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7 Fantastic Lakes for Recreation near Amarillo, TX

Located on a flat expansive plateau, Amarillo is a dry place dominated by shrublands. But even here, you can find fantastic lakes that offer fishing, swimming, paddling, and camping.
ItIsWild.com: lakes near Amarillo

Amarillo doesn’t have as many reservoirs as cities in east Texas. And the shrublands that surround the city are prone to droughts.

Yet, even here, there are lakes that offer recreational opportunities like fishing and swimming. And some are even big enough for wakeboarding and skiing.

Considering the distance to some of these lakes, the best way to visit is to rent an RV and do multi-day trips. Yet, a few options aren’t that far.

Read on to find out what the area has to offer.

Lakes near Amarillo:

  1. Lake Meredith
  2. Greenbelt Reservoir
  3. Rita Blanca Lake
  4. Lake Palo Duro
  5. Ute Lake
  6. Conchas Lake
  7. Lake Altus-Lugert
Lakes near Amarillo Texas Comparison Table

1. Lake Meredith

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area on an August day
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Lake Meredith
  • Distance from Amarillo: 35 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing

Lake Meredith is a huge 16,111-acre reservoir 35 miles north of Amarillo. It’s a versatile destination with tons of activities on offer.

The land around the lake is managed by National Park Service, which offers half a dozen access points with various facilities. 

The most developed spot is Sanford Yake, in the northern corner of the reservoir. It has a 4-lane boat ramp and ample parking. It’s the only place that offers RV camping with hookups, boat rentals, and fishing supplies.

The rest of the access points are more primitive, but they still provide the basics – boat ramps, restrooms, and parking. An excellent reason to visit one of the less-developed spots is to enjoy free camping by the water and avoid crowds.

When it comes to recreation, there are hardly any limits. For example, swimming is allowed at Lake Meredith, and it’s a great way to cool off in summer. Paddleboarding and kayaking are also popular, with SUPs and kayaks available to rent at Sanford Yake.

And if fishing is your sport of choice, you are in luck, too. The lake is known for trophy catches and holds three state records: walleye, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass. 

It’s the top spot, relatively close to Amarillo!

2. Greenbelt Reservoir

  • Official Page: Greenbelt Reservoir
  • Distance from Amarillo: 61 miles (1h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing

Greenbelt Reservoir is a 1,500-acre lake near Clarendon, some 60 miles from Amarillo. It’s a versatile option, with excellent bank access for fishing and sandy swimming areas.

There are five recreation areas on the lake, with Lakeside Marina being the most developed one. It has an RV park and fishing supplies shop but operates only during the warm season. Call in advance to find out the current opening hours.

The lake is known for fishing, and some people even suggested that it’s the best fishing spot near Amarillo. It even holds a state record for 1.21-pound Oscar, a rare haul. Still, you may catch more fish here, but Lake Meredith has bigger lunkers.

Swimming access is fantastic at Greenbelt Lake; there are wide sandy beaches with no-wake zones. And at the same time, plenty of space for powerboating sports, wakeboarding, and jet skis.

The drawbacks here are trash and occasional rowdy people, but pick your spot wisely, and you will have a good time.

3. Rita Blanca Lake

Man fishing on a lake in Texas
Source: pixabay
  • Official Page: Rita Blanca Lake
  • Distance from Amarillo: 84 miles (1h 20min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Camping, RVs, Hiking, Picnics, Birding, Nature Trips

Rita Blanca Lake is a 524-acre reservoir south of Dalhart. It used to be the northernmost state park in Texas, but nowadays, it’s a city lake with only a handful of visitors.

Still, the reservoir is known for a couple of things. Firstly, it’s a popular location for migratory birds. In winter, it fills up with thousands of fowl, providing fantastic opportunities for birding and photography.

Secondly, unlike other destinations on the list, it offers miles of hiking and biking trails with beautiful lake views.

When it comes to water recreation, the most popular option is fishing. The lake used to be stocked with rainbow trout, which you can still catch. 

For most people, Rita Blanca Lake doesn’t deserve the long drive, especially considering the unkept RV park with just eight sites. Instead, it can be a pleasant place for a pitstop or a brief night on the way elsewhere.  

