Wild Logo v4

11 Top-Rated Lakes for Recreation near Topeka, KS

Topeka has an excellent selection of lakes, and like in many areas in Kansas, there are hardly any restrictions on activities. Swimming, fishing, power boating, and camping are all possible here.
itiswild,com Best Lakes near Topeka KS

Topeka is surrounded by excellent lakes and reservoirs, most of which are less than an hour away.

Those who are tired of the hectic Lake Shawnee can try quiet state-run lakes like Carbondale Lake or Osage State Fishing Lake.

Alternatively, Perry Lake and Clinton Lake are the nearest family-friendly options, with campgrounds, hiking trails, and designated swimming areas.

Milford Lake, Kansas’s largest, is a well-regarded fishery with multiple tournaments and state fishing records.

There is something for everyone here. Learn more about the area and discover what Topeka has to offer!

Lakes near Topeka:

  1. Lake Shawnee
  2. Shawnee State Fishing Lake
  3. Clinton Lake
  4. Perry Lake
  5. Carbondale Lake
  6. Osage State Fishing Lake
  7. Pomona Lake
  8. Melvern Lake
  9. Lake Wabaunsee
  10. Tuttle Creek Lake
  11. Milford Lake
Lakes near Topeka Kansas Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Lake Shawnee

  • Website: Lake Shawnee
  • Distance from Topeka: 5 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A little more than four miles southeast of downtown Topeka, Lake Shawnee began to take shape in the late 1930s. 

Crews from the federal Works Progress Administration created this artificial lake for recreation purposes. Five-thousand anglers participated in the opening ceremonies in September 1939. 

With a maximum depth of 52 feet, this 416-acre lake includes multiple fishing docks, a marina, a swimming area, and a family fishing pond. 

More than 1,000 acres of parkland surround Lake Shawnee. A variety of recreation opportunities attract more than one million visitors to this park each year. 

In addition to fishing, boating, and swimming, the park includes a year-round campground, the seasonal Lake Shawnee Adventure Cove swimming and watercraft rental area, the 22-acre Bettis Family Sports Complex, and the 37.5-acre Ted Ensley Gardens, with an arboretum and botanical gardens. 

Anglers will find many fish in Lake Shawnee. The species include bluegill, largemouth bass, and channel catfish. 

2. Shawnee State Fishing Lake

A super cell moving in on an afternoon of fishing on Shawnee State Fishing Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Shawnee State Fishing Lake
  • Distance from Topeka: 19 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping

Located 19 miles north-northwest of downtown Topeka, Shawnee State Fishing Lake was created in the 1960s. This 135-acre lake has become a popular destination for fishing for those who live in the area. 

Concerns about the original earthen impoundment led to the lowering of the lake and the dam’s rehabilitation in 2009-2010. 

Along with Osage State Fishing Lake south of Topeka, this is one of the recreation lakes created by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to expand fishing opportunities in this region of the state. 

Improvements to the dam have created an excellent outdoor recreation area for those who enjoy access to fishing from the many docks and launches around the lake’s perimeter. 

Since this body of water’s restoration, the population of largemouth bass has grown substantially. Crappie and channel catfish are also found at this location. 

3. Clinton Lake

clinton lake kansas during storm
Source: flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Website: Clinton Lake
  • Distance from Topeka: 25 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Clinton Lake occupies 7,000 surface acres southwest of Lawrence. The US Army Corps of Engineers completed the dam for flood control purposes in the mid-1970s to offer relief to an area that had suffered from serious flooding in the past. 

Small settlements in low-lying areas were abandoned and demolished to accommodate the reservoir with nearly 85 miles of shoreline. Impoundment began in 1977, with the reservoir filling to capacity three years later. 

Clinton State Park sits along the lake’s northern shoreline. With many day-use areas, over 375 campsites, cabins, and a marina that offers boat storage and rentals, this year-round park has been a popular place to reconnect with nature since its opening in 1975. 

At Clinton State Park and other lakeside locations, water-based recreation is the reason many come to the parks and public beaches in this area. 

Car-toppers, canoes, kayaks, pontoons, sailboats, and fishing boats share the reservoir. Bass, crappie, and catfish are popular catches in Clinton Lake. 

