11 Highly-Rated Recreational Lakes near Clarksville, TN

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The selection of lakes and reservoirs around Clarksville is excellent. The choice varies between quiet fishing holes, state park lakes, and massive COE reservoirs.

Places like Montgomery Bell State Park and Pennyrile Lake are fantastic family-friendly spots with designated swimming areas, boat rentals, and plenty of lodging options.

Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake are obvious choices for powerboating, water skiing, and wakeboarding. This pair has a dozen state fishing records in Kentucky and Tennessee, as well.

Clarksville offers all types of lake activities. Learn more about the area and discover the options! 

Lakes near Clarksville:

  1. Cheatham Lake
  2. Lake Barkley
  3. Kentucky Lake
  4. Marrowbone Lake
  5. Lake Blythe
  6. Lake Morris
  7. Lake Malone
  8. Spa Lake
  9. Lake Beshear
  10. Pennyrile Lake
  11. Montgomery Bell State Park
Lakes near Clarksville Tennessee Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Cheatham Lake

  • Website: Cheatham Lake
  • Distance from Clarksville: 25 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

A 25-mile drive south-southeast of downtown Clarksville, Cheatham Lake is a 7,450-acre impoundment of the Cumberland River. 

Managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, this body of water, also known as Cheatham Reservoir, took shape after a dam went into service in December 1952. 

The Cheatham Lock and Dam is located along a section of the river between Clarksville and Ashland City, generating hydroelectric power.

Visitors can enjoy campgrounds and day-use recreation sites. The Right Bank Recreation Area offers picnic facilities along Cheatham Lake. 

Lock A Campground, along the lake, and Harpeth River Bridge Campground, a short distance from where the Harpeth River flows into the lake, are locations for overnight stays. 

At the point where the Harpeth River flows into Cheatham Lake, the Pardue Boat Launch and Picnic Area provides convenient access.

Anglers who visit Cheatham Lake will find a variety of fish. Species include largemouth bass, white bass, white crappie, sauger, rainbow trout, catfish, and walleye.

2. Lake Barkley

Autumn forests and river overlook by drone DJI mavic mini bird-view skyline of Barkley Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Barkey
  • Distance from Clarksville: 51 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Located 45 to 60 miles northwest of the city, the extensive waterway known as Lake Barkey took its present form when a dam was built along a section of the Cumberland River in 1966. 

Shared by Tennessee and Kentucky, this body of water spans approximately 57,820 acres in an area known as the Land Between the Lakes.

Numerous camping and outdoor recreation activities exist in this area. 

A great stopping place for visitors unfamiliar with the area is Kentucky’s Lake Barkley State Resort Park, located near Cadiz. This site includes a year-round lodge, many areas to fish, and seasonal camping sites. 

The larger Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area covers more than 170,000 acres of open land, wetlands, and forest areas. More than 500 miles of trails offer opportunities to explore this region. 

Lake Barkley has a variety of bluegill, crappie, catfish, and gar. A record 118 lbs. blue catfish was caught here in September 2022. 

Tennessee state record catches of longnose gar (38 lbs. 3 oz., in 2002), shortnose gar (7 lbs., 3 oz., in 2014), and spotted gar (10 lbs. 10 oz., in 2014) took place here. 

3. Kentucky Lake

Pier with boats overlook by DJI mavic mini Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, Grand Rivers, Kentucky
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Kentucky Lake
  • Distance from Clarksville: 45 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Located on the western shore of the Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky Lake spans more than 160,000 acres in surface area. 

The largest lake east of the Mississippi River in terms of its area, this extensive freshwater body joins Lake Barkley as a very popular recreation site with hundreds of miles of trails, many campsites, and numerous boat launches and areas for shoreline fishing. 

A great location for those who enjoy fishing, Kentucky Lake holds many Kentucky and Tennessee fishing records for a variety of species. 

Experienced anglers tend to find a favorite location in this large lake, and cast their lines there. 

