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15 BEST Recreational Lakes near New York City

Both New Jersey and New York State offer NYC residents and guests plenty of lakeside recreation. Fishing, swimming, waterskiing, as well as ice fishing and ice-skating, are popular activities at these lakes.
ItIsWild.com Best Lakes near New York City

The selection of lakes around New York City is huge. You will find large reservoirs open to sailing and waterskiing, as well as smaller lakes perfect for swimming, paddleboarding, and kayaking.

Some options, like Lake Welch, are located within nature parks and, in addition to water activities, offer campgrounds and trails for hiking and biking.

At the same time, places like Greenwood Lake have a selection of cabins and lodges, perfect for family get-togethers and romantic escapes.

Most of the lakes on the list are within an hour from Manhattan and can be enjoyed as a day trip.

Check out what NYC has to offer!

Lakes near NYC:

  1. Rockland Lake
  2. Lake Welch
  3. Greenwood Lake
  4. Splitrock Reservoir
  5. Budd Lake
  6. Spruce Run Reservoir
  7. Round Valley Reservoir
  8. Manasquan Reservoir
  9. Monksville Reservoir
  10. Hempstead Lake
  11. Lake Ronkonkoma
  12. Hopewell Quarry
  13. Mercer Lake
  14. Tarrytown Lakes
  15. Kensico Reservoir
Lakes near New York City Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Rockland Lake

Rockland Lake State Park
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Rockland Lake
  • Distance from NYC: 39 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming (pool), Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Tennis

Rockland Lake offers great recreation opportunities today after once serving as the “Icehouse of New York City.” A 39-mile drive north of Times Square in Manhattan, this 279-acre lake is the centerpiece of the 1,133-acre Rockland Lake State Park

The Knickerbocker Ice Company carved ice from this lake during winters beginning in the 1830s and stored the blocks in ice houses as an early form of refrigeration. The state park opened in 1958. 

Rockland Lake State Park is known for its massive swimming pool, along with trails, golf courses, tennis courts, and other outdoor activity areas. 

Open year-round, the park also offers snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing during the winter. A 3.2-mile trail encircles the lake. 

Guests may bring their pets to the park between October and April. The Gethsemane Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery more than a century old, is also located within the park. 

Visitors may use small, non-motorized boats on Rockland Lake. Those who fish here will find bluegill, bullhead, perch, pumpkinseed, chain pickerel, and largemouth and smallmouth bass.

2. Lake Welch

Harriman State Park Welch Lake Beach
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Lake Welch
  • Distance from NYC: 44 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking

A popular destination at Harriman State Park, Lake Welch is a drive of a little more than 40 miles from the heart of Manhattan. 

With a half-mile-long sandy beach nestled in the shadow of the Ramapo Mountains, Lake Welch is one of 31 lakes and reservoirs in this park, the second-largest in New York’s system. 

Other lakes include Askoti, Skannatati, Kanawauke, Sebago, and Silver Mine. Some of these lakes also have boat launch areas, beaches, and other facilities.

Lake Welch grew in size after crews built a dam in 1942. A popular site for swimming, fishing, ice fishing, boating, and snowmobiling, this 216-acre lake has a beach on its northeastern corner that first opened in 1962 and a boat launch on the western side. 

Fed by the waters of Beaver Pond Brook, this lake also sits near Beaver Pond Campground, immediately to the northeast. The Lake Welch Parkway, opened in 1971, connects the lake area to other parts of the park.

Although occasional algae blooms have limited the swimming season at Lake Welch, fishing remains popular. Fish commonly caught here and at other nearby lakes in Harriman State Park include bass, sunfish, and pickerel.

3. Greenwood Lake

Greenwood Lake New York
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Greenwood Lake
  • Distance from NYC: 47 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Sailing

Shared by New York and New Jersey, 1,918-acre Greenwood Lake has over 68 miles of shoreline. The lake, once known as Long Pond, had dams as early as the 1760s to support forges, grist mills, and sawmills. 

