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9 Incredible Recreational Lakes near Branson, MO

Branson may not have the largest selection of lakes, but its reservoirs are highly versatile and well-developed for outdoor tourism. Lake Taneycomo is a typical starting point, but Table Rock Lake offers more space for water activities.
ItIsWild.com Best Lakes near Branson Missouri

With over 9 million visitors per year, to say that Branson is a popular place is an understatement. The city’s success is attributed to the wide variety of attractions, including the magnificent lakes teeming with fish and buzzing with water activities.

The three main options are Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake, and Bull Shoals Lake – all highly versatile choices with excellent facilities and a dozen of state fish records.  

But the area has a lot more to offer. In addition to the famous trio, you can find quiet options where only kayaking, fishing, and hiking are allowed. Or, check out other large reservoirs like Beaver Lake or Stockton Lake.

From swimming and paddleboarding to waterskiing and scuba diving, Branson’s lakes offer a lot of fun. Check out what the city has to offer!

Lakes near Branson:

  1. Lake Taneycomo
  2. Table Rock Lake
  3. Bull Shoals Lake
  4. Lake Springfield
  5. Fellows Lake
  6. Lake Leatherwood
  7. Eureka Springs City Lake
  8. Beaver Lake
  9. Stockton Lake
Lakes near Branson Missouri Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Lake Taneycomo

Lake Taneycomo in Branson MO
Source: pexels
  • Website: Lake Taneycomo
  • Distance from Branson: 0 miles (0 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Alongside downtown Branson and the immediate area, Lake Taneycomo was first formed in 1913. Crews built a hydroelectric dam along the White River at Powersite, east of Branson. 

This downriver dam brought power to the region and created a reservoir that had the characteristics of a warm-water lake. Situated in Taney County, MO, the lake’s name is a portmanteau for its location.

The lake’s nature changed to a more cold-water flow after the construction of Table Rock Dam in 1958 at the lake’s headwaters. The 2,078-acre reservoir that maintains its riverlike appearance soon became Missouri’s coldest lake. 

Although interest in summertime swimming in the lake declined after tailwater from Table Rock Lake flowed into Lake Taneycomo, the increasing popularity of tourist destinations in and around Branson has sustained water activities along the lake’s shoreline that stretches for 40 miles. 

With all of the lakeside activities at resorts, campgrounds, and marinas, much of Branson’s commercial activity is centered around Lake Taneycomo

A popular part of that tradition involves fishing for brown and rainbow trout, along with bluegill, catfish, and bass. Missouri’s record brown trout (40 lbs. 6 oz) was caught here in 2019. 

2. Table Rock Lake

Table Rock Lake Wakeboarding
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Table Rock Lake
  • Distance from Branson: 9 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Scuba Diving

Table Rock Lake is a massive 43,100-acre reservoir southwest of Branson. It’s a nation-famous vacation spot and a water playground like no other.

With over 850 miles of shoreline, it has no shortage of beaches, parks, resorts, marinas, and recreational areas. The choice will depend on how much you want to spend or drive.

The nearest spot to Branson is Table Rock State Park – an all-in-one destination for lakegoers. It has a marina with boat rentals, campgrounds, and miles of hiking trails. 

Needless to say, a lake like this offers every activity imaginable, and fishing here is incredible. Table Rock Lake is a one-time state record holder in Arkansas and three-time in Missouri, including the monster record for 139lbs 4oz paddlefish. 

With over 25 fish species on offer, it’s a fun lake for anglers. However, it takes time to learn its character, depths, and patterns.

Table Rock Lake is an excellent alternative to Lake Taneycomo, especially if you enjoy water activities and the outdoors. 

3. Bull Shoals Lake

Bull Shoals Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Bull Shoals Lake
  • Distance from Branson: 32 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Located further downriver from Lake Taneycomo and straddling the Missouri-Arkansas state line, Bull Shoals Lake is the last artificial lake along the White River built for flood control. Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake, and Beaver Lake sit above this reservoir.

Prior to the completion of the Bull Shoals Dam in 1951, workers exhumed burials from family and community cemeteries near the White River. 

Nearly all of the 700-mile shoreline of Bull Shoals Lake remains undeveloped. This 45,000-acre reservoir is mostly surrounded by forests that attract a variety of wildlife. 

Lakefront destinations offer opportunities for camping and recreation. The Drury-Mincy Conservation Area, 14 miles southeast of Branson, has preserved the local deer habitat since the late 1930s. 

Buck Creek Campground, 42 miles southeast of Branson, has a campground and picnicking areas. It sits on the lake’s north side, in an area where the last state-managed ferry in Arkansas still operates. 

Bull Shoals–White River State Park, located 70 miles southeast of Branson in Arkansas, offers campsites, multiple trails, and impressive views from the area near the dam.

Commonly caught fish are bass, catfish, walleye, crappie, bluegill, sunfish, and trout. 

This lake holds records for both states, including smallmouth bass (7 lbs. 5 oz., Arkansas) in 1969, spotted bass (7 lbs. 15 oz, Arkansas) in 1983, walleye (21 lbs. 1 oz, Missouri) in 1988, longnose gar (35 lbs. 9 oz., Missouri) in 2013, striped bass (65 lbs, 2 oz, Missouri) in 2015, and yellow perch (2 lbs. 7 oz., Missouri) in 2021.

