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17 Amazing Recreational Lakes near Louisville, KY

Louisville has a large selection of lakes. Some options are small and cozy fishing holes, free from crowds. Others are full-on recreational reservoirs with waterskiing, camping, and swimming.
ItIsWild.com: Best Lakes near Louisville KY

Louisville is great when it comes to lakes. The selection here is large and diverse. You have a choice of small and cozy fishing holes, full-on recreational reservoirs, or anything in between.

There are unique places like LaGrange Quarry, family-friendly spots like Deam Lake, and waterskiing meccas like Taylorsville Lake.

And the best thing is, most of the lakes on the list are within an hour’s drive, making day trips easy.

Check out what Louisville has to offer!

Lakes near Louisville:

  1. McNeely Lake
  2. Mirror Lakes
  3. LaGrange Quarry
  4. Reformatory Lake
  5. Lake Jericho
  6. Long Run Park
  7. Shelby Lake
  8. Guist Creek Lake
  9. Taylorsville Lake
  10. Beaver Lake
  11. Freeman Lake
  12. Buffalo Trace Park
  13. Deam LakeĀ 
  14. Starve Hollow Lake
  15. Patoka Lake
  16. Hardy Lake
  17. Herrington Lake
Lakes near Louisville Kentucky Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. McNeely Lake

McNeely Lake Park
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: McNeely Lake
  • Distance from Louisville: 16 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking

Located 16 miles south-southeast from downtown Louisville, McNeely Lake is an artificial lake created in the early 1950s on land four families donated. 

The lake honors an avid fan of fishing and former newspaper sports editor, Louis P. McNeely, who passed away at a relatively young age in 1945. 

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife owns the 46-acre lake within McNeely Lake Park, one of the biggest parks in the metropolitan area. 

The lake’s dedication in August 1955 involved dignitaries and approximately 200 anglers casting lines into the newly-created reservoir. 

Plans to improve the 746-acre park occurred in the mid-1970s. Today, McNeely Lake Park has a playground, sports fields, picnic areas, and a boat launch. A memorial to the Korean War is also available for viewing.

This year-round park includes a large passive, forested area that offers an escape from the nearby urban environment. 

Recreational boats, canoes, and kayaks are permitted in this L-shaped lake, and they share space with a raft of ducks. Common fish caught in these waters include bluegill, crappie, catfish, and redear sunfish. 

2. Mirror Lakes

a small pond with lillies in kentucky
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Mirror Lakes
  • Distance from Louisville: 19 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Picnics, Walking

Mirror Lakes sit within Fisherman’s Park, a popular angling destination 20 miles southeast of downtown. 

Since opening for public access in 1987, the six lakes that have a combined surface area of approximately 15 acres have attracted those who enjoy fishing without the fluff, a simple location to fish without the frills but one that does deliver. 

For the past 35 years, locals with rod and reel have driven along the gravel roads to these lakes. Most fishing is done from the bank.

All who come here must pay attention to the restrictions on using live shad as bait and observe the daily catch limits, so they do not run afoul of a game warden who happens to patrol the premises.

No distractions such as playgrounds or disc golf courses, are found near the Mirror Lakes. Conditions are basic, without facilities, but the fishing is enjoyable. 

Common fish found at this day-use venue include largemouth bass, rainbow trout, blue gill, redear sunfish, channel catfish, and blue catfish. 

3. LaGrange Quarry

  • Website: LaGrange Quarry
  • Distance from Louisville: 27 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Scuba Diving

A drive of less than 30 miles northeast of downtown offers an opportunity to float away the day in a crystal clear body of water at LaGrange Quarry. 

This spring-fed swimming destination is different from other lakes in the Louisville area in that it is privately owned and operated, restricted to adults 18 and older, and requires a floatation device upon entry. 

Diving platforms, as well as paddleboats and paddleboards for rent, make for a fun day on the water.

FRP is a place to “Float & Relax in Paradise,” not a county or state park. Available for private events, this water-filled quarry is also a place with a zero tolerance for alcohol and drugs, a steep entrance fee, as well as a prohibition on fishing. 

