11 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Indianapolis, IN

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The unique fact about lakes near Indianapolis is that they are highly versatile – hardly any options on the list have restrictions on recreational sports.

Even the main trio of lakes – Eagle Creek, Geist, and Morse Reservoirs – allow activities like swimming, waterskiing, and wakeboarding, which is rare for city lakes.

The only activity that’s missing from the main three is camping. If you plan on lakeside camping, you will have to travel over 30 minutes from the city. But generally, the choice of lakes here is excellent.

Check out what Indianapolis has to offer!

Lakes near Indianapolis:

  1. Eagle Creek Reservoir
  2. Geist Reservoir
  3. Morse Reservoir
  4. Lake Lemon
  5. Lake Monroe
  6. Cagles Mill Lake
  7. Cecil M. Harden Lake
  8. Lake Waveland
  9. Summit Lake
  10. Prairie Creek Reservoir
  11. Brookville Lake
Lakes near Indianapolis Indiana Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Eagle Creek Reservoir

Eagle Creek Reservoir
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Eagle Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from Indianapolis: 12 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Located 12 miles northwest of downtown Indianapolis, much of Eagle Creek Reservoir was a country estate known as Eagle Crest Estate. In 1958, the owner of this land donated it to Purdue University. 

City officials in Indianapolis successfully negotiated with the university to purchase 2,286 acres of land as a flood control measure along Eagle Creek. Workers finished the dam in 1969, and Eagle Creek Reservoir was filled in 1970. 

Today, this 1,300-acre body of water and 3,900 acres of surrounding terrain are the largest park in the city and one of the largest in the nation. 

For more than 50 years, residents of Indianapolis have enjoyed boating, fishing, hiking, and biking at Eagle Creek Park

New amenities have been added throughout the years, including the Ornithology Center and a zipline. The park offers a great location to see double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, and other wildlife, as well as wetlands, woods, and grasslands. 

Time spent boating along this city-owned reservoir is a top reason that people visit Eagle Creek. Fish found here include bluegill, walleye, catfish, white crappie, bass, and wipers.

2. Geist Reservoir

  • Website: Geist Reservoir
  • Distance from Indianapolis: 20 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Indianapolis city authorities acquired 5,727 acres of land approximately 15 miles northeast of downtown in the 1920s. The Indianapolis Water Company built a dam across Fall Creek, creating the 1,800-acre Geist Reservoir for drinking water purposes in the early 1940s. In the 1950s, dry land around the reservoir was developed.

Although private homes now cover many former lakefront fishing areas, the City of Fishers has started to develop a 70-acre park on the north side of the reservoir that should be completed by 2023. 

A second area, Geist Park, has provided access to the reservoir near where Fall Creek first flows into it since the 1980s. 

The developments around the lake and the body’s ownership by a private firm have led to earlier complaints about lack of access, though these parks address this issue. 

Although bass tournaments have become a ritual at Geist Reservoir, this body of water accommodates other species. These include crappie, bluegill, sunfish, catfish, and walleye. 

3. Morse Reservoir

Boat on a lake aerial view
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Morse Reservoir
  • Distance from Indianapolis: 28 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Located north of downtown near Noblesville and Cicero, Morse Reservoir came into being because of concerns that the Geist Reservoir would not meet the city’s long-term drinking water needs. 

The Indianapolis Water Company supervised the construction of a dam, dedicating it in 1956. Into the 1970s, few people lived near this 1,500-acre body of water. After the Indianapolis Water Company started developing residential communities in the area, lakefront subdivisions appeared throughout this region.

Two parks offer excellent access to Morse Reservoir. Town officials in Cicero created Red Bridge Park at the northern end of the reservoir. This venue has a pool, walking paths, clubhouse, and marina. 

Since 1972, Morse Park and Beach has provided lakefront access at the southern end of the reservoir, adjacent to the dam, in Noblesville. In addition to boating and fishing, those who visit this 23-acre park have access to a disc golf course, volleyball court, sports fields, a playground, and picnic areas. 

