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11 Amazing Recreational Lakes near Lancaster, PA

Lancaster has access to a wide selection of lakes, most of which are within an hour's drive. A few reservoirs here are full-on recreational spots, but many have restrictions on swimming and motorboating.
ItIsWild.com: Best Lakes near Lancaster Pennsylvania

Lancaster has access to several fantastic lakes and reservoirs, most of which are within an hour’s drive, making day trips and fishing expeditions easy.

Only a few – Clarke Lake and Conowingo Reservoir – allow gas engine boating and water activities like waterskiing, wakeboarding, and tubing.

The rest are smaller and quieter lakes where paddling and electric motorboating are allowed. What’s more, there are plenty of options for lakeside camping and swimming, too.

Check out what Lancaster has to offer!

Lakes near Lancaster:

  1. Clarke Lake
  2. Muddy Run Power Reservoir
  3. Conowingo Reservoir
  4. Grubb Lake
  5. Octoraro Lake
  6. Speedwell Forge Lake
  7. Pinchot Lake
  8. Marsh Creek Reservoir
  9. Middle Creek Reservoir
  10. Chambers Lake
  11. Lake Redman
Lakes near Lancaster Pennsylvania Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Clarke Lake

Clarke Lake Pennsylvania
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Clarke Lake
  • Distance from Lancaster: 20 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

A drive of 20 miles southwest 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 ten square miles of surface area. 

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

2. Muddy Run Power Reservoir

  • Website: Muddy Run Power Reservoir
  • Distance from Lancaster: 19 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

Muddy Run Power Reservoir, located 19 miles south of Lancaster, has a utilitarian purpose. Designed in the 1960s, this reservoir offers the ability to use pumped-storage hydroelectricity as a way to balance electrical power loads. 

During off-peak times, pumps raise the water from the Conowingo Reservoir below to the Muddy Run Power Reservoir. When electrical demand is high, the water drops into turbines back down to the Conowingo Reservoir to generate power.

At the time of the construction, the plant that uses the Muddy Run Reservoir as this power-generating water source was the world’s largest. 

The resulting reservoir has become a popular recreation site during the past half-century. Generally not too crowded, the reservoir has a boat rental facility and is a great place to catch rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass.

Located adjacent and immediately south of the reservoir, Susquehannock State Park offers impressive views of the Lower Susquehanna River. The park provides a great location for camping, hiking, picnicking, horse riding, and winter cross-country skiing.

Alternatively, Muddy Run Park on the northern shore provides a campground, boat and kayak rentals, and a splash pad for cooling off in summer.

3. Conowingo Reservoir

conowingo reservoir Eagle with a catch
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Conowingo Reservoir
  • Distance from Lancaster: 32 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics

Located 32 miles south of the city, the 9,000-acre Conowingo Reservoir is a portion of the Susquehanna River that covers the area between Holtwood Dam and Conowingo Dam in Maryland. 

Built in the late 1920s, this dam sits approximately 10 miles northwest of the river’s mouth as it flows into the estuary of Chesapeake Bay. 

The largest dam in Maryland, the creation of this hydroelectric plant led to the flooding of the original village of Conowingo in January 1928.

Multiple recreation facilities exist along the Conowingo Reservoir. Muddy Run and Susquehannock State Park are locations near the reservoir’s northern point. 

The Dorsey Park Boat Launch offers excellent year-round boat access along the western shoreline near Delta, Pennsylvania. Boaters should take notice that the approach to the water available on this boat launch has a steep grade.

Residents of Pennsylvania and Maryland have reciprocal access rights within the Conowingo Reservoir for fishing with their home state’s license in the neighboring state’s waters between the Holtwood and Conowingo dams. 

Bass, bluegill, black and white crappie, yellow perch, and pumpkinseed are common catches. The area has a great reputation for birdwatching as well, including the occasional bald eagle flying above.

4. Grubb Lake

Small lake in Pennsylvania
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Grubb Lake
  • Distance from Lancaster: 9 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Hiking, Picnics

A little more than eight miles west of downtown, Grubb Lake represents a former mining site that has transitioned into a great recreation location. 

The Grubb family began to harvest iron from this site in the 1830s. Ore mined was sent to furnaces along the nearby Susquehanna River for decades. As the mine grew deeper, spring water filled the hole. The mining operation ended in 1910.

Now part of the 55-acre Lake Grubb Nature Park, this 13-acre lake in West Hempfield has become a popular fishing place for bass and crappie. The water’s clarity is well-known to local anglers.

In addition to fishing, the heavily wooded day-use park has picnic spots and a hiking trail. 

Although shoreline fishing is permitted, boats and swimming are not allowed in Grubb Lake.