4. Reformatory Lake

Meditating in a park by a lake
Source: pexels
  • Website: Reformatory Lake
  • Distance from Louisville: 22 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Picnics, Hiking

Reformatory Lake is a little more than 20 miles northeast of Louisville. Wendell Moore Park offers the best access point to enjoy the lake. 

The 107-acre county park on the 59-acre lake’s western shoreline in the La Grange-Buckner area includes trails, picnic tables, an archery range, an 18-hole disc golf course, and recreation fields. 

The rules at this Oldham County park do not permit swimming within the lake, though fishing along the embankment is a popular pastime. 

Blue catfish, channel catfish, bluegill, yellow bass, and largemouth bass are commonly found in Reformatory Lake. 

5. Lake Jericho

Beautiful pink sunset on a Kentucky lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Jericho
  • Distance from Louisville: 33 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping

Located a little more than 30 miles northeast of the city, Lake Jericho is an impoundment of the Little Kentucky River that was created for flood control and recreational purposes. 

Planning for this 137-acre lake began in the 1950s, after thousands of low-lying acres of cropland and the town of Sulphur suffered from recurring flood damage. 

The lake opened for public access in July 1969 and is managed by the Little Kentucky River Watershed Conservancy District.

This balance of preventing future floods downriver and creating community recreation space has benefited the region. 

Lake Jericho is one of five areas along this stretch of the river that has flood-retarding structures. The Lake Jericho Recreation Area has a variety of picnic shelters available year-round and campsites available from April to October on the lake’s eastern shore.

Anglers will enjoy visiting this lake, which has ample fish but lacks the crowds found at some other destinations in upper Kentucky near the Ohio River. 

Fish commonly found in Lake Jericho include largemouth bass, catfish, bluegill, and white crappie.

6. Long Run Park

A bench on a lake
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Long Run Park
  • Distance from Louisville: 23 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking

Long Run Park sits along the eastern edge of the Louisville metropolitan area, approximately 23 miles from downtown. 

The park opened in 1960 on a 416.35-acre site. At the eastern edge of the park, Long Run Lake has developed a reputation as a location with great year-round fishing. 

Most of the park’s amenities are on the eastern side of the lake. These include picnic areas, barbeque pits, a multipurpose field and playground, and trails for walking and biking. 

Those who wish to fish in Long Park Lake will find a convenient boat ramp along the 27-acre lake’s western shoreline. 

Ample areas for bank fishing also exist. Expect to see channel catfish, flathead catfish, bass, sunfish, and perhaps a grass carp.

7. Shelby Lake

Fishing in a red kayak in kentucky
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Shelby Lake
  • Distance from Louisville: 35 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking

A drive a little more than 30 miles east of the city will bring anglers to Shelby Lake on the north side of Shelbyville. 

Not to be confused with Shelby Lake in Ballard County, a few miles upriver from where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River, this lake was developed in 1949 after a dam was built along a section of Clear Creek. 

During its early years, Lake Shelby served as Shelbyville’s water reservoir and home to a private fish and game club. 

After crews impounded a section of Guist Creek east of the city to create Guist Creek Lake as the new drinking water reservoir in the 1960s, Shelby Lake became the area’s public recreation and camping site. 

The park includes the short Squire Boone Trail, volleyball courts, a boat launch ramp, and seasonal canoe rentals. 

This family-friendly fishing site is a great place to teach youngsters how to cast a line. Fish found within Shelby Lake include bluegill, crappie, bass, channel catfish, pumpkinseed, and redbreast sunfish.

8. Guist Creek Lake

  • Website: Guist Creek Lake
  • Distance from Louisville: 38 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Camping, RVs

Guist Creek Lake is a 317-acre reservoir east of Shelbyville. It’s a highly-rated lake with fantastic fishing and tons of water activities.

The best way to access the lake is via Guist Creek Marina. It offers a wide selection of craft to rent, from kayaks to pontoon boats, and provides boating services, fishing supplies, and a developed campground with RV hookups.

Although swimming isn’t allowed in Guist Creek Lake, they have a designated waterskiing area that operates during the summer.

Despite its modest size, the lake offers some of the best fishing around and even holds a state record for White Catfish, 5.27lbs caught in 2016.