Anglers with watercraft fish throughout the reservoir. Common catches include bass, black crappie, and bluegill. The Indiana state record yellow bass, weighing in at 2 lbs. 15 oz., was caught here in 2000, which also stands as the world record.

4. Lake Lemon

Lake Lemon Indiana
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Lake Lemon
  • Distance from Indianapolis: 44 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Approximately 44 miles south of central Indianapolis, Lake Lemon was created in 1953 as an impoundment along Beanblossom Creek. The 1,650-acre reservoir filled a drainage basin surrounded by woods and slight hills. 

Created as a source of drinking water for Bloomington, ten miles to the southwest, Lake Lemon remained that city’s primary water source until the late 1960s.

Since the mid-1990s, the Lake Lemon Conservancy District has assumed management and oversight of the reservoir. 

Public access is provided at Riddle Point Park on the western shore. This park offers a beach and seasonal swimming area, playground, and recreation fields, along with a place to launch watercraft. 

With 24 miles of shoreline, many waterfront areas are available for bank fishing. Whether along the lakefront or on a boat, those casting a line can expect to find bass, crappie, catfish, yellow perch, and bluegill. 

5. Lake Monroe

Lake Monroe in Indiana
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Monroe
  • Distance from Indianapolis: 61 miles (1hr 20min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A drive of 61 miles south of the city and a short distance southeast of Bloomington, Lake Monroe transformed into a 10,750-acre reservoir in 1965. A year earlier, the US Army Corps of Engineers built a dam along Salt Creek. 

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources manages a number of state recreation areas (SRAs). These include Allen’s Creek SRA, Cutright SRA, Crooked Creek SRA, Pine Grove SRA, Moore’s Creek SRA, Salt Creek SRA, Fairfax SRA, and Paynetown SRA. 

The various public lands and recreation areas along Indiana’s largest body of water offer numerous recreational opportunities. Rental facilities have boats, jet skis, canoes, and pontoons available. 

Hiking and biking trails allow for journeys into hilly, forested areas. Fishing and boating are popular activities, with ice fishing permitted in certain areas during the winter.

The sheer size of the lake allows for a diversity of fish species. These include bass, crappie, catfish, bullhead, and hybrid stripers.

6. Cagles Mill Lake

Lower Cataract Falls in Indiana
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Cagles Mill Lake
  • Distance from Indianapolis: 51 miles (1 hr)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Fifty miles southwest of downtown, just beyond Cloverdale, Cagles Mill Lake became the first flood control reservoir created in Indiana when built in 1952. 

Also known as Cataract Lake, this 1,400-acre reservoir exists in an area where waterfalls flow along bedrock ridges shaped during the Ice Age. 

Popular nature preserves to visit in this area include Lieber State Recreation Area and Cataract Falls State Recreation Area. These locations have a variety of amenities that include an aquatic center open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, picnic areas, athletic fields, hiking trails, fishing areas, and boat launch areas. Campgrounds offer a place to stay overnight. 

Fishing from the shoreline or the reservoir gives anglers a chance to catch channel catfish, white and black crappie, muskie, bluegill, walleye, and bass. 

Summertime also brings swimmers and water skiers to the reservoir. 

7. Cecil M. Harden Lake

  • Website: Cecil M. Harden Lake
  • Distance from Indianapolis: 50 miles (1hr 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Almost 50 miles west of downtown, Cecil M. Harden Lake took shape when the US Army Corps of Engineers impounded a section of Big Raccoon Creek in 1960 for flood control purposes. 

The Raccoon Lake State Recreation Area offers recreation access to this 2,110-acre reservoir and preserves areas for wildlife. 

Visitors to Raccoon Lake State Recreation Area can enjoy an archery range, basketball courts, trails, a playground, picnic areas, recreational fields, campsites, and wildlife viewing areas. 

