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11 Amazing Recreational Lakes near Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City is surrounded by fantastic recreational reservoirs providing every type of water activity imaginable. Whether you're into fishing, swimming, paddling, or boating, there is a lake for you here.
ItIsWild.com: Best Lakes near Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City has a wide selection of recreational lakes and reservoirs, many of which are within the city’s limits.

Lakes Hefner and Overholser are the two closest options. They offer boating, paddling, and fishing, as well as miles of paved urban trails.

Yet, if you want to go swimming or lakeside camping, you can try Arcadia Lake or Fort Cobb Lake. And if you’re not afraid of red mud, Lake Thunderbird, with its fantastic state park, is one of the most versatile options.

Check out what OKC has to offer!

Lakes near Oklahoma City:

  1. Lake Hefner
  2. Lake Overholser
  3. Lake Thunderbird
  4. Lake Stanley Draper
  5. Arcadia Lake
  6. Wes Watkins Lake
  7. Shawnee Twin Lakes
  8. Fort Cobb Lake
  9. Bell Cow Lake
  10. Guthrie Lake
  11. Lake El Reno
Lakes near Oklahoma City in Oklahoma Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Lake Hefner

Lake Hefner in OKC
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Lake Hefner
  • Distance from OKC: 11 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Sailing

Lake Hefner is a 2,500-acre reservoir just 15 minutes from downtown. It’s one of the city’s most popular lakes offering year-round recreation and outdoor activities.

Several parks and a marina provide access to the reservoir. For example, Stars and Stripes Park is an excellent all-around option with a lakefront, playgrounds, picnic tables, a gym, and an amazing skate park.

Swimming, jet skiing, and water skiing are prohibited on Lake Hefner. Instead, it’s an excellent spot for fishing and pleasure boating. Because of its windy nature, it’s not ideal for kayakers, but sailing is very popular here.

Talking about fishing, the lake scores pretty good reviews. The shore access is excellent, and so is the selection of species. You can catch largemouth bass, channel catfish, walleye, various crappie, and gar, just to name a few.

The cool thing about this reservoir is the paved 9.4-mile trail that loops around it. It’s a hectic place on weekends and a great location for biking, running, and skating. It connects all the parks together, including the lake’s trademark lighthouse, and offers impressive views over the water.

2. Lake Overholser

Lake Overholser in OKC
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Lake Overholser
  • Distance from OKC: 12 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Lake Overholser is a 1,500-acre reservoir on the city’s westside. It’s similar in character to Lake Hefner and offers just as many outdoor activities.

The best place to visit is Lake Overholser Park on the south shore. It’s known for a beautiful spillway dam and has plenty of amenities, including a boat ramp, picnic shelters, and playgrounds.

Just like Lake Hefner, swimming is prohibited at Lake Overholser, but you can kayak, canoe, boat, and fish here. 

This reservoir is known for channel catfish, which is the most common catch, as well as beautiful hybrid striped bass that frequently exceeds the 8-pound mark. Yet, there are many more species here.

Another similarity to Lake Hefner is the network of paved trails. The 8.2-mile route circles the lake and connects to the Oklahoma River Trail leading to downtown, as well as Hefner Trail stretching to Lake Hefner.

3. Lake Thunderbird

Lake Thunderbird in Oklahoma
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Lake Thunderbird
  • Distance from OKC: 28 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Sailing

At 5,349 acres, Lake Thunderbird is one of the largest and most versatile reservoirs on the list. It stands up to its cool name and offers a mighty selection of facilities and outdoor fun.

Lake Thunderbird State Park surrounds the reservoir and provides boat ramps, beaches, trails, campgrounds, and marinas. There is no shortage of space, and the selection of activities is incredible.

You can relax on a beach, go horseback riding, blast down the lake on a jet ski, or anything in between.

The best spot on the lake is Littel Axe Recreational Area on the eastern shore. It’s a highly-rated and family-friendly spot with all the necessary amenities, including rentals and campgrounds. 

However, Lake Thunderbird comes with a few drawbacks, too. Firstly, fishing here isn’t great. Despite its size, the action is slow, and the sizes are unimpressive.

Another issue is the bright-red clay that stains everything and muds the water earning the lake its moniker – Dirty Bird. 