4. Perry Lake

  • Website: Perry Lake
  • Distance from Topeka: 20 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Sailing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Perry Lake, a flood control and water reservoir approximately 20 miles northeast of Topeka, has become a popular recreation site since a dam impounded a portion of the Delaware River in 1966. 

Perry State Park opened two years later under a long-term lease between the Kansas Parks and Resources Department and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The lake has approximately 160 miles of shoreline, much of it available for public access. 

The heavily-forested Perry State Park sits along the western side of the 11,000-acre impoundment. This park includes areas for hiking, biking, hunting, camping, and fishing. 

Federally-managed access areas and seasonal campgrounds sit along the lakefront, as well. The Slough Creek Public Use Area and Longview Campground have campsites near the lake and are open from mid-April through mid-October.

Big bass and catfish are common catches in these waters. Bluegill, crappie, walleye, sauger, and redear sunfish are also found at Perry Lake.

5. Carbondale Lake

a Kansas lake during a beautiful sunset
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Carbondale Lake
  • Distance from Topeka: 18 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics

Carbondale Lake is approximately 18 miles south of downtown Topeka and two miles east of Carbondale. 

This 265-acre body of water is accessible by taking US Highway 75 to the East 137th Street (Carbondale) exit. Following this road for less than two miles will take visitors to a parking area on the lake’s north side – the only public access area – with a simple boat ramp and loading dock. 

The earthen impoundment that created this artificial lake in 1966 is officially known as Strowbridge Dam, and some maps will refer to this quiet lake as Strowbridge Reservoir. 

Carbondale Lake is one of the least crowded lakes in the region. It provides a relaxing escape from the busy city.

Species found here include largemouth bass, white bass, walleye, channel catfish, flathead catfish, yellow perch, white crappie, and black crappie. 

6. Osage State Fishing Lake

Lily pads on a lake in Kansas with a beautiful sunrise
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Osage State Fishing Lake
  • Distance from Topeka: 21 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking

Located 21 miles south of downtown, Osage State Fishing Lake is available by driving along US Highway 75 to the 157th Street exit, the one immediately south of Carbondale. 

Access to this 140-acre lake is less than one mile east, in a state-managed reserve that offers opportunities for hiking, camping, boating, and fishing.

This artificial lake was created in 1955 as an impoundment for recreation purposes in an area with wooded sections and tall grass, bluestem prairie. 

The reservoir is located near the original Santa Fe Trail that crossed this area, a valley within the region’s Osage Cuestas, in the 19th century. 

Although swimming is not permitted, fishing remains a top reason for visitors to this pleasant lake. 

Channel catfish are commonly found in these waters. Other species an angler may encounter include bluegill, largemouth bass, sunfish, and crappie. 

7. Pomona Lake

  • Website: Pomona Lake
  • Distance from Topeka: 35 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Located 30 miles south of Topeka, Pomona Lake is a highly-regarded destination for anglers in east-central Kansas. 

The US Army Corps of Engineers designed this dam to handle watershed runoff and prevent floods in the region, channeling controlled releases into the 110-Mile Creek. 

Ultimately, water impounded in this 4,000-acre lake reaches the Marais des Cygnes River and the Osage River before flowing into the Missouri River. Workers completed the construction of the dam in 1963. 

Swimming, sailing, and water skiing are popular during warmer months. 

Pomona State Park covers 490 acres along the Pomona Reservoir. The grounds exist in a transition zone between the eastern woodlands and prairie, known for bird and wildlife watching. 

An easy day trip from Kansas City, Topeka, Manhattan, Wichita, and Joplin, long-time anglers from eastern Kansas and western Missouri are well-aware of this lake’s abundant fishing potential. 

Wipers – a cross between a striped bass and a white bass – are a top catch here. Crappie, catfish, and white bass are also commonly found in these waters. 

8. Melvern Lake

Melvern Lake Beach and Fishing Pond
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Melvern Lake
  • Distance from Topeka: 40 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Melvern Lake is a little less than 40 miles south of Topeka, most easily accessed by taking US Highway 75 to the Melvern Lake Parkway exit. 

One of the region’s best camping and outdoor recreation sites, this lake that impounds a section of the Marais des Cygnes River was dedicated in 1975 to prevent flood damage and provide water resources to nearby communities. 

Wildlife conservation and recreation on this 6,930-acre reservoir and 23,362 acres of federally owned land bring visitors to the region. 

