Whether you are a land or lake-lubber, Indiana is home to some of the most spectacular lakes in the country. Surrounded by magnificent landscapes of densely forested woodlands teeming with wildlife, bordered by beautiful white sandy beaches, and boasting deep blue, crystal-clear waters, Indiana’s lakes offer an array of outdoor and recreational activities for everyone to enjoy. From hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and wildlife watching to water-based fun such as fishing, sailing, swimming, paddleboarding, wakeboarding, and water-skiing, the lakes around the state don’t fail to disappoint when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors. Here are some of Indiana’s most beautiful lakes.
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1.Barbee Lake Chain
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The Barbee chain of lakes is made up of seven interconnected natural lakes in northeastern Indiana's Kosciusko County, including Banning Lake, Big Barbee Lake, Little Barbee Lake, Irish Lake, Kuhn Lake, Sechrist Lake, and Sawmill Lake. Covering a combined surface area of 855 acres, the chain of lakes was formed by retreating glaciers during the Pleistocene and offer an array of recreational activities and watersports. Boating and fishing are prime recreational pursuits on the Barbee Lakes, with anglers rewarded with bountiful catches of bluegill, catfish, crappie, muskie, largemouth bass, and yellow perch. Other activities include biking, hiking, geocaching, golf, and swimming.
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Set in Indiana's Northern Lake Country Region, Bass Lake is a beautiful 1,400-acre body of water that has been considered a “mystery lake” ever since being discovered by European settlers due to its lack of a visible water source. Located in Starke County, the lake rests on top of a sand ridge left by an ancient retreating glacier and is famous as an all-sports lake with a variety of water-based activities, such as canoeing, kayaking, pontooning, sailing, tubing, wakeboarding, and water-skiing. Fishing is a major drawcard of the lake, which a range of species from bluegills, crappies, and perch to smallmouth and largemouth bass. The roads surrounding the lake provide excellent mountain biking, hiking, and general exploring and there is an 18-hole public golf course on the north shore of the lake.
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Brookville Lake is a stunning body of water in the Whitewater River Valley with 61 miles of shoreline that provides excellent summer and winter fishing, a plethora of recreational activities, and spectacular natural scenery. Known as being one of the most picturesque and historically significant areas in the state of Indiana, the landscapes around the lake feature 18 recreation areas, including two large campgrounds, four marinas, eight boat ramps, and two swimming beaches. Visitors flock to the lake to enjoy excellent fishing, hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, swimming, sailing, geocaching, and wildlife watching throughout the year.
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4.Cagles Mill Lake
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Cagles Mill Lake, or the Cagles Mill Reservoir, often referred to as Cataract Lake because of its location just outside of Cataract, is a 1,400-acre lake, half of which is set in the Lieber State Recreation Area and the other half in the Cataract Falls State Recreation Area. Renowned for its beautiful waterfalls and stunning natural scenery of dense woodland forests, the human-made lake is a popular recreation site with a fishing pier and two boat launch ramps. The headwaters of Cagles Mill Lake form the picturesque Upper and Lower Cataract Falls, which are located at the southern end of the lake and drop 30 and 15 feet, respectively, providing a majestic sightseeing experience.
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Historic Cedar Lake is a 794-acre natural lake that was formed when a glacier receded thousands of years ago in Northern Indiana. Initially called the Lake of The Red Cedars for the plethora of trees lining its shores, Cedar Lake is located a few miles east of the Indiana-Illinois state line and is popular with commuters from Chicago and Gary who enjoy lakeside living, boating, and fishing. The sizeable shallow lake is ideal for sailing, fishing, pontooning, powerboating, jet-skiing, and water-skiing, while the surrounding shoreline offers excellent hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, camping, picnicking, and wildlife watching.
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Made up of two natural lakes, namely Big Chapman and the connected Little Chapman, the Chapman Lakes is one of northern Indiana’s best-kept secrets. Located 3 miles northeast of the city of Warsaw, the two Chapman Lakes are entirely different. In the north, Big Chapman Lake spans 413 surface acres with a shoreline packed with rental cottages and year-round homes and is ideal for boating, pontooning, jet-skiing, wakeboarding, and water-skiing. Further south and connected to Big Chapman by an enlarged natural channel, smaller Little Chapman Lake has a lot of aquatic growth, weed beds, and wetlands, which attract a plethora of birds and wildlife and provide a sanctuary in which they thrive. The two Chapman Lakes flow into and form part of the Wabash River drainage system.
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Situated near the borders of Michigan and Ohio in the northeast corner of Indiana, Clear Lake is an 800-acre natural lake that was formed in a depression gouged by the last glacier to cover the region. Located 5 miles east of the town of Fremont, Clear Lake is irregularly shaped with a 6-mile shoreline that has been attracting seasonal vacationers since the 1800s, who flock to its shores to savor the spectacular natural beauty and a variety of recreational activities such as sunbathing, swimming, boating, and fishing. The lakefront is densely ringed by cottages and larger residential homes and is about 10 miles north of historic Angola, which provides a variety of essential services to people who live on the lake.
