11 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Midland, TX

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Midland may not be the best lake destination in Texas but if you’re willing to drive for over an hour, the choice is actually good.

Most of the reservoirs here are full-on recreational lakes with hardly any limits. From swimming and paddling to fishing and zooming about on jet skis, it’s all possible.

What’s more, some reservoirs on the list are undeveloped and offer peace and solitude. At the same time, there are hectic places with state parks and lakeside lodging. The choice is yours.

Check out what Midland has to offer!

Lakes near Midland:

  1. E. V. Spence Reservoir
  2. Moss Creek Lake
  3. Lake J. B. Thomas  
  4. Lake Colorado City
  5. Comanche Trail Lake (Big Spring)
  6. Comanche Trail Pond (Odessa)
  7. O. C. Fisher Lake
  8. Twin Buttes Reservoir
  9. Lake Nasworthy
  10. Lake Balmorhea
  11. Red Bluff Reservoir
Lakes near Midland Texas Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. E. V. Spence Reservoir

Woman paddling on a lake
Photo: pixabay
  • Official Page: E. V. Spence Reservoir
  • Distance from Midland: 110 miles (1h 45min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Camping, RVs

E. V. Spence Reservoir is a vast 14,640-acre lake near Robert Lee. It’s not as developed as others on the list, so it’s better suited for seasoned adventurers and people who enjoy remote getaways.

Although huge, the reservoir hasn’t been full for a long time. It suffered greatly during the 2011-2013 drought and, for the last five years, has been 25% full. 

Still, even at this capacity, it offers 6,000 acres of surface area, which is more than enough for lake activities. 

The reservoir has four recreational areas, but Wildcat and Paint Creek are the best two. These have shops, boat ramps, and primitive campgrounds. Other spots are much simpler and provide only shore access and restrooms.

Jet skiing, boating, paddling, and swimming are all great fun, and there is plenty of space to find your boat’s limit. Some sections of the shoreline have gorgeous bluffs and layered cliffs, making kayaking and canoeing here especially pleasant.

However, fishing is average at E. V. Spence Reservoir. Although it has been stocked with almost 500,000 largemouth fingerlings since 2013, the stocks are having a difficult time due to the golden algae bloom. Still, some anglers find success here.

Challenging fishing, remoteness, and the lack of developed facilities make this destination one of the least visited. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re looking for solitude and gorgeous sunsets, this is the place.

2. Moss Creek Lake

Lake with bluffs and shrubs
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Moss Creek Lake
  • Distance from Midland: 54 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Hiking, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Camping, RVs, OHV Trails

Moss Creek Lake is a 400-acre reservoir east of Big Spring. It’s the nearest recreational lake without any restriction, although it’s an hour away.

The reservoir is managed by the city of Big Spring and offers boat ramps, beaches, campsites, and picnic shelters; everything you may need for a weekend on the lake.

Despite its modest size, the lake is an excellent place for wakeboarding, tubing, and jet skiing. Also, kayaking and canoeing are great ways to explore the shoreline and get close to the gorgeous sandstone bluffs.

Swimming is allowed at Moss Creek Lake; it’s a great spot to cool off in summer. 

However, the most popular activity here is fishing. Common carp is the most typical catch, but largemouth bass and bluegill are present too. The bite is quite good, but the sizes are modest; you won’t catch any lunkers here.

What makes this location different from others are OHV trails. It’s an excellent spot if you want to combine off-roading with relaxing by the lake.

3. Lake J. B. Thomas

Man fishing on a lake
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Lake J. B. Thomas
  • Distance from Midland: 73 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Lake J. B. Thomas is a 7,282-acre reservoir near Snyder. It’s a full-on recreational lake with hardly any restrictions.

The reservoir has plenty of access areas, including a marina on the southern shore with basic boating facilities and a campground.

Swimming is allowed at Lake J. B. Thomas. However, the designated swimming areas are hard to come by, but access to the water is easy. In many cases, you can drive right to the water to set up camp.

Fishing is excellent at this lake. It is stocked frequently and enjoyed new records in the last couple of years – 10-pound largemouth bass in 2020 and 19.6-pound channel catfish in 2021. 

Other activities include kayaking, canoeing, wakeboarding, and tubing. Plus, there are plenty of trails for exploring the shoreline, although they’re not designated.

The drawback to this lake is the lack of shade and rental facilities; you have to bring everything you might need. Hence, it’s better suited for seasoned outdoor enthusiasts rather than beginners.

