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9 Epic Lakes for Recreation near Lubbock, TX

Hot and arid, Lubbock has a surprising selection of lakes and reservoirs. Most of the options around are relatively large and versatile, offering plenty of fun and opportunities to cool off during summer.

Set in an arid valley, Lubbock isn’t the first city that comes to mind when talking about lakes. Yet, it has a surprisingly wide selection of reservoirs suited for cooling off in summer.

There are large, versatile lakes that offer every water activity imaginable, as well as smaller options where only fishing and paddling are allowed. 

Check out the options.

Lakes near Lubbock:

  1. Buffalo Springs Lake
  2. Dunbar Historical Lake
  3. White River Reservoir
  4. Lake Alan Henry
  5. Lake J. B. Thomas
  6. Lake Colorado City
  7. Lake Theo
  8. Lake Mackenzie
  9. Lake Meredith
Lakes near Lubbock Texas Comparison Table

1. Buffalo Springs Lake

  • Official Page: Buffalo Springs Lake
  • Distance from Lubbock: 10 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Picnics

Buffalo Springs Lake is an obvious choice for lakeside recreation near Lubbock. It’s a versatile destination with tons of activities and is just 15 minutes away. Yet, it has a few significant drawbacks.

The lake offers two designated sandy beaches for swimming and sunbathing. Also, there are three launching ramps and a wake zone for fast boating, wakeboarding, and skiing.

Other on-the-water activities include kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and fishing. If you don’t have your own watercraft, it’s not a problem; you can rent one on the lake, but book in advance.

Still, the fun doesn’t stop there. The lake also offers plenty of picnic shelters, campsites, and miles of trails for ATVs, hiking, and biking. Even if you don’t want to get wet, there is plenty to do.

Clearly, it’s a versatile place with so much going for it, but the drawbacks are no less significant. The chief complaint is the entrance price. It will cost you an arm and a leg to enjoy the lake as a family. Definitely take advantage of the annual family pass if planning to use the spot frequently.

Another drawback is trash, a lot of it. Even for the price you pay, the area remains notoriously messy. And finally, the lake is crowded. If you are looking for a peaceful time in the oasis, this isn’t it. Instead, it’s a buzzing water playground filled with fun and excitement.

Buffalo Springs Lakes has a monopoly on lakeside activities near Lubbock, as other options are a lot further away. But despite the drawbacks, it’s worth trying, and the crowds of visitors are a testament to that.

2. Dunbar Historical Lake

  • Official Page: Dunbar Historical Lake
  • Distance from Lubbock: 3 miles (5 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Hiking, Picnics

Dunbar Historical Lake is the largest reservoir in Lubbock. It’s a peaceful spot without crowds, a striking contrast to Buffalo Springs Lake.

Swimming isn’t recommended in Dunbar Historical Lake as the water quality isn’t ideal. Instead, it’s a place to fish or enjoy paddleboarding and kayaking, especially during the warm season when rentals are available.

Also, the lake is home to picnic shelters and miles of hiking and biking trails. It’s a popular spot for afternoon strolls and dog walking.

The drawbacks here are trash and graffiti, although the park is relatively well-kept.

Although not as versatile as other options on the list, Dunbar Lake is the perfect spot for active day trips, it’s close to home, and it’s free.

3. White River Reservoir

a man in a boat with trolling motor fishing
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: White River Reservoir
  • Distance from Lubbock: 52 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs, Picnics, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing

White River Reservoir is a 1,418-acre lake east of Lubbock. It takes about one hour to get there from the city and offers almost as many activities as Buffalo Springs yet is largely crowd-free.

There are two main access points to the lake, with White River Marina being a better option as it has more facilities to offer. It has a fishing supplies store, boat gas, and a place to eat, in addition to the standard restrooms, camping, and boat launching ramps.

Swimming is allowed in the White River Reservoir. It has excellent access to the water and plenty of opportunities to fish from the bank, too, which is by far the main reason folks come here. 

Still, it’s recommended to bring your own boats or kayaks, as this will make your time on the lake more enjoyable, especially considering that there is a designated place for wakeboarding and water skiing.

Although it’s an hour away from Lubbock, it can be an alternative to Buffalo Springs Lake, especially if fishing is your activity of choice.

4. Lake Alan Henry

Lake Alan Henry Texas
Source: wikimedia/public domain
  • Official Page: Lake Alan Henry
  • Distance from Lubbock: 63 miles (1h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs, Picnics, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing

Lake Alan Henry is a large 2,880-acre reservoir near Justiceburg, some 60 miles from Lubbock. It’s a versatile and fun place, perfect for families.

There is just one access point to the lake – Sam Wahl Recreational Area – but it’s big. For example, the boat ramp alone has six lanes and parking for 100 trucks.

Also, the lake has a swimming area and 30+ campsites for tents and RVs. The bank has easy access for fishing but having a boat is definitely an advantage, as wakeboarding and skiing are allowed at Lake Alan Henry.