5. Octoraro Lake

Octoraro Lake
Photo by Tristan Loper/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Website: Octoraro Lake 
  • Distance from Lancaster: 24 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics

A drive of 24 miles southeast of Lancaster, Octoraro Lake was created by the damming of Octoraro Creek in the mid-20th century to create an impounded reservoir. 

Sometimes known as Chester-Octoraro Lake, this body of impounded water has more than ten miles of shoreline, much of it available for bank fishing. 

The lake’s size generally varies from 620 to 650 acres, depending on seasonal water flows.

Managed by the Chester Water Authority, the lake has a reputation for excellent fishing, especially during bass tournaments. Boats using the lake must be human-propelled or use electric motors. 

This tree-lined lake offers a wonderful escape for anglers who need a little time at a lake with great fish populations. Largemouth bass in the primary target. Smallmouth bass, white and yellow perch, catfish, northern pike, and walleye are also caught in these waters.

The best way to access the lake is from Jim Neary’s Bait Shop, which offers a boat ramp, kayak and boat rentals, and can cater to all your fishing needs. It operates seasonally, from April until November.

6. Speedwell Forge Lake

Speedwell Forge Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Speedwell Forge Lake
  • Distance from Lancaster: 14 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Picnics

A drive 13 miles north of Lancaster, Speedwell Forge Lake offers fishing on a 106-acre body of water created in 1966 by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. 

This agency maintains its office in the Southeast Region that handles maintenance, education, and law enforcement activities. The earthen dam that impounds the water sits on the southeast corner of the lake. 

Speedwell Forge is well-regarded as a place for canoeing, kayaking, and boating with electric motors. 

Parking access points along the lake allow for convenient boat launch points, picnicking areas, and sites for fishing along the shore. 

A peaceful destination, Speedwell Forge Lake has a tradition of offering visitors great bird-watching and fishing experiences. 

Commonly caught fish include bluegill, largemouth bass, and rainbow trout.

7. Pinchot Lake

Pinchot Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Pinchot Lake
  • Distance from Lancaster: 41 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Rowing, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics

Pinchot Lake is a 45-mile drive west of the city, across the Susquehanna River. 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. Marsh Creek Reservoir

  • Website: Marsh Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from Lancaster: 50 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming (pool), Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Rowing, Hiking, Biking, Picnics

Approximately 50 miles east of Lancaster, Marsh Creek Reservoir sits along an area with rolling hills, a few miles west of the village of Eagle. 

The 535-acre reservoir is the focal point of the 1,784-acre Marsh Creek State Park, a year-round destination for those who enjoy water recreation, hiking, and fishing.

A wealth of land and water activities await visitors. Wetlands, fields, and forests can be enjoyed by hikers along 20 miles of trails, with 13 miles available for horse riding and mountain biking as well. 

Although swimming is not permitted in Marsh Creek Lake, a fee-based and ADA-accessible seasonal swimming pool is available.

Migratory bird watching during the fall and spring attracts many visitors. Between those periods, iceboating, cross-country skiing, sledding, and ice skating bring crowds. 

Sailboaters enjoy summertime winds. And the top fish caught include panfish, black crappie, channel catfish, and largemouth bass.

9. Middle Creek Reservoir

Reservoir in Pennsylvania in summer
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Middle Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from Lancaster: 18 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Biking, Picnics

At more than 400 acres, Middle Creek Reservoir is one of the best places to view global swans during the migratory season. 

The lake sits within the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, 18 miles north of Lancaster, a nearly 6,000-acre site preserved for grassland nesting birds and waterfowl by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. 

Guests will find more than 20 miles of hiking trails that offer great wildlife viewing opportunities. Some trails are ADA-accessible, while others offer a fun hiking challenge. 

Special hunting activities are occasionally scheduled. This location serves as the home for the Conservation Heritage Museum, which explains the history and importance of land and water management.

Fishing is permitted in certain areas of Middle Creek Reservoir. Among the fish harvested are largemouth bass, channel catfish, and yellow bullhead.

10. Chambers Lake

Chambers Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Chambers Lake
  • Distance from Lancaster: 25 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Rowing, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics

Chambers Lake sits 25 miles east of Lancaster, slightly less than halfway to the western exurbs of the Philadelphia area. 

Crews created this artificial 94-acre reservoir in the mid-1990s when they built Hibernia Dam for flood control and as a supplemental drinking water source managed by the Chester County Water Resources Authority

The lake falls within the boundaries of Hibernia County Park. This 900-acre site has open fields, meadows, and woodlands, along with recreational activities that include boating, hiking, bird watching, and fishing. 

Although most of the park is a day-use area, fishing is permitted 24 hours a day, and overnight campsites are available on weekends between April and November.

The park has a reputation for being a quiet and relaxing destination. Shore-fishing opportunities are limited, so plan to bring a canoe, kayak, or other vessels to catch panfish, bass, chain pickerel, and catfish.

11. Lake Redman

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

A little more than 30 miles southwest 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 east 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.

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