Overall, it’s a versatile place loved by many. It will suit most folks and is ideal for weekend trips.

9. Taylorsville Lake

Taylorsville Lake marina
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Taylorsville Lake
  • Distance from Louisville: 40 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Hiking, Camping, Horseriding

Taylorsville Lake is a large 3,050-acre reservoir southeast of Louisville. It offers a wide selection of activities and several public boat ramps.

The best way to access the lake is to visit Taylorsville Lake State Park. It offers fishing, paddling, boating, and swimming and has a developed campground with RV sites and hookups.

Another awesome thing about the park is that it has over 20 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and equestrian use. Perfect for visitors who want to enjoy lakeside views without getting wet.

Next door to the park is Taylorsville Lake Marina which has boats for hire and offers services to boaters, from gas pumps to covered slips.

The lake is a highly-rated and versatile destination; it’s hard to find any significant drawbacks here.

10. Beaver Lake

a man kayaking on a lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Beaver Lake
  • Distance from Louisville: 55 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing

Beaver Lake is a small 158-acre reservoir on Route 62. It’s a tranquil spot best known for fishing and paddling.

The lake has one public access point that consists of a concrete boat ramp, a fishing pier, parking, and a restroom. The facilities are limited compared to larger lakes, but this is Beaver Lake’s biggest advantage; it’s a peaceful place with no crowds.

Swimming or camping are not allowed at Beaver Lake, but you can go paddling or make use of the fishing pier, but that’s pretty much it when it comes to activities.

Although not as versatile as many other options on the list, it’s still an excellent location, especially for solitude seekers and paddlers.

11. Freeman Lake

a woman on a bench looking at a lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Freeman Lake
  • Distance from Louisville: 50 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking

Freeman Lake is a prominent tourist destination 50 miles south of Louisville, in Elizabethtown. 

In addition to the 170-acre lake, Freeman Lake Park on the body of water’s eastern shore has notable historical structures. 

A log house connected with Abraham Lincoln’s family is located in this park, near the boat launch area. Nearby, a one-room schoolhouse that was in use between 1892 and 1953 sits within the park, where it was moved for preservation purposes in 1978. 

Those who visit the lake created as an impoundment of Freeman Creek can rent kayaks and paddleboats or bring their vessels with sails, paddles, or electric trolling motors. 

Playgrounds, a volleyball area, and a nearby tennis complex are available, along with a disc golf course and a 4.7-mile loop trail around the lake. A dog park more than 2 acres in size is available for small and large canines at the park’s north end. 

Daytime fishing is possible throughout the year, though some restrictions exist during the annual Christmas in The Park Event that runs from Thanksgiving Eve until New Year’s Day. 

Fish found in Freeman Lake include largemouth bass, crappie, rainbow trout, catfish, bluegill, and redear sunfish.

12. Lake Coleman

  • Website: Lake Coleman
  • Distance from Louisville: 24 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping

Located a little more than 24 miles northwest of the city near Palmyra, Indiana, Buffalo Trace Park is a 147-acre preserve in Harrison County that honors the historic bison migration trail that once ran through this area. 

Crews created the 30-acre Lake Coleman on this property in 1971, a place popular with locals who bring their boats. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources regularly stocks and maintains this lake.

The park includes a variety of activities. From sports fields and disc golf, to playgrounds and a petting zoo, the park provides great outdoor experiences for guests. 

Visitors can bring their families to a petting zoo during its summer operating hours that has ponies, rabbits, goats, fallow deer, ducks, chickens, and pot-bellied pigs. 

A game of horseshoes or time along the dock or sandy beach offer relaxation. Unlike many spots around Louisville, swimming is allowed at Buffalo Trace Park, making it an ideal summer destination.

Fish found in Lake Coleman include largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish.

13. Deam Lake 

Deam Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Deam Lake
  • Distance from Louisville: 18 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping

A drive 18 miles north-northwest of downtown offers an opportunity to visit Deam Lake. Located within Deam Lake State Recreation Area (SRA), this 194-acre lake is named in honor of Indiana’s first state forester, Charles Deam, who was an expert on tree species throughout the state. 