4. Lake Palo Duro

  • Official Page: Lake Palo Duro
  • Distance from Amarillo: 98 miles (1h 45min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, SUPs, Camping, RVs, Hiking, Picnics, Birding, Nature Trips

Lake Palo Duro is a reservoir near Spearman, almost 100 miles from Amarillo. It’s a highly-rated place known for camping and fishing. Yet, it’s prone to drying up during droughts, so call ahead to find out current conditions.

The reservoir has three access points, all of which have boat ramps and campgrounds with RV sites and hookups. Also, there are a few miles of hiking and biking trails that provide lovely lake views.

Fishing is the most popular activity here. You can expect to catch bass, crappie, catfish, and walleye. Kayaking and paddleboarding are popular, too, and you can rent boats during the season.

Overall, it’s a versatile place with many activities. The only drawback is that the water level has been low for the last decade, preventing powerboat sports. 

Still, many people describe it as a quiet and scenic lake, so it’s more suited for peaceful retreats.

5. Ute Lake

Ute Lake
  • Official Page: Ute Lake State Park
  • Distance from Amarillo: 105 miles (1h 40min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing

Ute Lake is a large 8,200-acre reservoir in New Mexico, 105 miles west of Amarillo. It’s a family-friendly destination with lots of activities and well-kept grounds.

The best way to enjoy the lake is to visit Ute Lake State Park, which has several access areas with every facility imaginable. There are campgrounds, RV sites with hookups, boat ramps, a marina, and several trails for biking and hiking. It’s worth the drive, especially if you’re renting an RV and going on a multi-day trip.

Needless to say, it’s a very versatile destination. Swimming is allowed at Ute Lake, and the state park has a sandy beach for cooling off in summer.

You can also go kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding, or use one of the many boat ramps to launch your own boat. Plus, the lake is large enough for wakeboarding and waterskiing, which are popular activities here.

With so much to offer, Ute Lake is one of the best lakeside destinations near Amarillo. The only drawback is the 100-mile drive, but thanks to the developed campgrounds, it’s an excellent choice for weekend getaways or longer trips.

6. Conchas Lake

  • Official Page: Conchas Lake State Park
  • Distance from Amarillo: 144 miles (2h 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing

Conchas Lake is a 16,033-acre reservoir in New Mexico. It takes over two hours to get here from Amarillo, but it’s worth it.

The lake is another fantastic example of a well-managed and versatile destination operated by a state park system. Like Ute Lake, this reservoir offers plenty of facilities like boat ramps, campgrounds with RV hookups, showers, and a marina.

And when it comes to activities, there are hardly any restrictions here, too. You can go swimming, fishing, kayaking, or blast down the lake on a jet ski. 

Yet, what makes Conchas Lake unique is the petroglyphs that decorate rocks throughout the reservoir. There are many places in New Mexico to see these ancient carvings, but not many where you can do it from the water.

Overall, it’s a terrific lake and a fantastic state park, and apart from the long drive, there are no reasons to miss this destination.

7. Lake Altus-Lugert

Lake Altus-Lugert
Photo: Jpowersok / CC BY 2.5
  • Official Page: Quartz Mountain State Park
  • Distance from Amarillo: 157 miles (2h 30min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing

Lake Altus-Lugert is a sizeable 6,260-acre reservoir in Oklahoma, some 157 miles east of Amarillo. It’s a stunning location at the base of the Wichita Mountains.

The lake is cradled by Quartz Mountain State Park, which offers many access points and a range of modern facilities like lodges and cabins.

Swimming is allowed at Lake Altus-Lugert. And the park offers designated swimming areas that are a great place to cool off in summer. 

But the fun doesn’t stop here. The reservoir has ramps for launching private boats and is a popular place to kayak and paddleboard. 

And when it comes to fishing, it isn’t exactly known for that but large enough to have trophy lunkers. It even holds a state record for a 23-pound hybrid striped bass.

Another resource that separates Lake Altus-Lugert from others is a wide selection of hiking routes. It has a dozen miles of trails that climb into the nearby hills and offer breathtaking views over the water. It’s a great way to explore the area.

As usual, the biggest drawback is the long drive from Amarillo. But this is the nature of the shrublands; good water is hard to come by.

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