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11 Gorgeous Lakes and Reservoirs near Boise, ID

When it comes to water recreation, Boise is the top spot. It's surrounded by lakes and reservoirs, most of which have hardly any restrictions. Fishing, paddling, boating, and swimming are all possible here.
ItIsWild.com: Lakes near Boise Idaho

Boise is a town on the river which offers an abundance of water recreation. But did you know that there are plenty of fantastic lakes and reservoirs around, too?

Whether you’re dreaming of catching a large kokanee or love blasting down on jet skis, there are lakes nearby that offer heaps of fun. Check out the options below to find your next lake destination.

Lakes near Boise:

  1. Lake Lowell
  2. Lucky Peak Lake
  3. Esther Ponds
  4. Bruneau Dunes State Park
  5. Black Canyon Reservoir
  6. C. J. Strike Reservoir
  7. Arrowrock Reservoir
  8. Anderson Ranch Reservoir
  9. Lake Cascade
  10. Lake Owyhee
  11. Stanley Lake
Lakes near Boise Idaho Comparison Table

1. Lake Lowell

Lake Lowell
Photo: Tdferro / CC BY 3.0
  • Official Page: Lake Lowell
  • Distance from Boise: 28 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Hiking, Birding

Lake Lowell is a 9,800-acre man-made reservoir on the outskirts of Nampa. Its 28-mile shoreline offers several parks with easy access to the water and the wildlife refuge with excellent birding opportunities.

During warmer months, the lake is buzzing with visitors enjoying swimming, boating, and fishing. There are practically no restrictions when it comes to water recreation. 

You can make use of the space and safely enjoy wakeboarding, skiing, and jet skis. Or go on a quiet paddling expedition and explore the shoreline.

In addition to water fun, the lake has several hiking trails that are a great way to enjoy the views any time of the year.

What’s missing, however, is campgrounds; it would be nice to spend family weekends by the lake. But with Nampa and Boise nearby, you’re never far from home. 

2. Lucky Peak Lake

  • Official Page: Lucky Peak Lake
  • Distance from Boise: 13 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Hiking, Birding, Camping, Kite Surfing

Lucky Peak Lake is about 3,000 acres in size. It is a man-made reservoir located just 25 minutes east of Boise.

When it comes to recreation options, nothing beats Lucky Peak Lake. It is by far the most versatile destination on the list.

The US Army Corps of Engineers manages dozens of access areas that dot the shoreline. Yet, the best way to enjoy the lake is Lucky Peak State Park which has two distinct areas – Sandy Point and Spring Shores Marina.

Sandy Point features a swimming lake with beach volleyball and paddling and sits just below the dam, 15 minutes from Boise.

Spring Shores Marina, on the other hand, is a boater’s paradise. It provides various boating services, slips, fuel, and launching ramps.

Also, the lake offers several campgrounds and dozens of miles of hiking and biking trails, making it a fun place even if you don’t want to get wet. 

It’s the top spot!

3. Esther Ponds

  • Official Page: Esther Ponds
  • Distance from Boise: 2.5 miles (7 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Birding, Surfing, Biking, Picnics

Esther Ponds are located in Esther Simplot Park, which sits on the Boise River in Garden City. It is the newest addition to the city’s parks and the perfect example of how industrial spaces can be transformed into urban recreation spots.

The park offers several outstanding ponds for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and fishing. In summer, these ponds turn into popular swimming spots thanks to sandy beaches and swimming holes.

The unique feature in the area is Boise Whitewater Park which has a man-made wave for surfing and other whitewater elements for kayaking. It’s a unique and trendy spot!

But the fun doesn’t stop here. The Esther Simplot Park also offers miles of hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, and wetlands teeming with wildlife.

There are complaints of graffiti and homeless people, but these are the only drawbacks. So close to home and with so many features, it’s hard to fault this superb destination!

4. Bruneau Dunes State Park

Bruneau Dunes State Park near Boise Idaho
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Bruneau Dunes State Park
  • Distance from Boise: 62 miles (1h 10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Birding, Camping, Horseriding

Bruneau Dunes State Park has two oasis-like lakes surrounded by the tallest dunes in North America. It’s a unique spot with many things going for it.

The Sahara-like dunes are the park’s biggest attraction; you can climb on top to view breathtaking sunsets or rent sandboards and learn to ride on the sand. It’s a fun place and Idaho’s best-kept secret.

Talking about lakes, the park has two reservoirs complete with boat ramps suited for fishing, paddling, and boating (electric motors only). It’s not the best lakeside destination on the list, but it’s undoubtedly the most unique.

Also, the park offers miles of hiking and equestrian trails and a campground with cabins and tent sites. And still, there is another surprise under the sleeve – the Bruneau Dunes Observatory, which has a selection of telescopes open to the public. Perfect for young astronomers!

Stargazing, nighttime photography, and sandboarding are excellent reasons to visit the park, and access to the lakes is a cherry on top!

5. Black Canyon Reservoir

Black Canyon Reservoir
  • Official Page: Black Canyon Reservoir
  • Distance from Boise: 36 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Hiking, Birding, Camping, Scuba Diving

Black Canyon Reservoir is a 1,100-acre man-made lake north of Boise. It’s a fantastic destination for water sports and lakeside parties.

The reservoir has four access areas, all of which offer swimming beaches and picnic spots. Yet, Black Canyon Park is the largest and the most popular one; it’s good for your first visit to the lake.

When it comes to water activities, the reservoir has it all. You can ski, knee-board, wakeboard, or just chill at the beach. After the warm season, when the lake stops buzzing with activity, it’s a nice place to go fishing and paddling, too.