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Located 5 miles north of Angola in Steuben County, Crooked Lake is one of the 101 lakes in Indiana's Northern Lakes Natural Area and is renowned for being a boating and fishing haven. Named for its gourd-like shape, Crooked Lake spans 802 acres and is one of the largest lakes in the area, surrounded by forests, woodlands, wetlands, and springs. The southern shore of the lake is home to Steuben County Park, which offers overnight and seasonal camping, picnicking, hiking trails, and other recreation, while the lake is well-stocked with a variety of fish such as bluegill, crappie, catfish, and trophy-size largemouth bass. Crooked Lake is also ideal for watersports such as pleasure and powerboating, canoeing and kayaking, jet-skiing, wakeboarding, and water-skiing.
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One of two all-sports lakes in a chain of five lakes sometimes called the Indian Lakes Chain in Indiana's Northern Region, Dallas Lake is a beautiful Midwestern lake that has been a favored summer fishing and boating spot for more than 150 years. Surrounded by pristine natural landscapes of extensive wetlands and many small lakes and streams, the five-lake chain begins just a mile or so west of the town of Wolcottville and is connected by the Little Elkhart River. The 283-acre Dallas Lake offers excellent outdoor and recreational facilities for all types of water-based sports, ranging pleasure boating, fishing, and kayaking to powerboating, jet-skiing, water-skiing, and wakeboarding. A 96-acre public park on the south shore of the lake boasts protected swimming areas and an interesting wetland nature trail. Things to Do in Indiana
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Dewart Lake is a 551-acre natural lake in Kosciusko County that was created during the last ice age that provides visitors with beautiful natural scenery and an array of outdoor recreation to enjoy. Well maintained by the Dewart Lake Protective Association, Dewart Lake rests at 868 feet above sea level, has a maximum depth of 82 feet, and offers excellent boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and water-skiing, which are the main recreational activities on the lake. Dewart Lake is home to at least seven species of turtle, and hosts several long and short-term turtle studies, and also contains a large variety of fish species, drawing anglers from far and wide. Land-based adventures around the lake include plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails, such as the Winona Lake Trail System, as well as horseback riding, geocaching, and golf.
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Originally built on Fall Creek in 1944 as a water supply reservoir for Indianapolis, Geist Lake not only provides drinking water to the city but also offers an unparalleled scenic location in which to live. Located in the counties of Hamilton and Marion, Geist Lake, or Geist Reservoir, is surrounded by luxurious lakeside homes and country clubs with spectacular views, along with hotels and guesthouses for overnight stays. The Geist Marina Ramp is available for launching watercraft, which are used for pleasure and powerboating, fishing for largemouth bass, wakeboarding, and water-skiing on the lake. Non-motorized sports are also popular on the lake, such as canoeing, kayaking, sailing, and swimming.
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Gibson Lake is the most significant lake in the state to have been built entirely above ground. Located in southwestern Indiana, the unique above-ground lake covers 3,500 acres and acts as a cooling pond for the local coal-burning power plant. The outflows of hot water from the central plant's boilers into the 6,000-acre lake ensure the water temperate never drops below 60°F, which attracts a myriad of ducks and geese in the winter months when other lakes are frozen over. Gibson Lake is located in a 160-acre area of natural wetlands known as the Gibson Lake Wildlife Habitat Area, which teems with a wide diversity of wildlife from plenty of fish species and small mammals to migrating shorebirds and waterfowl.
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Resting in beautiful Steuben County in northeast Indiana, Hamilton Lake is the fourth-largest lake in the state. Formed by damming several smaller lakes in 1832, Hamilton Lake’s primary purpose is for recreational use and provides 802 acres of still, deep waters for fishing, boating, sailing, jet-skiing, water-skiing, and swimming. Anglers flock to the lake to catch bluegill, crappie, perch, northern pike, and small and largemouth bass, while water lovers can launch their craft at two free public launches on the lake. There are also two fueling stations for boats and jet skis as well as several restaurants with free docking space for patrons.
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Surrounded by the untouched beauty of southeastern Indiana, which is made up of deciduous grasslands and woodlands, ponds, mudflats, and wetlands, along with a diverse range of fauna and flora, Hardy Lake is renowned as being a natural paradise. Also known as the Quick Creek Reservoir, Hardy Lake was formed in 1970 to provide water for the surrounding counties but is now a recreational haven with plenty of opportunities for world-class fishing, boating, camping and hiking, seasonal hunting, and permit-based trapping. Numerous campsites around the lake provide both basic and modern camping with swimming beaches, playgrounds, volleyball courts, archery ranges, and restrooms. Half of the lake is zoned for idle speed, making it fishing paradise, where anglers cast their lines for bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass, and red ear sunfish.