Still, it’s a fantastic destination suited to all types of visitors. Don’t let the red clay stop you!

4. Lake Stanley Draper

Lake Stanley Draper in Oklahoma City
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Lake Stanley Draper
  • Distance from OKC: 16 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Lake Stanley Draper is a 2,900-acre reservoir just 20 minutes from downtown. It’s known for a fantastic marina and a sprawling network of trails for hiking and biking.

Lake Stanley Draper Marina is the perfect one-stop shop for lakegoers and offers everything from fish bait to rentals and licenses. It has a three-lane paved boat ramp, a playground, picnic spots, fishing access, and more.

Swimming isn’t allowed at Lake Stanley Draper, but it’s the nearest lake for water sports like wakeboarding and water skiing. Plus, its multiple coves and red clay banks make it an interesting spot for kayaking and canoeing adventures.

The biggest drawback to this reservoir is fishing. Just like at Lake Thunderbird, fishing here scores below average reviews, partly for the lack of action and partly for modest fish sizes. Yet, local anglers will argue that you need to get used to this lake to fish effectively.

The 14-mile loop trail and a network of MTB tracks provide plenty of fun on land, so even if you don’t like to get wet, there is still plenty to do at the lake.

5. Arcadia Lake

  • Website: Arcadia Lake
  • Distance from OKC: 17 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Arcadia Lake is a 1,820-acre reservoir easily accessible from I-35. It’s one of the most highly-rated lakes in Oklahoma City, and it doesn’t feel as urban as Lakes Hefner and Overholser.

The biggest advantage of this reservoir is that swimming is allowed – it’s the nearest spot for cooling off and sunbathing on hot summer days.

What’s more, there are no restrictions on other water activities like wakeboarding, waterskiing, and tubing, making it a rather versatile destination. 

And fishing is pretty good, too. You can catch largemouth bass, various catfish, crappie, and saugeye, just to name a few. The shore access is excellent, but the water is muddy, so pack your sparklest lures.

The two parks, Spring Creek Park and Central State Park, are equally nice, offering boat ramps, swimming areas, campgrounds, and miles of hiking and biking trails.

Overall, Ardacia Lake has a little bit of everything for every type of lakegoers. It’s no surprise that it’s one of the more popular lakes in Oklahoma City.

6. Wes Watkins Lake

Standing Timber on a Lake
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Wes Watkins Lake
  • Distance from OKC: 31 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Wes Watkins Lake is 1,142 acres in size and is located 35 minutes east of Oklahoma City. Completed in 1997, it’s the newest addition to the area and somewhat of a hidden gem.

North Deer Creek Recreational Area is the only access spot on the lake, but it’s split into two parts. The south bank has a large parking lot and a boat ramp, while the main part on the northern shore offers campgrounds, a swimming area, two boat ramps, and picnic spots. 

The lake has no restrictions on activities. However, if you’re planning on wakeboarding or waterskiing, take extra care and learn the lake, as it has a lot of standing timber.

On the bright side, standing timber is ideal fish habitat, and the lake is stocked frequently with largemouth bass, too. It’s slowly becoming the premier spot for bass fishing in the area. And despite the reports suggesting ‘low abundance,’ many experienced anglers report excellent results, with some topping 5 and 6-pound marks. 

There is a lot to like about this local gem, and considering it’s only 35 minutes from the city, there is no reason to ignore it.

7. Shawnee Twin Lakes

  • Website: Shawnee Twin Lakes
  • Distance from OKC: 31 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Shawnee Twin Lakes is a pair of reservoirs 35 minutes from OKC. They offer a wide mix of experiences, from hectic parks to serene fishing expeditions.

The two reservoirs are connected by a 10-foot deep channel. However, they are rather different when it comes to recreational options. 

Lake #2, the northern one, only allows fishing and kayaking and has a single boat ramp for access. While Lake #1, the southern one, has two parks with campgrounds and allows swimming and water activities like water skiing, wakeboarding, jet skiing, and tubing.

What’s more, fishing is rated above average at both lakes. You can catch largemouth bass, white crappie, walleye, and various catfish, just to name a few. Shore access is ok, and there are fishing docks available.

Overall, it’s another fantastic spot for all types of visits, be it family gatherings, kayaking trips, or fishing adventures, and it’s just 35 minutes from downtown.