With nearly 18,000 acres of land open to public access, numerous camping and recreation sites occupy areas once inhabited by the Kansa, or Kaw Indians. 

Arrow Rock offers access to the Tall Grass Heritage Trail. 

Coeur d’ Alene Park provides campsites on the lake’s southeastern corner, with Sun Dance Park on the southwest, and Turkey Point on the northern shore. 

On the other side of the dam, Outlet Park offers convenient swimming pond access. 

In addition to these federal sites, Eisenhower State Park covers 1,785 acres on the park’s north side, with trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding and a campground. 

Fish found in Melvern Lake include channel catfish, crappie, walleye, and white bass. A state-record 4.8 lbs. sauger was caught here in 1996. 

9. Lake Wabaunsee

Man on Personal Water Craft on a lake landing in a spray of water after jumping a wake at the lake with speedboat and houses and boat docks on shore in the distance
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Wabaunsee
  • Distance from Topeka: 45 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A 45-mile drive southwest of Topeka provides access to Lake Wabaunsee. This 235-acre body of water in the Flint Hills region sits along Mill Creek’s south branch. 

Created by water flowing from cold springs, plans to expand the creek into a lake began in the 1920s. 

During the New Deal, workers at a Wabaunsee County transient camp earned 90 cents per day, along with room and board, to build the original dam. Improvements to this dam were made in 1996.

Lake Wabaunsee is owned by the City of Eskridge and provides a source of drinking water for the community. 

Despite its relatively modest size, the lake offers a full range of water activities, including swimming, camping, and water skiing.

Anglers who visit the lake will encounter crappie, channel and flathead catfish, green sunfish, and largemouth and smallmouth bass. 

10. Tuttle Creek Lake

Evening time on a cloudy overcast eving on Tuttle Creek Lake in Kansas. Tuttle Creek Lake is located just outside of Manhattan, Kansas
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Tuttle Creek Lake
  • Distance from Topeka: 64 miles (1hr 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A drive 65 miles northwest of Topeka provides an opportunity to visit Tuttle Creek Lake. 

Located less than five miles north of Manhattan, this impoundment of the Big Blue River began in the 1950s as a flood control measure that also helped to augment the flow of the Missouri River downriver. 

Although there was strong opposition by many residents in the Blue Valley to this project, the flood protection and water source needs of those downriver, in places such as Manhattan, prevailed. 

The dam went into operation in 1962, creating a freshwater reservoir that spans 10,900 acres.

In addition to this large lake, the US Army Corps of Engineers manages approximately 20,000 acres surrounding the reservoir. 

Tuttle Creek State Park has five separate units along the reservoir that offer boat ramps, camping areas, cabins, swimming areas, a disc golf course, many trails, an archery range, and a shooting range. 

Grasslands in this region offer sanctuary for prairie chickens, upland sandpipers, meadowlarks, rabbits, foxes, and coyotes. 

Fishing in the reservoir is excellent. Bass tend to congregate near brush piles, with saugeye congregating near the dam. 

Other species found here include trout, channel catfish, flathead catfish, blue catfish, bluegill, green sunfish, walleye, and crappie. 

11. Milford Lake

Milford Lake kansas Aerial View
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Milford Lake
  • Distance from Topeka: 77 miles (1hr 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Milford Lake covers surface acres 77 miles west of Topeka. Also known as Milford Reservoir, this 15,700-acre impoundment of the Republican River is the state’s largest lake. 

The US Army Corps of Engineers began the construction of a dam in 1962 as a flood control measure in a region that had suffered many terrible disasters. 

The Great Flood of 1951, the last of many significant events before the dam went into service in 1967, helped push this project forward. 

Prior to the dam’s completion, the settlements of Broughton and Alida were raised, while Milford and Wakefield were moved to higher ground. 

There are numerous access points along the lake, including those at Milford State Park

Known as the “Fishing Capital of Kansas,” Milford Lake hosts many tournaments throughout the year. This reservoir is home to walleye, crappie, catfish, bass, and channel catfish. 

The state record goldeye, weighing 2.25 lbs., was caught here in 1980. Thirty years later, a 6.88 lbs. smallmouth bass hooked with a rod and reel became a state record catch. 

More Lakes in Kansas:

You Might Also Like: