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15 BEST Recreational Lakes near Kansas City

The Kansas City area has lots of lakes and reservoirs, but not many of them offer public access. This list is a selection of some of the best recreational lakes open to the public, offering fishing, swimming, kayaking, waterskiing, and more.
ItIsWild.com Best Lakes near Kansas City

Kansas City has a wide variety of lakes and reservoirs, but not all of them offer public access. The list below is a selection of the best recreational lakes in the area open to the public in both Missouri and Kansas.

Many of these lakes are highly versatile, offering not just fishing and kayaking but also activities like swimming and waterskiing that are frequently restricted elsewhere.

And the best thing is, most of the options on the list are less than an hour away, giving you plenty of choices for day trips, even though many lakes have campgrounds.

Check out what Kansas City has to offer!

Lakes near Kansas City:

  1. Wyandotte County Lake
  2. Longview Lake
  3. Blue Springs Lake
  4. Lake Jacomo
  5. Prairie Lee Lake
  6. James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area
  7. Pleasant Hill Lake
  8. Hillsdale Reservoir
  9. Watkins Mill Lake
  10. Smithville Lake
  11. Perry Lake
  12. Clinton Lake
  13. Lone Star Lake
  14. Pomona Lake
  15. La Cygnes Lake
Lakes near Kansas City Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Wyandotte County Lake

Wyandotte County Lake
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Wyandotte County Lake
  • Distance from Kansas City: 21 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

A drive 21 miles northwest of the heart of the Kansas City metro, Wyandotte County Lake and Park serves the dual purposes of water management and recreation. 

Conceived in the 1930s, the creation of a dam and reservoir was a New Deal public works project. When the original dam was almost complete in 1937, people noticed a crack. The dam collapsed shortly thereafter. 

A new and improved dam began to impound Marshall Creek in 1942, a short distance from where it used to flow into the Missouri River. 

Today, the 400-acre lake and approximately 1,500 acres of wooded parkland at Wyandotte County Lake include picnic areas, a playground, and a marina. 

Boat rentals, hiking and biking trails, and scenic pullouts along the loop drive offer many locations for reflection, recreation, and nature watching. Migratory birds visit this area during the spring and fall seasons. 

Those who fish in Wyandotte County Lake will find ample schools of fish. Some of the common fish caught include walleye, wiper, bass, crappie, catfish, and rainbow trout. 

2. Longview Lake

Longview Lake in Kansas City
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Longview Lake
  • Distance from Kansas City: 19 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Windsurfing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A short drive south-southeast of downtown, Longview Lake took shape after the US Army Corps of Engineers sought to provide flood control, wildlife conservation, and recreation. 

Crews began impounding Missouri’s Little Blue River in 1979, finishing the dam in 1985. In addition to the 930-acre lake, Jackson County has developed Longview Lake Park, a 4,852-acre recreation area.

Longview Lake Park offers guests a variety of amenities. Trails, picnic areas, two ADA-compliant fishing docks, boat launch ramps, recreation fields, a golf course, a horse park, campsites, a marina, and a beach are available for guests. 

Longview Lake offers boaters a place for a relaxing canoe ride or the excitement of waterskiing, jet skiing, or power boating. 

Anglers will enjoy casting a line in this artificial reservoir. Fish include bluegill, carp, catfish, crappie, bass, and walleye.

3. Blue Springs Lake

Man waterskiing on a lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Blue Springs Lake
  • Distance from Kansas City: 17 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Windsurfing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Less than a 18-mile drive southeast of downtown, Blue Springs Lake is one of a series of Missouri reservoirs in close proximity that offers multiple venues for outdoor recreation. 

This 720-acre body of water receives inflow from Lake Jacomo, immediately to the south, through an approximately 500-foot segment of the Little Blue River’s East Fork. Crews completed the construction of this river impoundment in 1988. 

Blue Springs Lake and Lake Jacomo share recreation connections through Fleming Park, a 7,809-acre land and water park managed by Jackson County Parks and Recreation. 