4. Marrowbone Lake

Marrowbone Lake Dam
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Marrowbone Lake
  • Distance from Clarksville: 40 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing

Those heading toward Nashville will have an opportunity to stop at Marrowbone Lake, a 60-acre body of water less than 40 miles southeast of the city near the Clarksville Pike. 

Only 15 miles northwest of downtown Nashville, this reservoir was created after workers impounded a section of Marrowbone Creek in 1939. 

The area selected for the creation of this lake was at the convergence of other smaller creeks, creating a perfect recreation destination with narrow and shallow areas.

Visitors to Marrowbone Lake will find a fishing pier, picnic area, boat launch, and concession site along the reservoir’s north end, a short distance from the impoundment. 

Maintained by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, this year-round fishing site is a popular summertime escape for Nashvillians who need a break from the city.

Anglers who visit Marrowbone Lake will find an abundance of channel catfish and largemouth bass. 

Other fish found here include redear sunfish, bluegill, crappie, spotted bass, and blue and channel catfish. 

A state record common carp, weighing 53 lbs., was caught in this lake in 1997.

5. Lake Blythe

Dramatic skies over a clear lake in Kentucky
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Blythe
  • Distance from Clarksville: 34 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking

A drive of 34 miles north of the city, on the northern side of Hopkinsville, offers an opportunity to visit Lake Blythe, an 81-acre reservoir in Christian County. 

This location is perfect for those who enjoy a day of fishing away from the crowds and on a lake that may not have many amenities but plenty of peace and quiet. 

Lake Blythe came into existence after a dam was completed along a branch of the North Fork Little River. 

This reservoir provides drinking water to the immediate area while also creating a location where anglers can cast lines throughout the year. 

An unpaved boat launch ramp is available a short distance from US Highway 41, one of the major corridors in the region. 

Those who fish here will find bluegill, perch, crappie, catfish, and striped and white bass.

6. Lake Morris

A man and a woman in a small boat on a vast blue rippling lake surrounded by lush green trees, grass and plants with blue sky, clouds and a rainbow at a lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Morris
  • Distance from Clarksville: 33 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking

Lake Morris is approximately 33 miles north of Clarksville, just beyond Hopkinsville. 

Located a little more than two miles east of Lake Blythe, this reservoir was created in 1929 along the North Fork Little River’s Upper Branch. During the early 1920s, Hopkinsville suffered from many dry years. 

This reservoir, presently managed by the Hopkinsville Water Environment Authority, honors Thomas Whitlock Morris, the water superintendent for the city between 1896 and 1934. 

The earthen dam was raised by five feet in 1956, allowing the lake to hold additional water. 

This 149-acre reservoir includes a ramp on its western end. Only boats with electric motors are permitted in Lake Morris, a generally quiet location to fish that does not attract the crowds found in state parks. 

A great place to escape for a relaxing day of fishing, this reservoir is open year-round. 

Species found here include largemouth bass, rock bass, striped bass, white crappie, catfish, perch, and bluegill.

7. Lake Malone

  • Website: Lake Malone
  • Distance from Clarksville: 48 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

A drive of just under 50 miles northeast of downtown offers a chance to visit Lake Malone. 

Named for the family that donated much of the land presently covered by the lake, this 788-acre body of water was created after workers impounded Rocky Creek in 1961.

The 338-acre Lake Malone State Park opened the following year along a northern section of the lake. The park maintains seasonal operating hours from mid-March through mid-November. 

Other commercial boat ramps also have seasonal hours, so wintertime visitors should confirm launch availability if they plan to come after the season has ended.

The park welcomed a new attraction of sorts in the summer of 2021. A “family” of sculpted, 14-foot-high Big Twigs greet visitors. Wooden sculptures such as the lakeside “Bobber Malone” and “Happy Malone” near the campground add character to nearby holly, dogwood, and laurel trees. 

Trails allow visitors to enjoy wildflowers and see birds and wildlife.

Those who appreciate the water may access a swimming area, as well as enjoy skiing, kayaking, canoeing, wakeboarding, and boating. 

Similar to many state parks, Lake Malone has a fishing loaner program with equipment available to borrow free of charge. 

