9 Superb Lakes near Waco, TX for Fishing, Swimming, and Boating

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With over 6,000 reservoirs, Texas is one of the top states for lakeside recreation, and Waco has some of the best.

The great thing is, you don’t have to travel far. Some of the coolest and the largest lakes are just within 45 minutes from Waco downtown. 

What’s more, all of the reservoirs are hugely versatile, offering swimming, fishing, kayaking, boating, and more. Any city would be jealous of such selection.

Read on to find out what Waco has to offer.

Lakes near Waco:

  1. Lake Waco
  2. Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir
  3. Belton Lake
  4. Stillhouse Hollow Lake
  5. Lake Whitney
  6. Aquilla Lake
  7. Navarro Mills Lake
  8. Richland-Chambers Reservoir
  9. Fort Parker Lake
Lakes near Waco Texas Comparison Table

1. Lake Waco

  • Official Page: Lake Waco
  • Distance from Waco: 9 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Lake Waco is an 8,465-acre reservoir that sits within city limits. It has a dozen of parks and access areas, making it an obvious choice for lake recreation in the city. 

Swimming is allowed at Lake Waco. However, it’s recommended to stick to the designated swimming areas. The best spots are Airport Beach and Twin Bridges area. 

Boating is hugely popular at the reservoir, too. There are 11 boat ramps scattered around the lake. Some require a launching fee, and others are free to use; see the complete list. The best area for boaters is Lake Waco Marina in Speegleville; it’s the most developed spot.

Another popular activity at the reservoir is paddling. You can explore the lake on a kayak, canoe, or SUP. There are plenty of coves to probe, and the diverse wildlife offers fantastic photo opportunities.

Lake Waco has a lot going for it. It’s versatile, it has excellent access, but most importantly, it’s right on the doorstep. It’s the top choice for day trips and evening adventures.

Related: 11 Amazing Lakes near Tyler, TX

2. Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir

Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir
  • Official Page: Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from Waco: 16 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir is a 2,010-acre lake east of the city. It’s undeveloped compared to Lake Waco and is suited mainly for fishing.

Mc Lennan County Park is the only access point to the lake. It has two boat ramps, and that’s it. There are no restrooms, piers, or any other facilities.

But the reservoir has a lot going for it than first seems. It’s a quiet place without the hustle and bustle of more developed lakes. And also, it’s free to enjoy – there are no day-use or launching fees.

The most common activity here is fishing. Although the reservoir doesn’t have any state records to its name, folks report good catches and generally rate it high.

Kayaking and grilling are also popular, and some people camp here despite the lack of amenities or designated campgrounds.

Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir won’t suit most people. But if you are looking for a peaceful retreat minutes from the city, it’s an excellent option.

Related: 11 Superb Lakes near San Angelo, TX

3. Belton Lake

  • Official Page: Belton Lake
  • Distance from Waco: 41 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Belton Lake is a massive 12,385-acre reservoir near Temple. It has a mix of developed spots and no-frills parks, so there is something for everyone here.

The reservoir is managed by the Corps of Engineers and has over a dozen recreation areas. Swimming is allowed at Belton Lake, but the recommendation is to stick to the designated beaches; the best one is Belton Lake Beach in Temple Lake Park.

Thanks to its size, the reservoir is a fantastic place for water sports like wakeboarding, skiing, sailing, and jets. It has several marinas and yacht clubs to support boaters. Plus, a wide choice of boat ramps scattered around the lake offers plenty of access points.

The reservoir has numerous campgrounds and RV parks for accommodation, so spending a weekend here is easy, although it’s only 45 minutes from Waco.

Fishing is average at Belton Lake, although several tournaments run throughout the year. Bass is the most common catch, which bites best when the water is warm.

Perhaps where this destination loses is trails; there are hardly any around the lake. But despite this, it’s a highly-rated destination that repeatedly gets high praise. It’s worth the drive!

Related: 7 Unique Lakes near Lufkin, TX

4. Stillhouse Hollow Lake

  • Official Page: Stillhouse Hollow Lake
  • Distance from Waco: 49 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Stillhouse Hollow Lake is a 6,429-acre reservoir 50 miles south of Waco. It’s a smaller cousin to Belton Lake but just as highly rated. 

What makes this lake unique is its crystal clear water. On a calm day, you can even see the bottom. Needless to say, it’s the top swimming destination serving the people of Waco, Temple, and beyond. 

Stillhouse Park, at the northern tip of the lake, is the most developed and popular access point, and it doesn’t feel crowded. Here you can find a beach, picnic areas, and a marina, everything you may need.

And when it comes to activities, the lake is as versatile as it gets. Fishing, kayaking, and water sports like wakeboarding and skiing are popular ways to spend an afternoon here.

You won’t find hotels or cabins at Stillhouse Lake, but the selection of campgrounds and RV parks is extensive. Plus, there is long-term lakeside living available. 

Another fantastic thing about the reservoir is the trails. Dana Peak Park is the best destination if you want to add hiking to your list of activities. And it has several highly-rated cycling routes, too.

Stillhouse Lake is a gem; it’s hard to find any significant drawbacks to it. If you’re looking for a family-friendly getaway, this is it.

Related: 15 Superb Lakes near San Antonio, TX

5. Lake Whitney

Lake Whitney
  • Official Page: Lake Whitney
  • Distance from Waco: 31 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Lake Whitney is a vast 23,500-acre reservoir just 30 miles from Waco. It’s a versatile and family-friendly destination.