Facilities in the northern portion of Fleming Park near Blue Springs Lake include a campground, two full-service marinas, boat ramps, multiple picnic areas, and fishing docks. 

Water-based activities are popular along Blue Springs Lake. During the summertime, these include tubing, skiing, sailing, windsurfing, and power boating. 

Fish commonly caught in Blue Springs Lake include bluegill, largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, catfish, and carp. 

4. Lake Jacomo

jacomo lake missouri
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Jacomo
  • Distance from Kansas City: 20 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Windsurfing, Sailing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking

A short distance south and upstream from Blue Springs Lake, the reservoir known as Lake Jacomo took shape nearly thirty years before its northern neighbor. Opened in 1959, this reservoir gets its name as an acronym for Jackson County, MO

At 970 acres, Lake Jacomo is larger than Blue Springs. The southern continuation of Fleming Park has facilities similar to those found near Blue Springs – such as a marina, boat ramps, and picnic areas – along with other attractions. 

However, Lake Jacomo is a pleasure-boating lake where the speed is limited. It’s excellent for sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking and allows paddleboarding.

Smaller vessels, such as pontoons, have plenty of room to float on the lake, and regattas take place here occasionally. 

Along the shoreline, the Kemper Outdoor Education Center offers interactive programs that teach kids about the environment. A living history museum named Missouri Town 1855 allows visitors to tour more than 25 buildings from the 1820s through 1860 to learn about life here during that period. 

Habitat trails, an archery range, a butterfly garden, and a native hoofed animal enclosure are other places to visit in the southern portion of Fleming Park near Lake Jacomo. 

Fish in Lake Jacomo are similar to those found in Blue Springs. 

5. Prairie Lee Lake

Prairie Lee Lake in Missouri
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Prairie Lee Lake
  • Distance from Kansas City: 23 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics

Approximately 23 miles southeast of the center of the metro area and a few steps south of Lake Jacomo, Prairie Lee Lake is a 154-acre reservoir. 

Substantially smaller in size than Blue Springs and Jacomo, this lake that resembles an inverted “U” on the map was the first of those portions of the Little Blue River East Fork impounded in the late 1930s. 

Although it looks like an oxbow lake similar to those frequently found along the Mississippi River, the original pattern of the river did not follow the current path.

A narrow isthmus on NE Colbern Road separates Prairie Lee from Jacomo. A public boat ramp sits at the southwestern tip of Prairie Lee Lake, perfectly located for boats within the lake as well as pontoons, kayaks, and canoes for journeys upriver. 

Bluegill, channel catfish, and largemouth bass swim in these waters. 

6. James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area

A few miles south of Prairie Lee Lake, the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area includes 3,084 acres of small lakes and preservation lands started with an initial donation of 731 acres by Neil Reed in honor of her husband in 1952. 

Site development and creation of the lakes began in 1957. Today, the site has 12 lakes – including Jackrabbit, Plover, Cottontail, Gopher, Coot, and Prairie Hollow – that span in size from a single acre to 42 acres. Smaller ponds dot the site. 

This wildlife area has designated campsites, trails, boat rentals, and areas for dog training, archery, bird watching, hunting, and fishing. 

Fish found in this preserve include trout, sunfish, bass, catfish, and crappie. 

7. Pleasant Hill Lake

Pleasant Hill Lake Frisbee Course
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Pleasant Hill Lake
  • Distance from Kansas City: 30 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking

Pleasant Hill Lake, located northwest of the Missouri city of Pleasant Hill, is a 100-acre impoundment of Wilson Creek River created in 1945. 

Owned by the city, this earthen dam anchors a city park and nicely-designed recreation area with picnic sites, trails, and limited camping sites. A disc golf course sits along the lake’s east side. 

Although wading and swimming are not permitted in the lake, a boat launch and dock and bank fishing offer lake access and places to catch the white crappie, catfish, bluegill, sauger, muskie, and largemouth bass that swim in Pleasant Hill.

