From boating and fishing to swimming and waterskiing, Indiana is an incredible place to spend a day on the lake. The Hoosier State is home to 100,000 acres of publicly owned lakes and 45 miles of Great Lakes shoreline that perfectly encapsulate our superb outdoor recreation. Below, you’ll find 20 of the top lakes in Indiana.
This list was part of The 20 IN 20. Even though 2020 is behind us, you still have to see our 400 must-see, must-do Indiana experiences! Find images shared by visitors and the full list of lakes below!
Travel is permitted, and businesses are allowed to be open, but it is still vital to wear a mask and practice physical distancing as we continue to fight COVID-19. Face coverings are required in Indiana, so be sure to mask up when distancing is not possible while traveling around Indiana. Please take precautions, plan ahead, and follow CDC and local guidelines.
Our first lake is found at the J.E. Roush Lake Fish & Wildlife Area. It was constructed in 1967 to help control floodwaters along the Wabash River Basin. J. Edward Roush Lake provides excellent fishing opportunities, with catfish, crappie, white bass, largemouth bass, and rough fish, all waiting to be caught. Motorized boats are allowed!
In 1952, Cagles Mill Lake was built as Indiana’s first flood control reservoir. Now spanning 1,400 acres and surrounded by forested land, Cagles Mill is home to a variety of recreation, including boating, swimming, and fishing. Be sure to check out the breathtaking Cataract Falls on your visit to Lieber State Recreation Area!
Morse Reservoir is located about 20 miles north of downtown Indianapolis and is one of the premier lakes in the area. The 1500-acre body of water is encircled by beautiful homes, making it a unique boating experience. Relax for the day at Morse Park and Beach, found on the south side of the reservoir.
Bloomington is known for water fun, and Monroe Lake is the main reason why. It’s the largest inland lake in Indiana, giving plenty of room to find a quiet fishing cove or to make tons of waves. There’s a swimming beach on the west side of Monroe Lake at Fairfax State Recreation Area, also home to Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & Marina.
Indiana’s second-largest natural lake is located in the charming small town of Culver. Lake Maxinkuckee has an average depth of 24 feet, making it a popular ice fishing destination. Culver Academies, situated along the shore of Lake Maxinkuckee, towers tall like Hogwarts over the lake. You have to see it for yourself!
Brookville Lake is home to both Mounds SRA and Quakertown SRA and sits next to Whitewater Memorial State Park. Beyond its great boating opportunities and nationally known recreational and sport fishing, two great beaches make Brookville Lake an ideal family vacation spot. Check out Thistlethwaite Falls 20 miles to the north for some fossil hunting!
Raccoon Lake State Recreation Area at Cecil M. Harden Lake is composed of 2,005 acres of land and a 2,060-acre lake. Surrounded by numerous species of trees, Cecil M. Harden Lake is a naturalist’s delight. Boat ramps are available at five locations with boat rental available. A modern beach house is open through labor day.
Indiana Beach has really put Lake Shafer on the map. Its views of historic roller-coasters and rides are one of the most iconic in the state. With a total of 1,291 acres and a maximum depth of 30 feet, Lake Shafer is known as the all-sports lake. Bass, catfish, walleye, trout, and crappie can easily be caught here.
Lake Freeman is the sister lake of Lake Shafer, both of which are located in Monticello and were formed in the 1920s with the completion of two dams. Madam Carroll, Indiana’s largest boat, offers seasonal boat cruises on Lake Freeman through November each year. The historic vessel provides dinner cruises, private charters, and live entertainment.
Lake Michigan is the second-largest Great Lake by volume, and Indiana is proud to claim 45 miles of its stunning shoreline. Feel the sand between your toes at its many beaches, including Indiana Dunes National Park and Indiana Dunes State Park! Catch a stoke or see Indiana’s last public operating lighthouse in Michigan City. A hidden gem along Lake Michigan is Marquette Park in Gary, a perfect place to escape in the fall.
Hardy Lake is different from most reservoirs, as the water level stays table year-round, which positively affects the shoreline, fishing, and wildlife. It is the smallest state-operated reservoir at 741 acres, but it has Indiana’s largest state-owned dam! Swimming is available at Hardy Lake’s beach, and there are two fishing piers on the property.
Eagle Creek Park accounts for 1,400 acres of water and 3,900 acres of land, making it one of the largest city parks in the country. The reservoir, of course, is the centerpiece of the park and the main attraction during the summer months, luring guests to the water for boating, fishing, kayaking, sailing, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding. Eagle Creek Outfitters rents watercraft and provides all the equipment you need for lake adventures by the hour on a first-come, first-served basis.
Steuben County in northern Indiana has more lakes than anywhere else in the state, and Lake James is one of them. Lake James is found inside of Pokagon State Park, which is also home to the Potawatomi Inn Resort and Conference Center. Guests love to sit outside the inn to watch the sun go down on Lake James in the evening!
Right in the heart of north-central Indiana is the relaxing Mississinewa Lake. The 3,210-acre lake is an excellent location for fishing and boating. Its entire property includes four State Recreation Areas, many boat ramps, 400+ campsites, and a few fishing piers.
There are five concrete boat ramps along with a marina at Salamonie Lake. While the reservoir is comprised of 2,665 acres, the property also boasts 40 ponds, marshes, and wetlands. Salamonie Lake is crawling with all sorts of fish, including crappie, bluegill, catfish, redear, walleye, and bass. The beach is the only designated swimming area.
Lake Wawasee and Syracuse Lake in Kosciusko County are connected by a channel, making Syracuse the perfect lake town. You can experience Lake Wawasee on the SS Lillypad, which is a 110 passenger dinner boat. Consider a stay at the luxury Oakwood Resort nestled right along the shores of the lake.
Bird-watchers, swimmers, anglers, and wildlife photographers have long admired and loved Summit Lake State Park. Its wide-open spaces and wooded areas are quite captivating, with the 800-acre lake being park’s focal point. Bass, sunfish, crappies, yellow perch channel catfish are popular catches. Guests can launch their own boat or rent a paddleboat, kayak, or canoe on Summit Lake.
The development of Geist Reservoir in the 1940s helped provide a sustainable water supply to Indianapolis. Over the past 80 years, residents and visitors have made countless memories boating, kayaking, and fishing on Geist. Today, luxurious homes surround the reservoir. Geist Marina offers fourteen comfortable pontoons for reservations and also has a public launch ramp on Olio Road.
Patoka Lake is the second-largest reservoir in Indiana with 8,800 acres and one of its best examples of lake ecology. Species that call Patoka Lake home include freshwater jellyfish, bald eagle nesting sites, and river otters. Rolling topography and heavily wooded areas around the property are beautiful year-round, but especially in the fall. Visitors can stay overnight on the water at Patoka Lake in Indiana’s first floating cabins!
Griffy Lake was designed as a supply for drinking water to Bloomington residents, but it is now a haven for outdoor adventure. The lake itself is only 109 acres, but it makes the most of it as a beautiful and natural preserve. Griffy Lake also has great hiking through wooded ridges and ravines around the lake. Visitors can rent a canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, rowboat, or launch their own boat.