A dam on the lake’s southeastern shore, at the headwaters of the Wanaque River, raised the lake by 12 feet and created a vacation spot for people who live in New York City, approximately 50 miles to the southeast.

Much of the lakefront remains in private hands. On the northern shore, the Village of Greenwood Lake’s Thomas P. Morahan Waterfront Park requires local connections to gain access. 

On the New Jersey side, the Township of West Milford manages Browns Point Park as a site where boating, waterskiing, and fishing are popular activities. 

Anglers visiting Greenwood Lake will notice two different basins. The New York side tends to be deeper, with steep slopes. The New Jersey side has fewer slopes and shallower water. 

Fish found here include walleye, bass, muskellunge, crappie, and trout. The New Jersey record for a carp caught by archery occurred when a 45 lbs. 6 oz. fish was captured in 2014.

4. Splitrock Reservoir

  • Website: Splitrock Reservoir
  • Distance from NYC: 36 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking

A little more than 35 miles northwest of Times Square and seven miles north of Rockaway, the 625-acre Splitrock Reservoir occupies a wilderness area near Farny State Park and serves as a water source for Jersey City. 

The area had ties to the iron industry during the Civil War. Remnants of a charcoal-fueled furnace built in 1862 are located near the reservoir, though the village that supported it has disappeared into the forest. 

Workers built a dam that turned Splitrock Pond into a reservoir in 1947-1948. Public access to Splitrock Reservoir and nearby natural lands began in November 2003. 

Non-motorized, car-top watercraft are permitted in the reservoir, with hiking permitted on adjacent marked trails. Shoreline fishing, biking, and horseback riding are not allowed. 

Canoeing and kayaking are popular activities. Anglers who cast lines will have a chance to catch bass, perch, pickerel, and crappie.

5. Budd Lake

Water skiing splashes
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Budd Lake
  • Distance from NYC: 47 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Sailing

Budd Lake, a 374-acre body of water that traces its glacial origins to the last Ice Age, is approximately 40 miles west of the heart of Manhattan. 

Situated in an unincorporated community also named Budd Lake, this lake is the headwaters of the South Branch of the Raritan River. 

Located where the river flows from the lake, Budd Lake Beach Park has a fishing pier and locations to launch paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks.

The Budd Lake State Wildlife Management Area sits along the west and northwest areas of the lake, sharing this space with the Bug Lake Bog Preserve as a wetland habitat. These areas have unimproved trails perfect for bird and nature watching. 

Those who come to Budd Lake to fish will find largemouth bass, northern pike, and yellow perch are top catches. Other fish that swim in this lake include crappies, catfish, white perch, and sunfish.

6. Spruce Run Reservoir

Spruce Run Reservoir
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Spruce Run Reservoir
  • Distance from NYC: 58 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Sailing

Located northwest of Clinton, Spruce Run Reservoir covers 1,290 acres and has a shoreline spanning 15 miles. 

People enjoy outdoor recreation throughout the year at the Spruce Run Recreation Area, a location for picnicking, seasonal camping, boating, windsurfing, fishing, and summertime swimming. 

Guests enjoy sports fields, playgrounds, and trails for hiking and biking. Ice fishing, sledding, ice sailing, and cross-country skiing are popular during the winter. 

Spruce Run Reservoir was developed to meet the region’s growing demand for drinking water and a desire for recreation facilities. 

This New Jersey reservoir is home to a variety of fish that include catfish, sunfish, yellow perch, and largemouth bass.

7. Round Valley Reservoir

Round Valley Reservoir
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Round Valley Reservoir
  • Distance from NYC: 53 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Sailing

Located a few miles east-southeast of Spruce Run Reservoir, the 2,350-acre Round Valley Reservoir came into being in 1960. 

Laborers constructed two large dams for the New Jersey Water Authority to create a reliable freshwater drinking source. The Round Valley Recreation Area provides year-round access to the brisk, blue waters and surrounding land. 