4. Lake Colorado City

  • Official Page: Lake Colorado City
  • Distance from Midland: 79 miles (1h 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Hiking, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Camping, RVs

Lake Colorado City is a 1,618-acre reservoir some 80 miles east of Midland. Although it’s quite a drive, the lake offers plenty of activities and is certainly worth visiting.

The best way to access the lake is to visit Lake Colorado City State Park on the western shore. It’s a modern and well-kept park with over a hundred campsites, as well as cabins, boat ramps, and a few trails.

You can hire kayaks and canoes during the season to explore the reservoir. Also, fishing is popular here, but it isn’t great. Fish stocks are too low, and the last time the lake was stocked was in 2008. Still, many anglers catch a fish or two.

Swimming is allowed at Lake Colorado City, too, and the park maintains a swimming area, making it a perfect summer destination.

The boat ramp allows for the use of personal craft, and many people enjoy jet skiing and tubing. However, the lake is very sensitive to draughts. In 2021, for the first time in many years, the reservoir got a good amount of water. If you’re planning on boating, check with the park before traveling.

Overall, it’s a versatile and family-friendly destination with an excellent choice of accommodation, perfect for weekend getaways.

5. Comanche Trail Lake (Big Spring)

Comanche Trail Lake (Big Spring)
Source: flickr/ CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Comanche Trail Lake
  • Distance from Midland: 41 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, Sports Grounds, Aqua Park

Comanche Trail Lake is a small spring-fed pond in Big Spring. Although not a typical recreational lake, it offers excellent fishing and paddling.

The lake is part of the Comanche Trail Park, which has sports grounds, disk golf, picnic shelters, and miles of hiking trails. It’s a versatile destination with lots to do.

Another great thing about the park is the Family Aquatic Center which is the perfect opportunity to cool off in summer and keep kids busy. However, make sure that it’s open before traveling as the center tends to close early.

Fishing is fantastic at Comanche Trail Park. It’s stocked regularly with channel catfish and rainbow trout. You can expect largemouth bass and yellow bullhead in addition to the stocked species. The bite is excellent, but the pond is too small for trophy-size fish.

Another surprise here is a small campground. Although primitive and right by the road, it’s free to use and allows for multi-day trips. There are just six campsites here, and large rigs will find it impossible to park, but smaller campers will be OK.

Overall, Comanche Trail Lake is an excellent choice for families and anglers. But if you’re looking for a lake to wakeboard and jet ski, this isn’t it.

6. Comanche Trail Pond (Odessa)

City pond with fountain during sunset
Source: pixabay
  • Official Page: Comanche Trail Pond
  • Distance from Midland: 22 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Hiking, Picnics

Comanche Trail Pond is a small urban lake in Odessa. It’s the nearest place where you can cast a rod and unwind.

The pond is part of the Comanche Trail Park, which has picnic shelters, disc golf, and a walking trail, but that’s pretty much it. It’s not an exciting destination, but it’s the nearest, making it great for afternoon fishing and walks.

The lake is stocked with rainbow trout multiple times a year. The bite is good, and you can keep up to 5 trouts. 

Also, it’s a picturesque place with lots of birds and well-kept grounds, which stands out in the urban environment.

Although not as versatile, Comanche Trail Pond deserves its place on the list, especially for fishing and proximity.

7. O. C. Fisher Lake

O. C. Fisher Lake
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: O. C. Fisher Lake
  • Distance from Midland: 109 miles (1h 55min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Camping, RVs

O. C. Fisher Lake is a 5,440-acre reservoir near San Angelo. It’s a versatile destination with hardly any limits.

The best way to access the lake is to visit San Angelo State Park, which offers boat ramps, hiking and MTB trails, and various accommodation types like campsites, cabins, and lodges.

On the water, you can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, and boating. However, the lake is very sensitive to draughts. It dried up entirely in 2011 and 2013, and since 1988 has never been more than 50% full. 

In recent years, boating has become possible again, but it’s better to check with the park before traveling.

Swimming is allowed at O. C. Fisher Lake, and the closer you are to the dam, the cleaner the water is.

Also, fishing is very popular here. Since the drought, the lake has been stocked with largemouth bass, cats, bluegill, and crappie. According to the 2020 and 2021 fish surveys, the stocks are recovering quickly, and anglers report good catches.

The unique thing about this destination is the wildlife. Many bird species populate the lake, and you can spot bison and Texan Longhorns. In fact, the park is home to the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd.

Overall, it’s a fun destination with lots of space and hardly any visitors, well worth the drive.