Like many other lakes around Waco, Lake Whitney is managed by the Corps of Engineers. The shoreline is dotted with parks and access areas, big and small.

The most developed spots are Lofers Bend Park and Lake Whitney State Park. Both are fantastic choices that provide a wide selection of facilities. Although the state park is better for families as it offers kid-oriented activities like geocaching and Junior Ranger programs.

The lake is massive, making it great for water sports like wakeboarding, skiing, sailing, and jets. It has three marinas that offer slips, gas, and technical support. Also, the reservoir has over a dozen boat ramps, some of which are free to use.

Another thing that makes this reservoir stand out is the selection of accommodation types. In addition to the typical campgrounds and RV parks, Lake Whitney also has lodges, cabins, and hotels.

This is an excellent option if you’re looking for a comfortable or family-friendly lake experience. But there is no shortage of untouched locations, too.

Related: 7 Unique Lakes near Lufkin, TX

6. Aquilla Lake

  • Official Page: Aquilla Lake
  • Distance from Waco: 36 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming

Aquilla Lake is a 3,020-acre reservoir north of Waco. It’s the closest neighbor to Lake Whitney, yet it can’t be more different from it.

The reservoir is undeveloped. It has three one-lane boat ramps, restrooms, and parking, but that’s it when it comes to facilities. There are no designated swimming areas, campgrounds, or parks.

However, Aquilla Lake is the top fishing destination near Waco. The most common catches here are largemouth bass, catfish, and crappie. Plus, the lake is equipped with multiple fish attractors to aid anglers; you can find their coordinates here.

The reservoir is usually quiet. Large groups and water sports enthusiasts tend to avoid it, leaving more space and nature for anglers.

Aquilla Lake has a few drawbacks to it, though. For example, shore access isn’t excellent, and the best fishing is done from a boat or a kayak. Plus, there are standing timber and stamps in some areas that create hazards for navigation and inflatable craft.

Overall, it’s the top destination for fishing, but if you’re planning on swimming or doing water sports, there are better options around.

Related: 15 Superb Lakes near San Antonio, TX

7. Navarro Mills Lake

Navarro Mills Lake
  • Official Page: Navarro Mills Lake
  • Distance from Waco: 40 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Navarro Mills Lake is a 5,070-acre reservoir 45 minutes from Waco. It’s a highly-rated destination with well-kept parks and modern facilities.

The lake has four access points offering boat ramps, campgrounds, and picnic areas. The most developed options are Liberty Hill Park and Oak Park. 

Swimming is allowed at Navarro Mills Lake. Liberty Hill Park and Oak Park offer public beaches and changing rooms.

Other water activities include fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and various water sports like wakeboarding and skiing. Also, Navarro Mills Harbour Marina offers boat rentals and fishing supplies store.

This destination has a little bit of everything. It’s not the largest or the best in any way, yet it is many people’s favorite, probably because of the unique atmosphere and well-kept amenities.

Related: 11 Amazing Lakes near Tyler, TX

8. Richland-Chambers Reservoir

Richland-Chambers Reservoir
  • Official Page: Richland-Chambers Reservoir
  • Distance from Waco: 75 miles (1h 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Richland-Chambers Reservoir is a massive 41,356-acre lake near Corsicana. It’s the third-largest reservoir by surface area in Texas.

The lake’s shoreline is very well developed; it’s a mix of private real estate, campgrounds, RV parks, and marinas. Compared to other options on the list, this reservoir has the widest choice of accommodation, including cabins, lodges, and hotels.

Standing timber and other debris makes water sports like wakeboarding and skiing difficult. However, if you stay away from shore, it’s possible. The reservoir is more suited towards swimming and kayaking, but fishing is definitely the number one activity here.

It’s wise to take advantage of a fishing guide if it’s your first time at the reservoir. It’s a fun way to improve your angling skills and learn about this location, plus you’re guaranteed a large haul. The most common catch here is catfish and bass. 

Although it’s over an hour’s drive away, Richland-Chambers Reservoir is a unique option. It’s especially excellent for anglers and those who prefer enjoying lakes in comfort.

Related: 11 Superb Lakes near San Angelo, TX

9. Fort Parker Lake

Fort Parker Lake
  • Official Page: Fort Parker Lake
  • Distance from Waco: 44 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, Hiking

Fort Parker Lake is a small 725-acre reservoir east of Waco. It’s the centerpiece of the Fort Parker State Park, which makes the lake a fantastic option for families and outdoor fans.

Despite its modest size, the reservoir offers a wide selection of water-based activities. Fishing for bass and catfish, swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding are all possible here.

One thing that makes this destination unique is the Limestone Bluffs paddling trail. It runs along the peaceful Navasota River for 5.3 miles and takes around 3 hours to complete. It’s a fantastic paddling adventure.

In addition to water activities, the park offers 7 miles of hiking and cycling trails, various interpretive programs, and the Junior Ranger initiative for kids.

The great thing about the park is that they offer equipment rentals. If you don’t own a kayak or a set of fishing rods, it’s not a problem. It’s a beginner-friendly place.

Overall, Fort Parker Lake is the coziest and most family-friendly destination on the list. And the best thing is, you don’t have to be an outdoor expert and own tons of equipment to enjoy everything it has to offer.

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