The only state park with wilderness camping sites, this park also has trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. A popular 6-mile trail to Cushetunk Mountain takes hikers through heavily forested areas with some rocky and rugged sections. 

The reservoir has areas set aside for summertime swimming and scuba diving. Ice boating, ice fishing, and sledding are popular wintertime activities.

Those who boat, kayak, or fish from the bank will find trout, bass, bluegill, redbreast sunfish, and catfish in this reservoir. 

Round Valley holds four New Jersey state records for fish. These include a 7 lbs. 2 oz. smallmouth bass caught in 1990, a 21 lbs. 6 oz. brown trout from 1995, a 32 lbs. 8 oz. lake trout taken in 2002, and a 6 lbs. 13 oz. American eel pulled from the reservoir in 2005.

8. Manasquan Reservoir

Manasquan Reservoir
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Manasquan Reservoir
  • Distance from NYC: 55 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Located approximately 25 miles south of Perth Amboy in Howell Township, the 770-acre Manasquan Reservoir serves as a source of drinking water and recreational opportunities in the Monmouth County Park System. 

The Manasquan Reservoir Visitor Center at the southern end is a starting point for trails, a nature center, a boat launch site, and other amenities available since this impoundment along the Manasquan River came into service in 1990. 

Popular features at this park include the five-mile perimeter trail, a playground, and opportunities for water and bank fishing. 

A seasonal boat ramp is available for launching vessels. Year-round fishing allows anglers to cast a line for bass, tiger muskie, and catfish.

9. Monksville Reservoir

Monksville Reservoir
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Monksville Reservoir
  • Distance from NYC: 42 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

After drought conditions hit upper New Jersey in the 1980s, officials decided to build a dam along the Wanaque River at West Milford in 1987, creating the Monksville Reservoir. 

Named for a community that had to be relocated before the waters rose, this 505-acre reservoir captures water flowing southeastward from Greenwood Lake. 

Long Pond Ironworks State Park covers sections of the Monksville Reservoir. This park provides direct access to the reservoir, as well as areas for hiking, biking, and bird and wildlife watching. 

This location also recognizes the Long Pond Ironworks, founded in the area by Peter Hasenclever, a German immigrant, in 1766. 

Canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and boats share space in Monksville Reservoir, along with the nearby Green Turtle Pond, located approximately one mile northwest and halfway to Greenwood Lake. 

Anglers enjoy fishing for bass, trout, catfish, trout, walleye, bluegill, perch, and sunfish. A New Jersey record muskellunge, weighing 42 lbs. 13 oz., was caught in 1997.

10. Hempstead Lake

  • Website: Hempstead Lake
  • Distance from NYC: 28 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Located in Hempstead Lake State Park, Hempstead Lake is a top fishing destination on Long Island. Situated in West Hempstead, this 167-acre lake is the largest freshwater body in Nassau County. Along with nearby South Pond and McDonald Pond, this lake offers great trout catches. 

The park includes a variety of recreation facilities. With playgrounds, 18 tennis courts, basketball courts, and equestrian trails, this site offers year-round recreation that includes cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during winter months. 

The Environmental Education and Resiliency Center offers hands-on learning about natural conditions and storm resiliency. 

In addition to trout, other fish found in Hempstead Lake include yellow perch, black crappie, chain pickerel, and largemouth bass.

11. Lake Ronkonkoma

Lake Ronkonkoma
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Ronkonkoma
  • Distance from NYC: 52 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics

A kettle lake formed during the last Ice Age, the 243-acre Lake Ronkonkoma is the deepest natural body of water on Long Island. 

This groundwater lake has no streams that channel water into it, leading to water levels fluctuating along with the water table that can span multiple feet in height. 

Lake Ronkonkoma, a settlement with the same name, once served as a resort community before suburban growth came to the area. Summertime bungalows and cottages are now year-round residences. Multiple beaches and parks provide access to the lake.

Few fish swim in the deeper areas of the lake, due to a lack of dissolved oxygen reaching those depths. With most fish swimming in waters less than 15 feet, anglers will find great catches if they come to this lake, especially bass. 

Fish found in Lake Ronkonkoma include largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, white perch, yellow perch, bluegill, walleye, brown bullhead, chain pickerel, and black crappie. 

12. Hopewell Quarry

Quarry pool
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Hopewell Quarry
  • Distance from NYC: 56 miles
  • Activities: Swimming, Diving, Tubing

A 56-mile drive southwest of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, Hopewell Quarry has been a popular swimming destination in New Jersey. 

Originally a rock-mining site, the pumps that kept water from entering the quarry were turned off in 1916, allowing the deep hole to fill with water from underground springs. 

Once a largely unsupervised “old swimming hole,” the owners of Hopewell Quarry began to charge admission, and the Quarry Swim Club was incorporated in 1928. An in-ground swimming pool was added in 1946, with other amenities following that.

Hopewell Quarry went through many changes of ownership. From 1988 through 2021, the Gypton family owned the 55-foot-deep Hopewell Quarry. 

When concerns arose about the site’s future as the conditions of the facilities needed greater amounts of maintenance, the non-profit Friends of the Hopewell Quarry reached an agreement with the Gyptons to purchase Hopewell Quarry in August 2021, ensuring public access into the future.

13. Mercer Lake

  • Website: Mercer Lake
  • Distance from NYC: 60 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Sports Fields, Rowing, Paddle Boats 

Mercer Lake took shape in 1975 as an artificial reservoir on the northern outskirts of Trenton in West Windsor Township. 

Created as a flood control measure along Assunpink Creek, the creek flows into the lake from the east, and a dam controls the outflow of Assunpink Creek on the west side as the water flows through Van Nest Wildlife Refuge and toward Trenton. Crews building an extension of Interstate 295 in the early 1970s excavated part of this reservoir.

Mercer County Park sits along much of this 365-acre lake. This year-round park has a free boat ramp for smaller vessels, athletic fields, tennis courts, trails, camping areas, picnic areas, a winter ice skating rink, and the Finn M.W. Caspersen Rowing Center, an Olympic Training site and the only such facility that is located in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Fish found in Lake Mercer include crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed, sunfish, and yellow perch. The New Jersey record for white crappie, a 3 lbs. 11 oz. fish, was caught at this lake in 2009. 

14. Tarrytown Lakes

Tarrytown Lakes
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Tarrytown Lakes
  • Distance from NYC: 32 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

About 30 miles north of Times Square, the two Tarrytown Lakes owe their existence to an 1876 fire in Tarrytown that destroyed many buildings due to the lack of a good local water source. 

With the support of railroad magnate Jay Gould, Tarrytowners funded the construction of the 81-acre Tarrytown Reservoir, creating two artificial lakes that took shape along a tributary of the Saw Mill River in 1897. 

Alongside the reservoir, the 72-acre Tarrytown Lakes Park offers trails, bird watching, fishing, and seasonal kayaking. 

This green space provides access to the fish in the Tarrytown Lakes. Species commonly found in the reservoir include bluegill, black crappie, and largemouth bass. 

15. Kensico Reservoir

Kensico Reservoir Dam
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Kensico
  • Distance from NYC: 36 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Located in Valhalla, a few miles north of White Plains, the 2,145-acre Kensico Reservoir holds water from the Delaware and Catskill aqueducts before it reaches New York City. 

A large 307-foot-high stone dam completed in 1917 extended a reservoir under an earlier impoundment that had created Lake Kensico. 

At the base of the dam, the Kensico Dam Plaza offers impressive views and access to the top of the dam. Hiking and bicycling are popular activities. 

This park also provides bank fishing access and a boat ramp for local boat owners. South of the dam and toward New York City, the Bronx River Parkway Reservation is an 807-acre park that allows for public access to the Bronx River. 

Anglers who cast a line in Kensico Reservoir will enjoy opportunities to catch lake trout, brown trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and panfish. 

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