8. Twin Buttes Reservoir

Twin Buttes Reservoir
Source: wikimedia/ public domain
  • Official Page: Twin Buttes Reservoir
  • Distance from Midland: 124 miles (2h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Camping, RVs

Twin Buttes Reservoir is a 9,080-acre lake near San Angelo. It’s another versatile lake and an excellent option if you like to avoid crowds.

Compared to other lakes near San Angelo, this reservoir is largely undeveloped and remote. When it comes to facilities, it offers just boat ramps, restrooms, and picnic shelters, and that’s pretty much it.

Also, unlike Lake Nasworthy nearby, Twin Buttes Reservoir is sensitive to droughts, making the water level fluctuate a lot. You can check current conditions here.

Boating and fishing are by far the most popular activities here, but many folks come to enjoy swimming and paddling, too.

Fishing is relatively good at Twin Buttes Reservoir. It scores above average among anglers, and the selection of fish is excellent. Largemouth bass, longnose gar, common carp, and various types of catfish are at home here.

Also, primitive camping is possible along the shoreline, making this lake an excellent option for seasoned outdoor enthusiasts. However, the city is just 15 minutes away, giving you plenty of options.

This is a superb destination if you like solitude and keeping it rough.

9. Lake Nasworthy

Lake Nasworthy
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Lake Nasworthy
  • Distance from Midland: 120 miles (1h 50min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Camping, RVs

Lake Nasworthy is a 1,380-acre reservoir south of San Angelo. It’s a popular recreational lake with eleven access areas and developed facilities.

The reservoir’s shoreline is a mix of public parks and private businesses like boat clubs and recreational camps.

Swimming is allowed at Lake Nasworthy, and some parks provide designated swimming areas. It’s an excellent place to cool off in summer and enjoy picnics with friends.

Boating is very popular at this reservoir, too. There are a dozen boat ramps to launch your own craft, or you can hire jet skis and pontoon boats from local rentals.

Fishing is quite good at Lake Nasworthy. It boasts more fishing reports than any other lake on the list, most of which are about largemouth bass, but there is plenty of cats, crappies, and drums, too.

Overall, it’s an excellent lake destination with lots to offer. It’s even more developed than O. C. Fisher Lake and has a more stable water level, too.

10. Lake Balmorhea

Lake Balmorhea
Source: flickr/ CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Lake Balmorhea
  • Distance from Midland: 136 miles (2h 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping

Lake Balmorhea is a 556-acre reservoir two hours from Midland. It’s an undeveloped lake with simple amenities in the middle of nowhere.

The reservoir is spring-fed, and the water here is clearer than in other lakes. However, it’s adjacent to the farmland where cows roam free and frequently visit the lake. Some would find this off-putting, but most people swim here anyway.

If swimming is your priority, you may want to drive a few miles further to Balmorhea State Park. It has the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool with Caribbean-like water. It’s the best swimming hole within a 300-mile radius.

The only access point at Lake Balmorhea offers a bait shop and a primitive campground, so the facilities are pretty limited. Still, it’s a great place to kayak, canoe, and SUP.

Fishing is excellent at Lake Balmorhea, too. It’s stocked frequently and has plenty of largemouth bass. And although the sizes are modest, the bite is usually strong.

Overall, the lake is best suited for anglers and seasoned outdoorsmen, as most folks will find it too run-down and primitive.

11. Red Bluff Reservoir

Red Bluff Reservoir in Texas
Source: USGS/ public domain
  • Official Page: Red Bluff Reservoir
  • Distance from Midland: 146 miles (2h 20min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Red Bluff Reservoir is 11,193 acres when full. It’s located near Orla and offers a remote experience and decent fishing.

Years ago, the lake used to be a prime fishing spot with a bait shop and basic amenities. Yet nowadays, it’s a desolate place that needs taking care of.

The only access area is on the southern tip of the reservoir. You can drive right to the water to set up camp but be mindful of the surface; trucks get stuck here all the time.

Although there are no restrictions on recreation, there are no boat ramps; launching is done from the shore. Also, water levels aren’t as high as they used to be, so wakeboarding and tubing may be dangerous; stick to kayaking, canoeing, or jon boats.

Swimming is allowed at Red Bluff Reservoir, but when the water level is low, the lake tends to smell. Check the levels before traveling.

Fishing is the most common reason to visit the lake, and it’s pretty good here. The reservoir used to be stocked with bass and catfish, but the last recorded stocking was in 2016. Still, the lake isn’t overfished, and there is plenty of white bass here; 4lbs+ fish is pretty common.

Overall, Red Bluff Reservoir isn’t a family destination. It will suit seasoned anglers with good trucks. And if you’re looking for a more civilized lake, there are better options on the list.

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