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12 Superb Lakes for Recreation near Harrisburg, PA

In Harrisburg, water activities are dominated by the Susquehanna River, but the surrounding area also has plenty of lakes and reservoirs with opportunities for kayaking, swimming, fishing, boating, and winter sports.
itiswild.com Best Lakes near Harrisburg Pennsylvania

The Susquehanna River shaped the history and development of Harrisburg and has always been a source of recreational opportunities like fishing and boating.

Nevertheless, the surrounding area has a wide selection of lakes and reservoirs suitable for swimming, paddling, fishing, camping, and winter activities. All of which are within an hour’s drive.

Many of the lakes here are quiet fishing holes with few visitors. Some are parts of state parks and offer camping and rentals, and some allow power boating sports like water skiing and wakeboarding. 

There is something for everyone here. Check out what Harrisburg has to offer!

Lakes near Harrisburg:

  1. Wildwood Lake
  2. Memorial Lake
  3. Opossum Lake
  4. Conewago Lake
  5. Holman Lake
  6. Fuller Lake
  7. Pinchot Lake
  8. Lake Marburg
  9. Lake Redman
  10. Clarke Lake
  11. Blue Marsh Lake
  12. Ontelaunee Lake
Lakes near Harrisburg Pennsylvania Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Wildwood Lake

Boardwalk trail through the forest at Wildwood Park in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Wildwood Lake
  • Distance from Harrisburg: 4 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Biking, Picnics

Wildwood Lake is a little north of downtown Harrisburg, in an area that has experienced significant change since the late 1800s. 

At that time, much of the city’s raw sewage found its way into Paxton Creek, the small stream that ran into town parallel to and east of the Susquehanna River. 

The first step to address this problem was the creation of greenspace in the area known as Wetzel’s Swamp in 1901 as part of the City Beautiful movement.

Improvements included a dam for flood protection and the redirection of discharge to create Wildwood Lake by diverting clean creek water.

Wildwood Park opened to the public in 1907. The 90-acre shallow lake took shape a year later. Trails and boardwalks were added to this destination. 

Although the southern portion of the park later became the campus of Harrisburg Area Community College in the 1960s, Wildwood Park’s 229 acres continue to invite visitors. 

After Dauphin County agreed to manage the park, the Friends of Wildwood Park formed to support enhancements. 

The Olewine Nature Center opened in the park in 1999, offering interpretive exhibits about the area’s freshwater wetland. 

Those who fish along the lake’s shoreline will naturally encounter largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, yellow bullhead, carp, and pumpkinseed. 

2. Memorial Lake

memorial lake state park
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Memorial Lake
  • Distance from Harrisburg: 21 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Biking, Picnics, Ice Fishing, Ice Skating, Cross-Country Skiing

Located 21 miles northeast in Fort Indiantown Gap, Memorial Lake is the focal point of Memorial Lake State Park

Nearby Fort Indiantown Gap was created in 1931 as a location for the National Guard to train and served as a large-scale training area during World War II and subsequent military actions. 

This 85-acre lake was developed in 1945 from an impounded section of Indiantown Run, a stream in the area, as a place that honors those who have served in the Pennsylvania National Guard.

The 230-acre state park opened to the public in 1955. Open year-round, the park offers hiking, picnicking, ice skating, and cross-country skiing during winter.

Summertime rental of canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and paddle boats promotes access to the lake. An ADA-compliant fishing dock and two boat launch ramps are available. 

Fish found in Memorial Lake include bass, northern pike, yellow perch, panfish, crappie, and muskellunge. 

3. Opossum Lake

  • Website: Opossum Lake
  • Distance from Harrisburg: 30 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Biking, Picnics

A drive 30 miles west of downtown, Opossum Lake is an impoundment of Opossum Creek. The state’s Fish and Boat Commission manages this 47-acre reservoir, along with the 274-acre recreation area in which it sits. 

A popular site for hiking, biking, birdwatching, boating, and fishing, the recreation area includes the four-mile Anglers’ Access Trail that allows guests to walk around the lake’s perimeter.

As a supportive non-profit, the Friends of Opossum Lake Conservancy works in partnership with governmental bodies to preserve the lake and the land surrounding it, as well as promote access to this Cumberland County destination. 

Hand-paddled and electric motor boats may take advantage of the three launch ramps at this facility. Trout, muskellunge, bass, and panfish are found in this reservoir. 

4. Conewago Lake

Conewago Lake Mt Gretna Resort in Pennsylvania
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Conewago Lake
  • Distance from Harrisburg: 36 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics

Conewago Lake is located approximately 30 miles east of downtown Harrisburg in an area with rolling hills. In the early 1880s, the Cornwell and Lebanon Railroad was built in this area. 