4. Lake Springfield

  • Website: Lake Springfield
  • Distance from Branson: 34 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking

A drive 34 miles north of Branson allows visitors to enjoy Lake Springfield. Designed as an artificial lake along the James River in 1957, the impoundment of a section of the river served the cooling needs for a local power plant for the city of Springfield. 

Although the James River Power Station closed in 2021, the 318-acre reservoir continues to offer a variety of recreational activities for those who come to the area.

The Missouri Department of Conservation built a fishing dock, platforms, and a boat ramp in the early 1990s. With more than 150 acres, Lake Springfield Park includes trails and extended shoreline access. A boathouse serves as a special events venue and offers boat rentals. 

Anglers will enjoy the fishing opportunities Lake Springfield offers. Notable species found in this reservoir include bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill, and sunfish. 

5. Fellows Lake

Fellows Lake Missouri
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Fellows Lake
  • Distance from Branson: 50 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing

Located approximately 50 miles north of Branson, Fellows Lake took shape after crews impounded a section of the Little Sac River in 1955 as a source of drinking water for Springfield. 

An 860-acre reservoir, Fellows Lake has also grown into a popular recreation site with trails and great fishing spots. 

Kayaking, canoeing, and boating are popular ways to explore the lake. Motorized boats are limited to 40 hp. 

Fellows Lake’s fish population attracts anglers from throughout the region. Muskies are becoming a top catch, though bluegill, bass, walleye, crappie, and catfish are also frequently caught. 

6. Lake Leatherwood

Lake Leatherwood Arkansas
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Lake Leatherwood
  • Distance from Branson: 54 miles (1hr 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking

A little more than 50 miles southwest of Branson, Lake Leatherwood formed after workers impounded a section of West Leatherwood Creek on the northern outskirts of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. 

Crews cut native limestone quarried from the area into blocks that formed the dam in 1940 that impounded water in an area with an 85-acre spring-fed lake. 

Lake Leatherwood City Park has more than 25 miles of trails, picnic spots, interesting rock formations, and plenty of areas for nature and wildlife viewing. Cabins are available for rent year-round in this area. 

Visitors to Lake Leatherwood have access to a paved boat ramp and launch sites for canoes and kayaks. Motorized vessels must operate under a “no wake” rule to preserve the lake’s tranquil nature. 

Abundant amounts of bluegill, bream, crappie, channel fish, and largemouth bass are found in the lake. 

7. Eureka Springs City Lake

Canadian goose and lily pads
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Eureka Springs City Lake
  • Distance from Branson: 51 miles (1hr 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking

A drive 5 miles south of Lake Leatherwood, Eureka Springs City Lake has one of the oldest remaining dams in the Ozarks, a stone-cut structure built in 1894. 

Commonly known as Black Bass Lake, this impoundment was originally created as a source of drinking water. 

Parking is limited for those who venture to Black Bass Lake, and no facilities are available for those who come to this reservoir. 

A trail and prominent shoreline points allow for walking, bike riding, and bank fishing. This serene location is a place for anglers who prefer to cast a line in a quiet, off-the-beaten-path area. Fish in this lake include bluegill, spotted bass, and largemouth bass.

8. Beaver Lake

Beaver Lake Arkansas
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Beaver Lake
  • Distance from Branson: 57 miles (1hr 20min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Scuba Diving

Beaver Lake is a 28,280-acre reservoir almost 60 miles southwest of Branson. It’s a highly-popular and versatile destination offering every water activity imaginable.

The lake’s 487-mile shoreline has numerous recreational areas, from beaches and day-use parks to resorts and marinas. Hobbs State Park is the best area for hikers and nature enthusiasts, but the nearest option to Branson is the Beaver Dam Site Park

Prairie Creek area is on the far end of this reservoir. It’s an all-in-one stop with campgrounds, rentals, a floating restaurant, and a designated swimming area – everything you may need on a lake trip.

When it comes to activities, there are no limits at Beaver Lake. You can try wakeboarding, paddleboarding, or even scuba diving, just to name a few.

However, the most popular sport here is fishing. The lake rates really high and offers a wide selection of species, including a variety of bass, walleye, catfish, and various panfish. 

The fish sizes rarely disappoint at Beaver Lake. It holds the state record for paddlefish – the 118lbs 9oz monster was caught just recently (2020). 

And if you want to catch the biggest bass of your life, try the lake’s tailwater. This stretch of White River has the largest striped bass in the state, with the record to prove it. 

9. Stockton Lake

stockton lake state park marina
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Stockton Lake
  • Distance from Branson: 84 miles (1hr 30min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Scuba Diving

A little more than 80 miles north-northwest of Branson, Stockton Lake is a pleasant location to enjoy a boat ride while viewing rock formations rising along the shoreline. 

Created when the US Army Corps of Engineers impounded a section of the Sac River in 1970, this 24,900-acre reservoir offers boaters and sailors a great place to fish, waterski, and scuba dive. 

Stockton State Park sits along a portion of this lake. Many use the docks and launches as a year-round starting point for their water adventures. Campsites are also available. 

Fish commonly caught in the lake include bass, crappie, catfish, walleye, and bluegill, with quiet coves throughout the reservoir for those who want to fish in a more secluded area. 

Record catches in Missouri have happened in this lake. A 2 lbs. 2 oz. green sunfish in 1971, an 18 lbs. 9 oz. northern pike in 1975, and a 7 lbs. 2 oz. smallmouth bass in 1994 came from Lake Stockton. 

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