8. Hillsdale Reservoir

Lake beach in Jackson County Kansas
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Hillsdale Reservoir
  • Distance from Kansas City: 44 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

The 4,580-acre Hillsdale Reservoir, located south-southwest of the metropolitan area, offers outdoor recreation along an impounded section of Big Bull Creek. 

The US Army Corps of Engineers completed the construction of the Hillsdale Dam in 1982 as a flood control project, leasing 12,880 acres of both the impounded Hillsdale Lake and adjacent land to the state as a water supply source and for recreation and wildlife management. 

Hillsdale State Park opened in 1994. Fishing is possible in the reservoir and along many areas of its 51-mile shoreline. Bobwhite quail, whitetail deer, and a variety of waterfowl inhabit this region. 

Horseback riders will enjoy an equestrian area with almost 32 miles of trails near the Saddle Ridge Campground area. 

The wide expanse of the reservoir makes this a great location for sailboats and powerboats. 

Walleye, catfish, bluegill, crappie, and largemouth bass are popular catches at this reservoir.

9. Watkins Mill Lake

a man kayak fishing on a Missouri lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Watkins Mill Lake
  • Distance from Kansas City: 32 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking

Located near Excelsior Springs, north-northeast of the metro, the 100-acre Watkins Mill Lake is surrounded by beautiful forestland and historic sites of Watkins Mill State Park, a destination operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 

This destination includes picnic areas, a campground, and historic structures that feature a wool processing factory and a homestead. 

Deer and turkeys are found in this park, along with various bird species that frequent the rich forests. A 3.8-mile trail loops around the lake.

Anglers can fish along the shoreline or launch their boats from the western side of Watkins Mill Lake. Crappie and largemouth bass have called these waters home for a long time. Hybrid striped bass is a relatively new arrival that is adapting to the lake. 

10. Smithville Lake

Smithville Lake in Missouri
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Smithville Lake
  • Distance from Kansas City: 30 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Kitesurfing, Windsurfing, Sailing

Located east of Smithville in the north metro area, Smithville Lake has more than 175 miles of shoreline and 7,200 surface acres of coverage. 

A comprehensive trail system along the lake offers more than 26 miles of equestrian pathways, 11 miles dedicated to mountain biking, and an extensive network for biking and walking. 

Access to the central portion of the lake – known as the Honker Cove Waterfowl Refuge – is closed between mid-October and the beginning of February to sustain bird populations.

Clay County manages extensive parklands on the lower portion of the lake. Over 750 campsites, two seasonal swimming beaches, two full-service marinas, four disc golf courses, two public golf courses, and other amenities are located in close proximity to Smithville Lake. 

Efforts to preserve and sustain the natural environment are ongoing and include a native grassland revitalization project that will restore and improve nearly 2,300 acres. 

Fishing remains a top reason people visit Smithville Lake. White bass, largemouth bass, walleye, white crappie, bluegill, blue catfish, flathead catfish, and channel catfish frequent the lake waters. Anglers speak highly of the catfishing action. 

11. Perry Lake

  • Website: Perry Lake
  • Distance from Kansas City: 62 miles (1h 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Sailing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Perry Lake, a flood control and water reservoir approximately 60 miles west of the metro, has become a popular recreation site since a dam impounded a portion of the Delaware River in 1966. 

Perry State Park opened two years later under a long-term lease between the Kansas Parks and Resources Department and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The lake has approximately 160 miles of shoreline, much of it available for public access. 

The heavily-forested Perry State Park sits along the western side of the 11,000-acre impoundment. This park includes areas for hiking, biking, hunting, camping, and fishing. 

Federally-managed access areas and seasonal campgrounds sit along the lakefront, as well. The Slough Creek Public Use Area and Longview Campground have campsites near the lake and are open from mid-April through mid-October.