The lake is an impounded reservoir built in 1965 that offers swimming, fishing, and boating opportunities. Hiking, hunting, and camping are also popular activities. 

The campgrounds at Deam Lake SRA include rent-a-camp, electric, and equestrian electric sites with a hitching post. 

The season usually runs from April to October. The swimming beach is a family favorite between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day, with kayak and rowboat rentals available on weekends during that period. 

Those interested in the area’s environmental history should visit the Forest Education Center.

Deam Lake is an angler’s dream. Bluegill, channel catfish, and largemouth bass are found in the waters at this relaxing destination. 

14. Starve Hollow Lake

Trees and lake in Indiana
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Starve Hollow Lake
  • Distance from Louisville: 53 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping 

Starve Hollow Lake is a drive of a little more than 50 miles north of Louisville. The 280-acre Starve Hollow State Recreation Area offers access to the lake from the northern shore. 

When work teams impounded Mill Creek in 1938, they created the largest artificial lake in Indiana at that time. Although the 145-acre lake no longer holds this record, it does have a reputation for offering some of southern Indiana’s best fishing.

Starve Hollow SRA is a section of the larger Jackson-Washington State Forest. Biking, hiking, seasonal hunting, and recreation areas serve the needs of visitors. 

The Education Center – open on weekends during the summer – offers a variety of programs and special events. 

Campsites are seasonally available, as well as nearly 11 miles of trails that take guests through dry ridge tops and lowlands. 

Three boat ramps offer access to the lake. Redear sunfish, bluegill, largemouth bass, and channel catfish are the top catches at Starve Hollow. 

15. Patoka Lake

Patoka Lake
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Patoka Lake
  • Distance from Louisville: 66 miles (1hr 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing 

Located 66 miles west-northwest of downtown, Patoka Lake opened in 1979 as a way to prevent flooding along the Patoka River. 

This impoundment created Indiana’s second-largest reservoir, an 8,800-acre lake surrounded by a variety of preserves and state recreation areas

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources cooperatively manages access and facilities in partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers. 

In addition to flood protection and creating a reliable source of drinking water, Patoka Lake and its surrounding 17,000 acres offer hiking, biking, swimming, boating, waterskiing, and fishing opportunities. 

River otters, ospreys, and the occasional bald eagle are spotted here. 

Winter activities include ice fishing and cross-country skiing. Fish found within the lake include white crappie, redear sunfish, bass, catfish, and bluegill. 

16. Hardy Lake

  • Website: Hardy Lake
  • Distance from Louisville: 44 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing 

Originally known as Quick Creek Reservoir, Hardy Lake is located 44 miles north of downtown. Created by impounding Quick Creek, 741-acre Hardy Lake is surrounded by the 2,448-acre recreational area. 

Created to provide a reliable source of drinking water, this lake has become a go-to destination for those who wish to fish in south-central Indiana. The state’s Department of Natural Resources has regularly stocked the lake since its creation in 1970. 

Hardy Lake has a swimming beach, boat ramps, and hiking trails and allows watersports like waterskiing and wakeboarding.

A campground and marina offer waterfront access for vessels and bank fishing. Fish found within Hardy Lake include largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, tiger muskie, and redear sunfish. 

17. Herrington Lake

Narrow lake during sunset in Kentucky
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Herrington Lake
  • Distance from Louisville: 82 miles (1h 30min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Herrington Lake is a vast 2,350-acre reservoir south of Lexington. It’s known for outstanding fishing and boating.

The unique thing about the lake is that it doesn’t have any public access points meaning there is no bank fishing or free boat ramps to use. 

Instead, you can enjoy the lake by visiting one of a dozen private marinas that dot the shoreline. The marinas vary in their facilities, but they all have boat ramps and boats to hire.

Tubing, waterskiing, and wakeboarding are all popular activities here, but fishing is by far the number one. The reservoir was recently described in NKYTribune as ‘a eutrophic lake of high productivity.’ And it still holds a state record for white bass, 5lbs.

To enjoy the lake, you need to have your own boat or spend on hire, which is the biggest drawback here. But once you are on the water, it’s a blast!

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