Channel catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish, crappie, spotted gar, and largemouth bass are frequently caught in the lake. 

8. Spa Lake

Kentucky Lake during summertime
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Spa Lake
  • Distance from Clarksville: 39 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics

Spa Lake is an out-of-the-way fishing spot that is a 39-mile drive from Clarksville. This body of water became a fishing destination for locals after the impoundment of Wolf Lick Creek on the north side of the current 219-acre lake. 

Located in Logan County, Spa Lake has a shoreline and boat ramp open throughout the year adjacent to the dam. No other facilities exist at this site. 

Boaters who navigate this narrow river-like area will find great coves along the twists and turns. 

With year-round access to the lake, anglers can try to catch bluegill, green sunfish, channel catfish, white crappie, and largemouth bass.

9. Lake Beshear

Doubledecker boat on a lake in Kentucky
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Beshear
  • Distance from Clarksville: 57 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Located a little more than 55 miles north-northwest of Clarksville, Lake Beshear is an impoundment of both Piney Creek and Clifty Creek that took shape in 1962. 

Constructed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, this 784-acre reservoir serves as the drinking water source for nearby Dawson Springs. 

Much of the lake’s 23 miles of shoreline borders portions of Pennyrile State Forest, but the rest is privately owned.

Also known to locals as Piney Creek Lake, public fishing began in this reservoir in 1964. 

The only boat launch ramp at Lake Beshear sits at the northern point of the lake, near the earthen dam. Finding a place for bank fishing or swimming is difficult, but boaters love this lake.

On the other side of the dam, Piney Creek merges into the Tradewater River, less than 300 feet away. 

Those who fish here will see white and black crappie, blue and channel catfish, bluegill, green and longear sunfish, and occasional largemouth bass. 

10. Pennyrile Lake

A lake with lush green banks in Kentucky
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Pennyrile Lake
  • Distance from Clarksville: 49 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping

Pennyrile Lake is located in Pennyrile State Forest, almost 50 miles northwest of Clarksville and just a few miles south of Lake Beshear.

Situated amidst Pennyrile State Forest, this hidden gem is a popular destination for families. 

The Pennyrile State Resort provides access to the lake and offers a designated swimming area, kayak and pedal boat rentals, a golf course, a campground, and a lodge.

The surrounding forest has dozens of miles of trails for hiking and equestrian use. The 2.6-mile loop around the lake is a popular choice.

Motorized boats are prohibited at Pennyrile Lake. Lake Beshear is the nearest alternative.

Thanks to its quiet nature and the lack of motorboats, this lake is a pleasant fishing hole. Anglers are unlikely to catch any lunkers, but it’s an excellent place to teach youngsters fishing.

11. Montgomery Bell State Park

  • Website: Montgomery Bell State Park 
  • Distance from Clarksville: 35 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Biking

A drive 35 miles south of Clarksville and an equal distance west of Nashville, Montgomery Bell State Park offers an outdoor recreation escape from the urban environment. 

This 3,850-acre park once served as a focal point of Middle Tennessee’s iron industry. Today, the quest for finding veins of iron ore has been replaced with enjoying opportunities for hiking, camping, golfing, biking, fishing, boating, and birdwatching.

This park has three major lakes, narrow streams, a trail network for hiking and mountain biking, and a summertime swimming beach along Acorn Lake, which is located near the recently remodeled lodge. 

Visitors can enjoy all three lakes within the park – 26-acre Acorn Lake, 17.5-acre Creech Hollow Lake, and 50-acre Lake Woodhaven – along with a few small ponds and creeks. A boat ramp is available on Lake Woodhaven. 

Anglers may bring their own boats to this park, though outboard motors are not permitted. Pedal boats, kayaks, canoes, and small boats may be rented during the season. 

Black crappie and largemouth bass are found in large numbers at all three lakes for those on a vessel or fishing from the embankment. 

Other species found here include bullhead, bluegill, rock bass, panfish, sunfish, carp, warmouth, and catfish. 

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