Big bass and catfish are common catches in these waters. Bluegill, crappie, walleye, sauger, and redear sunfish are also found at Perry Lake.

12. Clinton Lake

clinton lake kansas during storm
Source: flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Website: Clinton Lake
  • Distance from Kansas City: 51 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Clinton Lake occupies 7,000 surface acres southwest of Lawrence, Kansas. The US Army Corps of Engineers completed the dam for flood control purposes in the mid-1970s to offer relief to an area that had suffered from serious flooding in the past. 

Small settlements in low-lying areas were abandoned and demolished to accommodate the reservoir with nearly 85 miles of shoreline. Impoundment began in 1977, with the reservoir filling to capacity three years later. 

Clinton State Park sits along the lake’s northern shoreline. With many day-use areas, over 375 campsites, cabins, and a marina that offers boat storage and rentals, this year-round park has been a popular place to reconnect with nature since its opening in 1975. 

At Clinton State Park and other lakeside locations, such as the Bloomington Public Use Area, water-based recreation is the reason many come to the parks and public beaches in this area. 

Car-toppers, canoes, kayaks, pontoons, sailboats, and fishing boats share the reservoir. Bass, crappie, and catfish are popular catches in Clinton Lake. 

13. Lone Star Lake

Kayaking on a lake in Kansas in summer
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lone Star Lake
  • Distance from Kansas City: 57 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A 185-acre reservoir in Douglas County, Lone Star Lake is located in an area southwest of the unincorporated community of Lone Star, Kansas. 

Less than 10 miles south of Clinton Lake and a short drive away from Lawrence, this lake is the centerpiece of the peaceful and beautiful Lone Star Lake County Park. It was created in the 1930s as a Civilian Conservation Corps reclamation project during the New Deal.

The park includes a seasonal swimming beach, a playground area with a volleyball court, picnic shelters, and a campground. 

Bank fishing and boat access to this pleasant reservoir are possible for anglers who want to cast a line for largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish in Lone Star Lake. 

14. Pomona Lake

two people waterskiing
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Pomona Lake
  • Distance from Kansas City: 74 miles (1hr 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Located approximately 74 miles southwest of the downtown area and 30 miles south of Topeka, Pomona Lake is a highly-regarded destination for anglers in east-central Kansas. 

The US Army Corps of Engineers designed this dam to handle watershed runoff and prevent floods in the region, channeling controlled releases into the 110-Mile Creek. 

Ultimately, water impounded in this 4,000-acre lake reaches the Marais des Cygnes River and the Osage River before flowing into the Missouri River. Workers completed the construction of the dam in 1963. 

Sailing and waterskiing are popular during warmer months. 

Pomona State Park covers 490 acres along the Pomona Reservoir. The grounds exist in a transition zone between the eastern woodlands and prairie, known for bird and wildlife watching. 

An easy day trip from Kansas City, Topeka, Manhattan, Wichita, and Joplin, long-time anglers from eastern Kansas and western Missouri are well-aware of this lake’s abundant fishing potential. 

Wipers – a cross between a striped bass and a white bass – are a top catch here. Crappie, catfish, and white bass are also commonly found in these waters. 

15. La Cygnes Lake

Fishing in a fog on a lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: La Cygnes Lake
  • Distance from Kansas City: 64 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping

Located a little more than 60 miles south of Kansas City, La Cygnes Lake serves as a cooling reservoir for a power plant that sits a mile west of the Kansas-Missouri state line. 

A lease between the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the power company provides access to sections of this 2,600-acre reservoir for recreation and protects areas for wildlife management. 

Linn County Park sits along the western shoreline of La Cygne Lake. Open year-round, this location has cabins and campsites, along with a marina and lakefront trails. 

Considered one of the top bass lakes in the central region of the United States, this lake is also a great place for catfishing along the shore, with trotlines common for those seeking blue, channel, or flathead catfish. 

Crappie generally tend to congregate near the plant’s hot water outlet zone. 

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