8. Fort Cobb Lake

Sunset on a lake in Oklahoma
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Fort Cobb Lake
  • Distance from OKC: 75 miles (1h 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Fort Cobb Lake is a 4,000-acre reservoir southwest of Oklahoma City. It’s a buzzing summer destination with plenty of fun activities to do.

Most of the shoreline is part of the Fort Cobb State Park, offering campgrounds, boat ramps, swimming areas, hiking trails, a golf course, and a marina – everything you may need on a lake trip and more.

The selection of activities here is seemingly endless. You can rent pontoon boats and spend a day relaxing and exploring the lake, blast up and down on jet skis, or simply unwind and work on your tan.

Fort Cobb Reservoir is stocked with hybrid striped bass and saugeye, for the latter it holds the state record (10 lbs.). But when it comes to the popular largemouth bass, there are few. And apart from the hybrid, the most common catches here are blue catfish and white crappie.

If you like the convenience of state parks, you’d love this destination. It’s well worth the drive.

9. Bell Cow Lake

bell cow lake in oklahoma
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Bell Cow Lake
  • Distance from OKC: 48 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Bell Cow Lake is a 1,153-acre reservoir near Chandler and is easily accessible from I-44. Completed in 1990, it’s a fairly recent addition to the area, but already, the lake is known for trophy fish and its fantastic equestrian camp.

The city of Chandler manages four recreational areas around the lake, which provide campgrounds, boat ramps, and fishing piers. 

Camp C on the southern side is a shared space for RV and equestrian use. From here, hikers and riders can take the 6.8-mile out and back equestrian trail that runs along the lake.

Bell Cow Lake also allows swimming, kayaking, fishing, and boating, including wakeboarding and waterskiing. However, just like Wes Watkins Lake, there is plenty of standing timber remains, making fast water sports hazardous. 

Yet, the anglers would be pleased to learn that this is one of the best bass lakes near OKC. It’s managed for trophy largemouth bass, and many anglers report 10-pound catches. 

Overall, it’s another excellent option for lakegoers, especially if you’re into bass fishing and horses, and the clean facilities with picnic tables and campgrounds make it a good choice for everyone.

10. Guthrie Lake

Guthrie Lake in Oklahoma
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Guthrie Lake
  • Distance from OKC: 30 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping

Guthrie Lake is a 205-acre reservoir 30 miles north of OKC. It’s a ‘no wake’ destination, making it a peaceful spot for kayaking and fishing.

The city of Guthrie manages a park with boat ramps, picnic shelters, and fishing docks. Plus, there is a small campground for overnight trips.

Swimming is allowed at Guthrie Lake, but kayaking and paddleboarding seem to be the most popular activities here.

And when it comes to fishing, it receives average marks. The selection of species is typical for the area – largemouth bass, crappie, various catfish, carp, and drum. Sizes are nothing to write home about, as you may expect from a lake of this size. But, the shore access is good, and together with the fishing dock, there is plenty of space to cast.

The cool thing about this location is that Guthrie Lake has a sister reservoir – Liberty Lake, just a few miles away. It’s also managed by the city of Guthrie but allows for fast boating, wakeboarding, and water skiing. 

Guthrie Lake must be the best destination for peaceful fishing and paddling, but if you’re into thrilling water sports, check out Liberty Lake, too.

11. Lake El Reno

Sunrise at a lake in oklahoma state
Source: pixabay
  • Website: Lake El Reno
  • Distance from OKC: 30 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

At 170 acres, Lake El Reno isn’t the biggest, but it packs a lot of fun and is widely considered the best fishing lake near OKC.

The city of El Reno manages the recreational areas around the reservoir and offers boat ramps, campgrounds, trails, and a sand beach.

Activity-wise, there are hardly any limits here. From swimming and fishing to wakeboarding and skiing, it’s all possible at Lake El Reno.

Yet, where the lake stands out is fishing. It scores well above average reviews and even holds a state record for flathead catfish (78lbs. 8oz.) – impressive for a 170-acre lake.

What’s more, the western part of the lake is home to an off-roading track. If you want to hit the trails before soaking in the cool water and grilling with friends, this is your best chance.

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