Robert Coleman, the railroad’s owner, decided a park named Mount Gretna should sit along a stretch of Conewago Creek near the elevated area of Governor Dick. His crews impounded a section of the creek to create Conewago Lake in 1885. 

Seven years later, the Pennsylvania Chautauqua established a retreat at Mount Gretna, a short distance from the lake. Chautauqua gatherings soon led others to establish cottages and hotels in the area.

The area around this 14-acre reservoir became a popular summer colony. A center of arts and culture for more than 125 years, summertime recreation activities at Mount Gretna Lake and Beach became a place where large crowds came to swim by the early 1930s. 

Today, this resort and tourist destination on Conewago Lake’s northern side attracts those who enjoy swimming and canoeing during the summer. 

Family-owned and operated, this destination provides lake access. Fishing is not permitted in Conewago Lake. 

5. Holman Lake

Cloudy skies and green lake in pennsylvania
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Holman Lake
  • Distance from Harrisburg: 30 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming (pool), Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics, Ice Fishing, Ice Skating, Cross-Country Skiing

Holman Lake is a little less than three miles west of the Juniata River, almost 30 miles northwest of downtown Harrisburg. 

Created by an impoundment of Little Buffalo Creek, this 88-acre lake is surrounded by Little Buffalo State Park. Guests to this park, which first opened in 1972, can see beaver, mink, herons, egrets, and white-tailed deer. 

Eight miles of trails offer great opportunities for bird and nature watching. Historic structures, including Shoaff’s Mill and the Blue Ball Tavern built in 1811, illustrate the area’s history.

Visitors to this year-round park enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, and discovering the region’s natural history. 

The ADA-accessible swimming pool is open during the summer, and the campground remains open until late October. The park offers two public boat launches for hand-paddled or electric-powered watercraft. 

Anglers enjoy casting lines for fish in Little Buffalo Creek throughout the year. Species found here include largemouth bass, panfish, trout, catfish, and muskellunge. Ice fishing is permitted on the lake.

6. Fuller and Laurel Lakes

Pine Grove Furnace State Park Pennsylvania
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Fuller Lake
  • Distance from Harrisburg: 41 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics

A drive 41 miles southwest of downtown Harrisburg, Fuller Lake and its larger sibling, Laurel Lake, sit within Pine Grove Furnace State Park

This 696-acre park hosts a 1.4-mile section of the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail Museum, less than one-half mile away from Fuller Lake’s swimming area, documents this recreation pathway between Georgia and Maine just a few miles from its midpoint. 

Once a center of the charcoal-fired iron industry, Pine Grove Furnace is surrounded by Michaux State Forest, more than 85,500 acres known today as the state’s “cradle of forestry.” 

Less than two acres in size, Fuller Lake primarily serves as a swimming lake. Non-combustible boats are limited to Laurel Lake, a 25-acre body of water also along Mountain Creek, 1.5 miles to the northeast. 

With seasonal swimming and camping, those who enjoy fishing will find perch, pickerel, and stocked trout in Fuller Lake. Mountain Creek is known for brook, brown, and rainbow trout. 

Ice fishing is permitted on nearby Laurel Lake. 

7. Pinchot Lake

Sunset over Pinchot Lake, at Gifford Pinchot State Park, Pennsylvania
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Pinchot Lake
  • Distance from Harrisburg: 17 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Rowing, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics, Ice Fishing, Ice Skating, Cross-Country Skiing

Pinchot Lake is a 17-mile drive south of the city. This 340-acre lake sits within Gifford Pinchot State Park, between the towns of Lewisberry and Rossville. 

Open throughout the year, this 2,338-acre park, nestled within hillsides and former farm fields, offers recreation options for all seasons. 

The park presents guests with more than 18 miles of well-maintained trails for all-season access. Disc golfing, bike and horse riding, wildlife watching, seasonal swimming, hunting, boating, and fishing are popular activities. 

Designated as a Big Bass Lake, Pinchot Lake is popular with anglers. Common fish found in the lake include hybrid striped bass, largemouth bass, sunfish, catfish, carp, walleye, muskellunge, and crappie.

8. Lake Marburg

Rocks and a picnic table in Lake Marburg, at Codorus State Park, Pennsylvania
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Marburg
  • Distance from Harrisburg: 45 miles (1 hr)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming (pool), Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Sailing, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics, Ice Fishing, Ice Skating, Cross-Country Skiing, Ice Boating, Snowmobiling

A little more than 40 miles south of the city, Lake Marburg was created as the result of a public-private partnership with the Glatfelter Paper Company of Spring Grove. 