The common complaint about the lake is trash, which is heartbreaking, but apart from that, it’s a fantastic family destination and the best alternative to Buffalo Springs.

5. Lake J. B. Thomas

Silhouette of motor boat and wakeboarder at sunset performing trick
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Lake J. B. Thomas
  • Distance from Lubbock: 100 miles (1h 40min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing

Lake J. B. Thomas is 7,282 acres in size when full. It’s located about 100 miles away from Lubbock, near Snyder. 

The lake is primarily known for fishing and offers five parks that provide unrestricted access to the water. You can fish from the bank or a boat, with largemouth bass and channel cats being the most common catches.

The parks have campsites and restrooms, but that’s pretty much it when it comes to facilities. The lake is not as developed as some others on the list, but this is its biggest advantage, as it doesn’t attract crowds.

The chief complaints here are the lack of trees for shade and low water levels during droughts. Still, it’s a perfect destination for anglers, but if you’re into swimming or skiing, there are better options on the list.

6. Lake Colorado City

  • Official Page: Lake Colorado City State Park
  • Distance from Lubbock: 120 miles (1h 55min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing

Lake Colorado City is a 1,618-acre reservoir two hours from Lubbock. It’s a family-friendly destination with tons of activities on offer.

The lake is part of the Lake Colorado City State Park, which offers extended facilities, including campsites, cabins, beaches, boat ramps, and a few miles of hiking trails.

Fishing is a popular activity at the park, and you can expect largemouth bass and channel catfish here. Also, kayaks, SUPs, and canoes are welcome on the lake, and you can rent one from the park, which is an advantage compared to other locations on the list.

But the fun doesn’t stop here. Like in many state parks, you can join ranger-led programs to learn more about the area, and kids are welcome to become Junior Rangers which is a great way to develop environmental awareness.

Although it’s a long drive away, this lakeside park is a solid option, especially for families with kids.

7. Lake Theo

  • Official Page: Caprock Canyons State Park
  • Distance from Lubbock: 93 miles (1h 30min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Birding, Nature Trips

Lake Theo is another destination that is more than just a lake. It is situated in one of the most fascinating parks in Texas.

The reservoir is relatively small compared to other options on the list. Yet, it offers fishing for bass and catfish, as well as kayaking and swimming, while fast boating is prohibited.

Where this area excels, though, is wildlife and landscape. Over 175 species of birds alone populate the park, but most importantly, you are guaranteed to meet bison here.

The park is well-developed, offering modern facilities, showers, and a lakeside campground. Plus, there are 90 miles of hiking and equestrian trails, including the Trailway – a rail-to-trail project that passes through Clarity Tunnel with its half a million Mexican free-tailed bats.

Needles to say, the park is a versatile destination, perfect for nature fans and adventurers, and Lake Theo is a cherry on top.

8. Lake Mackenzie

Lake Mackenzie texas
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Lake Mackenzie
  • Distance from Lubbock: 92 miles (1h 25min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, ATVs

Lake Mackenzie is an 896-acre reservoir north of Lubbock. It is rich in history and geology and offers a breathtaking landscape.

Facilities here are well-developed and include boat ramps, cabins, RV hookups, and a designated swimming area.

The lake is set in a canyon with steep layered walls, making for a perfect paddling experience but limiting fishing space on the shore. So if angling is the top priority for you, it’s better to bring a boat.

Because of the continuous drought, the water level is relatively low, and currently, wakeboarding and skiing are prohibited. Call in advance to find out current conditions.

Still, the area around the reservoir is stunning. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking and exploring. Plus, there is a wide selection of ATV trails for all levels.

Overall, it’s the top lakeside spot, especially once water returns; definitely worth the drive!

9. Lake Meredith

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area on an August day
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Lake Meredith
  • Distance from Lubbock: 161 miles (2h 20min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing

Lake Meredith is a massive 10,000-acre reservoir surrounded by the national recreational area that offers over a dozen access points.

This destination is somewhat a wild card on the list. It’s over two hours drive away from Lubbock, which many people will find too much. Yet, it’s so unique that it has to be mentioned.

National Park Service provides a wide selection of campsites that surround the lake. There are primitive spots with no amenities, as well as developed RV sites with hookups. And in some cases, you can camp right by the water.

The lake is a popular fishing spot known not just for bass and catfish but also rainbow trout, which isn’t common in Texas. Also, the reservoir holds three state records: yellow perch, walleye, and smallmouth bass.

Also, it’s a fantastic spot for paddling and boating with plenty of space for powerboating sports. The only concern is that it can get pretty choppy in windy weather due to the size of the reservoir. Paddlers will be safer in coves which the lake has plenty of.

Overall, Lake Meredith is a fun destination in a stunning natural setting. And with so many activities on offer, it’s one of the most versatile options on the list.

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