving aspect of the lake is a unique draw because it’s really hard to find good diving without going to the ocean,” he explains. “It’s refreshing to dive in a clean, clear lake.” He adds that it also costs more to get to the ocean. Therefore, a plus to this southern part of Norfork Lake, the Jordan area, is its natural, white, sandy beaches.
For additional information about diving Norfork Lake, contact the marina at 870-499-7348 or visit www.JordanMarina.com.