Created in the late 1960s, this lake serves two purposes: to supply the needs of the paper factory and offer recreation opportunities. 

To create this 1,275-acre reservoir along Codorus Creek, the former town of Marburg was abandoned, and the site now sits under the lake. 

Codorus State Park opened in 1965, and Lake Marburg took its present shape in 1970. This 3,490-acre preserve attracts visitors who enjoy hunting, camping, hiking, fishing, and boating. 

Sailboats and motorboats may use seven launch ramps to access the lake. In addition to 26 miles of shoreline, a seasonal pool and campground welcome guests during warmer months.

Fishing is popular on Lake Marburg. Bow fishing is permitted along the lake’s shallow coves. Species here include catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, northern pike, bluegill, muskellunge, and yellow perch. 

9. Lake Redman

Lake Redman
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Redman
  • Distance from Harrisburg: 34 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Rowing, Hiking, Picnics

A little more than 30 miles south of the city and six miles south of York, Lake Redman is a great fishing destination. 

This body of water sits within the 1,637-acre William H. Kain County Park, a recreation area created under a long-term lease between the York Water Company and the York County Department of Parks & Recreation. 

Immediately west of the 290-acre Lake Redman, the park also includes the 220-acre Lake Williams, another reservoir for the county. 

Kain County Park has more than 12 miles of trails that may also be used for mountain biking or horse riding, except during periods of excessive rain. 

Watercraft without gas-burning motors may enter the lakes. Crappy, pike, stripers, muskie, catfish, and sunfish are commonly spotted.

Immediately west of Lake Williams, Richard Nixon Park occupies 213 acres of meadows and woodland. A visit to this park allows guests to access 6 miles of trails and a large nature center that documents local and Pennsylvania flora and fauna.

10. Clarke Lake

Clarke Lake Pennsylvania
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Clarke Lake
  • Distance from Harrisburg: 30 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

A drive of 30 miles southeast from downtown affords the opportunity to enjoy vistas and fishing along Clarke Lake, an expanded 12-mile-long section of the Susquehanna River at Long Level. 

Also known as Lake Clarke, this portion of the river flooded sections of the Conejohela Valley after workers finished construction of the Safe Harbor Dam in the early 1930s to generate hydroelectric power.

One of four hydroelectric dams along the lower Susquehanna, the Safe Harbor Dam creates a lake with approximately 7,360 surface acres. 

A variety of playgrounds, picnic sites, and boat ramps along the lake are provided by the Safe Harbor Water Power Corporation, the entity that operates the dam.

The borough of Columbia sits on the eastern side of the river, near the upper portion of the lake. Directly across from it on the lake’s west shore is the borough of Wrightsville. Both offer lake access and are connected by an impressive Veterans Memorial Bridge. 

Boaters throughout the lake report regular catches of smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and flathead catfish.

Related: Lake Clarke Guide

11. Blue Marsh Lake

Poignant landscape of two lone trees at the edge of Blue Marsh Lake after a winter storm
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Blue Marsh Lake
  • Distance from Harrisburg: 52 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics

Approximately 50 miles east of the city, on the northwestern outskirts of Reading, Blue Marsh Lake is an impoundment created by the US Army Corps of Engineers along Tulpehocken Creek. 

Completed in 1979, the dam built for water quality, water supply, recreation, and flood control along part of the Schuylkill River Valley created a reservoir of 1,148 surface acres.

In addition to the waters of Blue Marsh Lake, the recreation area near this dam includes picnic sites, boat launches, and more than 36 miles of trails within approximately 6,200 acres. 

Fishing prospects in this reservoir are excellent. Common species include bass, walleye, trout, crappie, sunfish, bluegill, and yellow perch.

12. Ontelaunee Lake

Ontelaunee Lake Pennsylvania
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Ontelaunee Lake
  • Distance from Harrisburg: 60 miles (1 hr)
  • Activities: Fishing, Hiking, Biking, Picnics

Ontelaunee Lake is located 60 miles east-northeast of Harrisburg. The second-largest lake in Berks County after Blue Marsh, this 1,082 body of water is also an artificial reservoir. 

The City of Reading began to build a dam along a section of Maiden Creek in 1926 to create a reliable water supply for the community. The lake took shape in the early 1930s. Hiking and hunting are popular here. 

Although boating and direct water contact through swimming and other activities are prohibited, fishing is a very common activity on Lake Ontelaunee. 

Catfish, muskellunge, bass, catfish, alewife, perch, bluegill, carp, and sunfish swim in this reservoir. 

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