No bull in Bull Shoals

As Bassmaster Elite Series pros travel this week to Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas for the April 19-22 TroKar Quest, they are likely to be thinking about the big impoundment.

But would their thoughts hover for even a second over the lake’s unusual name? Maybe. Probably not; they’ve heard them all. But Bull Shoals is one of those names that get you wondering about its origin.

After all, Bull Shoals is not a particularly shallow impoundment, and in fact is hundreds of feet deep at the dam. And while it is possible that male bovines are known to wade in low water, that explanation also seems unlikely.

Some reference to a rising market, perhaps?

Clarity comes via the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas, a digital endeavor of the Central Arkansas Library System and a collaboration of state government, historical organizations and private citizens.

According to the encyclopedia, the “Bull” in the lake name is derivative of “boill,” the word used by early French hunters and trappers to describe springs that appeared to bubble up in shallow spots of the White River (long before it was dammed to form deeper lakes). When an English-speaking settler picked up the word, he pronounced it “bull.” Thus, the waterway became known as Bull Shoals. The name stuck when the lake was formed in 1951.

Today, a state park provides an expansive view of Bull Shoals Lake, Bull Shoals Dam and the White River below the dam. Famous for its rainbow and brown trout fishery, the racing river could still, in places, be said to “bull.”

Learn more about the Bull Shoals-White River State Park at

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