Although the Richmond area is peppered with lakes and reservoirs, not many of them have public access or great facilities.
This list is a selection of some of the best reservoirs open to the public.
Some options like Diascund Reservoir or Chickahominy Lake are excellent spots for kayaking and fishing. Pocahontas State Park and Bear Creek Lake are fantastic family destinations. And places like Lake Anna are classic recreational reservoirs with no limits on activities.
Whether you’re into fishing, kayaking, or boating, there are plenty of options here. Check out what Richmond has to offer!
1. Three Lakes Park
- Official Page: Three Lakes Park
- Distance from Richmond: 10 miles (15 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Picnics, Hiking, Playgrounds
Three Lakes Park is a nature area just 15 minutes from downtown. It’s the nearest spot for escaping the hustle and bustle and spending time by the lake, but it’s not as versatile as other options on the list.
As the name suggests, the park offers three lakes suitable for fishing and spotting various wildlife. Also, it has a playground, a nature center, and a couple of miles of trails.
Fishing here is OK. You won’t catch lunkers like at bigger lakes, but the selection is really good, and 4-pound largemouth bass isn’t unheard of. You can expect bluegill, crappie, bowfin, and various cats and bullhead, too.
Unfortunately, swimming, paddling, and boating aren’t allowed at this location. It’s more of a nature spot than a traditional recreational reservoir.
Still, if you’re looking for a nature getaway and don’t want to drive far, this is an excellent option.
2. Pocahontas State Park
- Official Page: Pocahontas State Park
- Distance from Richmond: 20 miles (25 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating (electric motors), Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Swimming, Mountain Biking, Camping
Pocahontas State Park is a large park just 25 minutes south of Richmond. It’s a highly-rated destination with tons of activities and a wide selection of accommodation.
The park offers two lakes – Beaver Lake and Swift Creek Lake – allowing kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and boating. And although swimming isn’t allowed at the lakes, the park has an aquatic center with splash pads, slides, and pools – perfect for cooling off in summer.
The best thing about state parks is their rental facilities. Pocahontas State Park offers seasonal kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rentals, so anyone can get on the water.
And when it comes to accommodation, the selection is huge as well. You can choose to tent camp, bring an RV, or hire cabins, yurts, or lodges. Although Richmond is just 20 miles away, the park is excellent for overnight trips.
What’s more, the lakes here, and especially Swift Creek Lake, are highly-rated fisheries. There is plenty of largemouth bass, some as big as 8 pounds. You can also catch bluegill, crappie, bowfin, and chain pickerel, just to name a few. The shore access isn’t superb, but the action is excellent.
On land, there is just as much fun. The park has over 90 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian use. Plus, there is a CCC museum for history buffs.
Overall, it’s a fantastic location with plenty to do, and all the park’s amenities make it an easy option for families and beginners.
3. Lake Chesdin
- Official Page: Lake Chesdin
- Distance from Richmond: 30 miles (40 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Swimming, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing
Lake Chesdin is a 3,100-acre reservoir 30 miles south of Richmond. It’s a versatile place with hardly any limits, although it’s not as developed as other options on the list.
Despite its size, Lake Chesdin doesn’t have that many parks or access spots, making it a less crowded place. If you’re looking for a boat ramp, there is a free option on the eastern tip. Alternatively, Seven Springs Marina nearby has slips, a ramp, and a restaurant.
Another excellent spot is Whippernock Marina and Campground on the southern shore. It’s probably the most versatile spot on the lake with campgrounds, a boat ramp, and a beach.
Swimming is allowed at Lake Chesdin, and its coves and lilypad fields make it an excellent place for kayaking and canoeing, too. And when it comes to boating and water sports, the reservoir has shallow patches, so extra care is required when wakeboarding or pulling tubes.
Yet, the main reason folks visit this lake is fishing, which is pretty good. The lake has plenty of largemouth bass, channel cats, crappie, and bluegill. Also, it’s stocked with striped bass and angler’s favorite walleye, so the selection is excellent. However, shore access is somewhat limited; fishing from a boat or a kayak yields much better results and avoids lilypad snags.
Although it lacks amenities, Lake Chesdin is a fantastic spot for seasoned anglers and lake goers, but it’s not as family-friendly as some other options on the list.
4. Diascund Reservoir
- Official Page: Diascund Reservoir
- Distance from Richmond: 34 miles (40 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating (electric), Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics
Diascund Reservoir is a 1,110-acre lake 40 minutes east of Richmond. It’s a well-known fishing spot and an amazing kayaking and canoeing location.
The only access point to the reservoir is Diascund Reservoir Park on the southern shore. It’s easily accessible from Route 60, but it’s more of a boat landing than a park. It has a launching ramp, a picnic table, and a few spots for bank fishing, but that’s really it.
Swimming, paddleboarding, and gas motors are prohibited at Diascund Reservoir. Instead, the lake offers incredibly kayaking and canoeing as it has multiple islands and sandbanks to explore.
Yet, fishing is by far the most common activity here. Bank access is limited, so the best way to fish is from a kayak or a boat (electric motors). The reservoir is brimming with largemouth bass and crappie, but you can also go for chain pickerel, bowfin, and perch. This lake is highly-rated, and the action is usually good.
Although not as versatile as other options on the list, Diascund Reservoir is incredible for paddling and fishing, but if you’re looking for swimming, camping, and water sports, you’ll have to skip this one.
