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11 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Memphis, TN

The selection of lakes around Memphis is diverse. The area has city lakes, wildlife refuges, and large COE reservoirs with no limits on recreation. The lakes south of the city hold multiple state fish records.
ItIsWild.com Best Lakes near Memphis TN

The choice of lakes in the Memphis area is mixed and varied. Together, they cover all types of water activities.

The city’s parks have pleasant lakes for kayaking, fishing, and picnicking. The nearby wildlife refuge lake is great for birdwatching and photography. And the large Corp of Engineers’ reservoirs offer anything from swimming to waterskiing, as well as camping, hiking, and biking.

Anglers would be pleased to know that some of these lakes hold multiple fishing records. Sardis Lake and Enid Lake in Mississippi have six records between them.

Don’t miss a chance to explore these gems. Check out what Memphis has to offer!

Lakes near Memphis:

  1. Shelby Farms Park
  2. Poplar Tree Lake
  3. Wapanocca Lake
  4. Arkabutla Lake
  5. Casper Lake
  6. Glenn Springs Lake 
  7. Moon Lake
  8. Sardis Lake
  9. Enid Lake
  10. Herb Parsons Lake
  11. Chewalla Lake
Lakes near Memphis Tennessee Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Shelby Farms Park

Shelby Farms Park
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Shelby Farms Park
  • Distance from Memphis: 15 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Horseback Riding

One of the world’s largest urban parks, Shelby Farms Park occupies 4,500 acres east of downtown Memphis. Shelby County used this site as a penal farm from 1929 until 1964. 

Prisoners worked the land to provide food for other inmates, even creating excess produce that the state sold for profit. 

The property began serving as a recreation destination in the 1970s. Today, the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy operates and manages this facility with multiple attractions and lakes.

The park has more than 20 ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water. These include multiple fishing ponds collectively known as Catchem Lakes, as well as Pine Lake, Chickasaw Lake, Gravel Pit Lake, Trap Lake, and Refuge Pond. The Wolf River also runs along the southern portion of the park. 

The year-round park offers excellent fishing. Species commonly caught include bream, catfish, crappie, bluegill, and largemouth bass. 

In addition to the numerous bodies of water, other park amenities bring crowds to Shelby Farms Park. These include more than 40 miles of paved and unpaved trails, a playground, and locations for everything from laser tag and paintball to horseback riding and nature viewing. The buffalo herds onsite are very popular, as well. 

2. Poplar Tree Lake

Poplar Tree Lake
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Poplar Tree Lake
  • Distance from Memphis: 16 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Horseback Riding, Camping

Located approximately 15 miles north of downtown Memphis, the 125-acre Poplar Tree Lake is a popular destination within Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park

This forest park occupies 12,539 acres of bluffs and bottomland that border the Mississippi River. The park has campgrounds, cabins, a nature center, a trail system of more than 20 miles, and two disc golf courses.

Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park offers a boat launch along the river, as well as at Poplar Tree Lake. Seasonal rentals of kayaks, canoes, small boats, and paddle boards are available. Visitors may bring their own vessel and operate it at no-wake speeds. 

Those who fish in Poplar Tree Lake and the nearby 25-acre Piersol Lake will see bluegill, largemouth bass, catfish, sunfish, and spotted bass. Bobcats, foxes, otters, and beavers often prowl near the lakefront. 

3. Wapanocca Lake

Swamp kayaking with cypress trees
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Wapanocca Lake
  • Distance from Memphis: 25 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Birdwatching, Photography

A drive of almost 25 miles northwest of downtown, Wapanocca Lake sits within the 5,484-acre Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge. Federal authorities established this preserve in January 1961 as a forested location where migratory waterfowl could safely nest. 

Only four miles west of where Arkansas meets the Mississippi River, the refuge was sold to the federal government by the Wapanocca Outing Club, a group of waterfowl hunters from Memphis first organized in 1886 that had acquired the lake.

Shallow Wapanocca Lake took shape approximately 5,000 years ago as the Mississippi River shifted course. This 600-acre lake and nearby bottomland forests offer birds and wintering waterfowl a safe location in the Arkansas Delta where they can thrive. 

The wildlife refuge, including land along Wapanocca Lake, maintains its primitive character without any substantial facilities. 

Those who come here to experience nature may also catch largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and bluegill if they cast a line. 

4. Arkabutla Lake

Arkabutla Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Arkabutla Lake
  • Distance from Memphis: 37 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Waterskiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Sailing

A drive 37 miles south of downtown takes visitors to Arkabutla Lake, a body of water resulting from flood control efforts after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. 

Federal funding for the Yazoo Headwater Project led to the impoundment of the Coldwater River and the creation of this new reservoir. 

To expand the waters beyond the original riverbed, work teams had to evacuate the residents of Coldwater in 1942. The town moved to land above the new water line, 1.5 miles to the south, so crews could build this flood control reservoir.

The Arkabutla has an average summertime surface area of 11,870 acres and an average depth of 9.6 feet. In addition to its value in floodwater management, Arkabutla Lake has become a recreation destination. 

Multiple day-use recreation sites occupy acreage near the lake, offering nature trails, picnic areas, swimming beaches, and boat launches. Campsites in the region allow for extended outdoor experiences.

Fishing is a top reason people visit this reservoir. Known for its crappie, this lake holds the Mississippi record for the largest black crappie caught, a 4 lbs. 4 oz. fish reeled in in 1991. Other fish found here include bass, catfish, bluegill, warmouth, and sunfish.

5. Casper Lake

Edmund Orgill Park
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Casper Lake
  • Distance from Memphis: 22 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Walking

A little more than 20 miles north-northeast of downtown, Casper Lake sits within Edmund Orgill Park. Opened in 1972, this park’s name honors a progressive Memphis mayor who promoted improved race relations during his tenure in the 1950s. 

The park’s 440 acres include lakeside vistas with picnic areas on the east side and a golf course on the west side. The 67-acre lake sits within the center of the park.

A fishing pier offers access to Casper Lake for wildlife watching, photography, and fishing. Trails and green spaces provide places for exercise and family gatherings. 

A boat ramp allows visitors to launch kayaks, canoes, and pontoons onto the lake. Anglers who cast a line at Casper Lake will find bream, sunfish, catfish, bluegill, largemouth bass, and spotted bass swimming in the waters.

6. Glenn Springs Lake 

canoeing on a small lake in Tennessee
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Glenn Springs Lake
  • Distance from Memphis: 27 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Glenn Springs Lake is located approximately 25 miles north of central Memphis. Maps and signage sometimes spell the lake’s name with one ‘n’. According to local sources, there are actually two separate lakes. 

The publicly-accessible 310-acre Glenn Springs Lake came into being on land acquired from local property owners by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency in the early 1990s. 

Spelled both ways, this lake sits a couple of miles away from a smaller, spring-fed Glenn Springs Lake on private property. To confuse matters more, a smaller Glenview Lake sits a mile to the east of the one visitors may use. 

The fishing lake has a boat launch area, fishing piers, and boat rental facilities.

Anglers coming to Glenn Springs Lake, as well as other smaller lakes in this area of Tipton County, will find bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, and crappie.

7. Moon Lake

Wooden pier on a lake with cypress
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Moon Lake
  • Distance from Memphis: 61 miles (1hr 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics

A trip 60 miles south-southwest of Memphis, the 2,300-acre Moon Lake is one of many oxbow lakes within a short distance of the Mississippi River that once were part of the long river’s main channel. 

Today, the crescent moon-shaped lake in Coahoma County sits outside of the main Mississippi River levee area, receives water from Phillips Bayou to the north, and sends water to the Coldwater River through Yazoo Pass. 

Anglers enjoy seeing migratory birds fly near the lake during seasonal fishing adventures. Parking spaces and a scenic overlook are available at the lower southwest corner of the lake, with a basic boat launch area at Moon Lake Park, a short distance away. 

Although private residences sit along portions of the lake, locations for bank fishing are also available. 

Those who fish at Moon Lake concentrate on catching crappie, with white crappie more abundant than black crappie. Catfish, bream, and largemouth bass are also present. 

8. Sardis Lake

Sardis Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Sardis Lake
  • Distance from Memphis: 60 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Waterskiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Sailing

Located 60 miles south-southeast of downtown, Sardis Lake is the next major reservoir created for flood control purposes below the Arkabutla, approximately 30 miles away. 

This 32,100-acre impoundment has an average depth of 18.5 feet, nearly twice the depth of Arkabutla Lake. Even better, this reservoir offers two lakes in one. In addition to the main Upper Sardis Lake, a smaller 425-acre Lower Sardis Lake welcomes visitors. 

Backbreaking work began on the dam and reservoir to impound the Little Tallahatchie River in the 1930s. Dense undergrowth and hardwood forests had to be altered and removed from the proposed reservoir’s route. The dam began operations in October 1940, the largest earth-filled dam in the world at the time of its construction. 

In addition to its value in preventing flooding, Sardis Lake is home to a wide variety of public boat launches, recreation sites, playgrounds, campsites, and day-use areas. 

With a launching ramp on the Lower Lake and 11 on the Upper Lake, anglers will find abundant populations of catfish, crappie, sunfish, bass, and sunfish. 

Mississippi record fish catches in Sardis Lower Lake include a 27 lbs. 4 oz. silver carp caught in 2019, and a 67 lbs. 12 oz. bighead carp reeled in during 2007. A record 48 lbs. 1 oz. longnose gar was pulled from Sardis Lake Spillway in 2016.

9. Enid Lake

Enid Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Enid Lake
  • Distance from Memphis: 73 miles (1hr 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Waterskiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Sailing

A 20-mile drive south of Sardis Lake, Enid Lake is another reservoir created by the Yazoo Headwater Project. Impoundment of the Yocona River began in 1947, with the completion of the dam occurring in 1952. 

Numerous campgrounds, recreation areas, and day-use sites provide multiple locations for visitors to enjoy this artificial reservoir. 

In addition to all of the other outdoor activities available at Enid Lake, fishing is an incredibly popular pastime. Bream, catfish, bass, and crappie are common catches. 

The state and world record catch for white crappie was caught in this reservoir in 1957, weighing 5 lbs. 3 oz. Mississippi records for shortnose gar (5.83 lbs.), caught in 1999, and spotted gar (8.1 lbs.), caught in 2012, were pulled from the Enid Dam Spillway.

10. Herb Parsons Lake

Herb Parsons Lake hot air ballon
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Herb Parsons Lake
  • Distance from Memphis: 37 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Herb Parsons Lake is east of Memphis, on the outer perimeter of the metropolitan area. This 177-acre lake has a fishing pier and boat ramp. 

Long a popular place to fish, the lake is scheduled to undergo a number of site improvements as part of the Bill Dance Signature Lakes initiative. 

State wildlife officials began lowering water levels in 2022, so habitat enhancements can take place. Other improvements include an enlarged boat ramp, better parking, more picnic areas, and adding a new fishing pier. 

Work on these improvements will continue into 2023. 

Fish commonly located in Herb Parsons Lake include bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, crappie, and catfish. 

11. Chewalla Lake

Chewalla Lake
Source: flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Website: Chewalla Lake
  • Distance from Memphis: 62 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping

Located 62 miles southeast of downtown Memphis, Chewalla Lake is a 260-acre body of water in northern Mississippi’s Holly Springs National Forest. 

This lake falls within the Chewalla Lake Recreation Area, a site open seasonally that includes lake access for boating and fishing, as well as picnic and camping sites.

A tranquil destination, this reservoir came into being after the US Forest Service oversaw the impoundment of a section of Chewalla Lake in 1966. 

Fish species often found in the lake include crappie, sunfish, bluegill, and bass.

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