Montour Campground offers a chance to spend a weekend or more at the lake. There is so much to do here that you won’t get bored quickly.

6. C. J. Strike Reservoir

C. J. Strike Reservoir
Photo: BLMIdahoCC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: C. J. Strike Reservoir
  • Distance from Boise: 52 miles (1h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Birding, Camping

C. J. Strike Reservoir is a 7,500-acre man-made lake south of Boise. It’s a top boating destination with launching ramps that remain open throughout the year.

Like Lucky Peak Lake and Black Canyon Reservoir, C. J. Strike is a versatile place with tons of water activities on offer. From swimming to blasting on jet skis, it’s all possible here.

However, where the reservoir stands out is fishing. In fact, the lake holds to state records: 3.5lbs bluegill and a more recent 67lbs common carp. But you can also catch prized kokanee, rainbow trout, and various other species.

The reservoir offers a mix of paid and free areas, most of which are managed by Idaho Power. There is a selection of campgrounds and boat ramps; some are more developed than others. For the complete list, see the Idaho Power site.

7. Arrowrock Reservoir

  • Official Page: Arrowrock Reservoir
  • Distance from Boise: 28 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Birding, Camping, Hiking

Arrowrock Reservoir is a 3,150-acre reservoir right above Lucky Peak Lake. It is a part of the Boise National Forest and is largely undeveloped and wild, making it different from other options on the list.

Despite the size, there is only one boat ramp at the lake, complete with a restroom and parking, but this is it for facilities.

On the water, there are hardly any restrictions. It’s the boater’s dream where waterskiing, jet skiing, and fishing are primary activities.

And when it comes to camping, the lake offers unlimited boondocking options but hardly any trees. It’s a destination for outdoor fans who don’t mind driving the extra mile to experience the natural wilderness.

8. Anderson Ranch Reservoir

  • Official Page: Anderson Ranch Reservoir
  • Distance from Boise: 70 miles (1h 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Birding, Camping

Anderson Ranch Reservoir is a 4,815-acre lake southeast of Boise. Like Arrowrock Reservoir, it sprawls in Boise National Forest, yet it’s a lot more developed with a selection of boat ramps, campgrounds, and even a resort.

The unique thing about the reservoir is that it gets stocked with kokanee – a prized catch that many anglers long for. In mid-spring, when the kokanee season starts, the lake attracts anglers from far and wide.

In addition to fishing, you can enjoy all sorts of boating, including skiing, wakeboarding, and jet skis. Four boat launches offer easy access to the lake.

Also, the reservoir has a selection of campgrounds, over a dozen of them; most are tiny and primitive but free.

The drawback here is that the place gets super busy during summer weekends, especially holidays. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, it’s better to come during the week if you can.

9. Lake Cascade

Lake Cascade
Photo: Sam BeebeCC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Lake Cascade
  • Distance from Boise: 77 miles (1h 40min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Birding, Camping, Hiking, Sailing

Lake Cascade is a massive 28,000-acre reservoir north of Boise. It’s the fourth largest lake in the state and one of the best spots for recreation, summer or winter.

The lake is as versatile as they come; it’s hard to find prohibited activities here. In summer, it’s the premier spot for swimming, boating, paddling, and hiking. And in winter, it offers ice-fishing and nordic skiing.

The best way to enjoy the lake, especially if it’s your first time here, is to visit Lake Cascade State Park. It has beaches, boat ramps, showers, and a selection of yurts, cabins, and campsites to stay.

Another way is to use Boise National Forest facilities on the western shore. It’s a cheaper but less developed alternative.

And if you’re wondering about fishing, Lake Cascade holds three state records: 3.2lbs yellow perch, 6lbs coho salmon, and 9lbs largescale sucker. It’s long been known as a premier coho salmon spot.

Lake Cascade is an excellent destination for nature fans and families. And despite the long drive from Boise, it’s worth the visit.

10. Lake Owyhee

Lake Owyhee
  • Official Page: Lake Owyhee
  • Distance from Boise: 78 miles (1h 55min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Camping, Hiking

Lake Owyhee is a 13,900-acres reservoir that stretches across the desert in eastern Oregon. It’s the most remote location on the list, with the nearest civilization 33 miles away.

The only way to access this desert oasis is to visit Lake Owyhee State Park, which boasts two campgrounds with yurts and cabins, a boat ramp, and kayak and paddleboard rentals.

Like many other reservoirs around Boise, this lake offers plenty of water recreation, from splashing in the water to blasting down on jetskis. Yet, the area has a serene atmosphere, and one can’t stop admiring the steep canyon walls, layered with geological history.

Because of its remoteness, the lake is usually free from crowds, but even during the busy summer weekends, there is plenty of space to escape. It’s worth the drive, for sure!

11. Stanley Lake

Stanley Lake
  • Official Page: Stanley Lake
  • Distance from Boise: 131 miles (2h 45min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Camping, Hiking

Stanley Lake is a high-altitude natural lake with crystal clear water and breathtaking scenery. It is located in the Sawtooth National Forest, northeast of Boise.

The Sawtooth Mountains are dotted with gorgeous alpine lakes, big and small, and Stanley Lake is a good base for exploring the area, as it has two campgrounds and dozens of miles of trails.

Despite its modest size, the lake offers a wide selection of activities. You can swim, kayak, fish for trout, and even waterski. The water is as clear as can be but also frigid.

A couple of drawbacks in this location are a long drive to get here and a very short season; it starts snowing in September. Still, it’s the most scenic destination on the list, and there are other lakes in the area, like Redfish Lake or hike-in Sawtooth Lake.

Best Lakes near Boise ID

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