5. Little Creek Reservoir
- Official Page: Little Creek Reservoir
- Distance from Richmond: 39 miles (45 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating (electric), Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking
Little Creek Reservoir is a 1,000-acre lake some 45 minutes east of Richmond. It’s a serene destination known for crystal clear water and walleye fishing.
The only way to access the reservoir is the Little Creek Reservoir Park on the northern shore. The restrictions here are similar to Diascund Reservoir, yet the park offers a lot more than just a boat ramp. It has a mile-long nature trail, playgrounds, restrooms, and even kayak and canoe rentals, making it a more family-oriented option.
The water is crystal clear and inviting, yet swimming isn’t allowed at Little Creek Reservoir. Gas motors are also prohibited, making it a tranquil destination free from fast boats and jet skis.
Multiple coves and scenic views make it an excellent kayaking and canoeing spot, but fishing is what makes this lake stand out. The reservoir is known for walleye, which many anglers like to target. Also, you can catch largemouth bass, crappie, chain pickerel, and striped bass that often exceeds 12 pounds.
Scenic and crowd-free, Little Creek Reservoir will suit all types of visitors, from families to seasoned anglers. It’s another fantastic option that’s well worth the drive.
6. Chickahominy Lake
- Official Page: Chickahominy Lake
- Distance from Richmond: 31 miles (35 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping
Chickahominy Lake is a 1,200-acre impoundment of the Chickahominy River located just 35 minutes from Richmond. It offers gorgeous scenery with charming cypress trees, but access points are limited.
In fact, there are just two options to enjoy the lake – Eagles Landing and Ed Allen’s Campground and Bait Shop. The latter is the most versatile spot on the lake, offering a boat ramp, fishing piers, rentals, and more.
When it comes to activities, Chickahominy Lake is an incredible place for kayaking and canoeing. Its cypress trees create a swamp-like atmosphere which few lakes around Richmond can offer.
Also, it’s a highly-rated fishery known for bowfin and largemouth bass, among others. However, shore access is practically non-existent, so a kayak or a boat is vital for success.
Although there are no limits on gas motors and hp, waterskiing or wakeboarding aren’t allowed at Chickahominy Lake, probably because it’s too shallow and overgrown in places. The best alternative is the Chickahominy River just behind the dam.
Overall, it’s another excellent spot for paddling or fishing but for water sports and hiking; it’s not going to work.
7. Bear Creek Lake
- Official Page: Bear Creek Lake
- Distance from Richmond: 56 miles (1h 5min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating (electric), Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Swimming, Camping
Bear Creek Lake is a small 40-acre waterhole west of Richmond. It’s a charming spot known for an excellent beach and a wide selection of trails.
The lake is part of the Bear Creek Lake State Park that offers plenty of camping sites, cabins, a boat launch, a fishing pier, and dozens of picnic spots. What’s more, it sits in the Cumberland State Forest with all its fire roads and trails, making it an excellent destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
In summer, it’s a popular swimming spot thanks to the wide sandy beach with lifeguards. Also, the park offers jon boats, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards for rent. The lake’s unintimidating size is perfect for beginners and kids who are learning to paddle or stand on a SUP.
Another popular activity at Bear Creek Lake is fishing. The pier and easy shore access make it suitable for bank fishing, and the lake is known for largemouth bass, crappie, and channel cats. And it’s not all pan-sized; there are reports of 5-pound bass and 8-pound catfish, which is quite impressive for a 40-acre lake.
Charming and cozy, this is an excellent spot for families and outdoor enthusiasts, especially in summer, when the lake is at its best.
8. Lake Anna
- Official Page: Lake Anna
- Distance from Richmond: 58 miles (1h)
- Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing
At 13,000 acres, Lake Anna is the largest reservoir on the list and one of the most popular lake destinations in the state.
It offers a selection of facilities like marinas, campgrounds, beaches, and hotels. One of the best options is Lake Anna State Park on the northern shore, 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Richmond.
It’s a well-developed place with not just campgrounds but also cabins and lodges. The park offers every activity imaginable, from swimming, fishing, and kayaking, to hiking and wakeboarding; you will be spoiled for choice.
Thanks to its heritage, the park has a gold mining exhibition and offers an opportunity to try panning for gold which is always fun.
However, you can save some driving time by visiting Pleasant Landing, which is the nearest access point to Richmond. Maybe it’s not as large as the state park, but it offers a boat ramp, rentals, and an excellent sandy beach – perfect for day trips.
Lake Anna may not be the nearest, but it’s undoubtedly the most versatile option on the list. If you’re into wakeboarding, jet skiing, and boating generally, you can’t beat this destination.
9. Twin Lakes State Park
- Official Page: Twin Lakes
- Distance from Richmond: 62 miles (1h 10min)
- Activities: Swimming, Boating (electric), Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping
Twin Lakes State Park is an excellent option for families and outdoor enthusiasts. As the name suggests, it offers two lakes – Prince Edward Lake and Goodwin Lake, giving you plenty to explore.
Although the two lakes are small in size, 36 and 15 acres respectively, they pack a lot of fun. For example, the designated beach is excellent for cooling off in summer, the park has boat rentals for paddlers, and the boat ramp provides an opportunity to bring your own craft and enjoy the lakes at your own pace.
On land, there is a selection of hiking trails, and the state forest nearby has plenty more. Plus, there is a conference center and a nice selection of accommodation with modern cabins and campgrounds – perfect for romantic getaways and weddings.
Surprisingly, there are reports of well-sized largemouth bass and yellow perch taken from these lakes. Perhaps, 5-pound bass won’t shock seasoned anglers, but for a 36-acre waterhole, it’s pretty good.
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