Guests can rent fishing boats and pontoons during the season and enjoy ice fishing during winter. 

Also known as Harden Reservoir, this body of water is home to bluegill, channel catfish, white crappie, and largemouth bass. 

The lake also holds the Indiana state record for striped bass, the-39 lbs. lunker was caught here in 2010. 

8. Lake Waveland

Female tubing on a lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Waveland
  • Distance from Indianapolis: 59 miles (1hr 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A drive of 59 miles west of Indianapolis, Lake Waveland offers a quiet, uncrowded area to cast a line. The 360-acre lake came into existence when residents in southwestern Montgomery County decided they wanted a lake for water supply and flood control. 

With the creation of the Little Raccoon Creek Conservancy District, their plans became a reality in 1970 as Demeree Creek was impounded. 

Lake Waveland Park has a boat ramp and campsites. The top reasons people visit this park are to fish and boat on the lake. Muskie, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, largemouth bass, and redear sunfish are popular catches. 

9. Summit Lake

Man kayaking on a lake during a sunset
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Summit Lake
  • Distance from Indianapolis: 58 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking

Summit Lake is located approximately 58 miles east-northeast of Indianapolis. Residents of Henry County first discussed the idea of having a recreational facility and lake in the 1950s. 

The Big Blue River Conservancy District helped their plans materialize in 1966 with a flood control proposal for the Big Blue River. 

A dam was built in 1980, creating the 800-acre lake. The state acquired a 2,680-acre tract that included the lake in 1988, turning the location into Summit Lake State Park

Located in an area near the state’s highest elevation, Summit Lake State Park has a campground, beach bathhouse, picnic shelters, bird and wildlife observation area, six hiking trails, and Zeigler Woods, the county’s dedicated nature preserve. 

The swimming area is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with year-round access to the park possible. Winter activities include cross-country skiing and ice fishing. 

Fish found in Summit Lake include bass, sunfish, yellow perch, crappie, and catfish. 

10. Prairie Creek Reservoir

a couple on pontoon boat on a lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Prairie Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from Indianapolis: 62 miles (1hr 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Tubing

Less than eight miles north of Summit Lake, Prairie Creek Reservoir was created in 1959 as an artificial reservoir for drinking water. 

Located five miles southeast of Muncie, that city’s parks department has leased some of the shoreline along this 1,275-acre impoundment to create Prairie Creek Reservoir Park

This venue includes ATV and horseback riding trails, hiking and biking trails, campsites, and swimming and boating areas. 

Near the southwest corner of the reservoir, the Red-Tail Nature Preserve offers 105 acres of wetlands, tallgrass prairie, and forest areas, often connected by a wide loop trail. This preserve connects the Cardinal Greenway with Prairie Creek Reservoir. 

Prairie Creek has abundant populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, perch, crappie, catfish, and walleye. Ice fishing is permitted during the winter. 

11. Brookville Lake

Brookville Lake Indiana
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Brookville Lake
  • Distance from Indianapolis: 81 miles (1hr 30min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A drive 80 miles southeast of Indianapolis, nearly to the state line near Oxford, Ohio, offers an opportunity to visit Brookville Lake. 

In 1974, the US Army Corps of Engineers impounded a section of the Whitewater River’s East Fork as a flood control measure. The state has developed two state recreation areas along Brookville Lake and a state park nearby. 

Mounds SRA is located on the lower eastern shoreline of Brookville Lake. Quakertown SRA occupies the upper western portion of the lake. 

Both of these sites have a variety of amenities, such as hiking trails, campsites, recreation areas, playgrounds, and fishing and boating areas. 

A short distance northeast of Brookville Lake, Whitewater Memorial State Park surrounds 200-acre Whitewater Lake, which also has a variety of recreation facilities. 

Fish found in Brookville Lake and Whitewater Lake include muskie, bass, walleye, and channel catfish. Excellent year-round fishing makes this a top destination.

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