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Nestled in the wild and swampy bends of the Ohio River at the tip of Indiana's “big toe,” Hovey Lake is a uniquely shaped body of water that forms the center of the 7,404-acre Hovey Lake Fish and Wildlife Area and is a protected spot for migrating waterfowl. Formed over 500 years ago from an ancient river oxbow, Hovey Lake’s size varies according to rainfall and is made up of marshes, sloughs, and wetlands that make for excellent fishing and birdwatching and soaking up the spectacular scenery. These pristine, untouched landscapes are home to a plethora of fauna and flora and attract photographers from all over to catch the eerie silhouettes of cypress trees piercing the lake's surface on camera.
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16.J. Edward Roush Lake
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Formerly known as Huntington Lake or the Huntington Reservoir, J. Edward Roush Lake is one of three Upper Wabash Valley lakes in the Huntington and Wells Counties that provides a myriad of activities for visitors to the lake. Designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce flood damages in the Wabash Watershed, the lake is surrounded by dense forests and woodlands and features preservation and recreational areas providing natural habitats for numerous animals as well as an array of outdoor fun. The lake offers excellent fishing, boating, swimming, and kayaking as well as land-based pursuits such as camping, picnicking, hiking, horseback riding, beach volleyball, basketball, and archery.
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Set among the rolling fields of the Indiana prairie, Koontz Lake is a much-loved gem and popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Located in Northern Indiana, the 346-acre Koontz Lake has been attracting visitors for more than 150 years, who come to enjoy a wealth of activities and sports. Both residents and visitors alike take to the waters of the lake to fish, sail, jet-ski, water-ski, raft, kayak, canoe, and swim, while the forested shoreline offers excellent hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, geocaching, and camping. The lake has a public swimming beach and a wheelchair-accessible boat launch, while a modern marina provides gas and various boating essentials. A family-friendly park boasts picnic shelters, a ball field, and several restaurants.
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Lake Freeman is one of two manmade lakes in northern Indiana and is one of the largest summer vacation spots in the Midwest. Located just outside of Monticello and often referred to as the Twin Lakes Area, Lake Freeman and Lake Shafer, its sister lake, offer entertainment and relaxation with plenty of residential and summer homes, holiday resorts, restaurants, and shops. Lake Freeman is the less commercial of the two and offers an array of outdoor recreational activities such as excellent fishing for bluegill, catfish, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass, sunbathing and swimming, pleasure and powerboating, wakeboarding, and water-skiing.
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Hailed as the crown jewel in northeast Indiana's Chain of Lakes, Lake James is a beautiful lake that was created by the same receding glaciers that filled the Great Lakes roughly 10,000 years ago. Fed by Crooked Creek, Croxton Ditch, Follet Creek, and Walter's Lake Drain, Lake James is the largest of the five lakes in Steuben County and boasts a splendid shoreline and state park that provide year-round recreational opportunities. The 1,229-acre is a lake-lubbers’ paradise with excellent opportunities for pleasure and power boating, fishing, sunbathing and swimming, canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, jet-skiing, wakeboarding, and water-skiing. Pokagon State Park is situated on the eastern shore of Lake James and offers three-season activities, including a wooded campground, a protected beach for swimming, horseback riding, biking and hiking trails, and a nature center.
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Located in the rolling hills of southern Indiana just a few miles northeast of Bloomington, Lake Lemon was initially created for drinking water and flood control and is now home to many residential homes and offers a variety of recreation and outdoor activities. Summertime sees the blossoming of wildflowers at the lake’s native prairie demonstration site and, combined with the meadows of rolling grass, makes for a spectacular and scenic setting. The lovely surroundings of the lake are conducive to other activities such as hiking, mountain, and horseback riding, and the Morgan Monroe State Forest and the Hoosier National Forest are a short drive away and offer excellent camping, rock climbing, picnic areas, and hiking trails.
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Surrounded by green parks and nature preserves 60 miles west of Fort Wayne, Lake Manitou is a spring-fed lake and charming oasis in the small city of Rochester that offers an array of recreation and relaxation for locals and visitors alike. Boasting a rich history and beautiful scenery, 775-acre Lake Manitou was constructed as a source of water power for a grist mill in 1827; it now provides several outdoor and recreational activities such as boating, fishing, picnicking, jet-skiing, swimming, water-skiing, and picnicking. Visitors can also play a round of golf at one of several golf courses in the area, take a leisurely stroll or strenuous hike on the network of hiking trails, or enjoy unique and unexpected birdwatching and wildlife viewing opportunities within the city limits.
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Wolf Lake is a natural glacial lake bordered by Hammond, Indiana, on the one side and Chicago, Illinois, on the other, and surrounded by pristine forests and woodlands. One of five shallow depressions left over when the ancient Lake Chicago receded, Wolf Lake is fed by a fresh, clear, underground aquifer that has been supplying water to the depressions for thousands of years. The crystal-clear waters of the lake draw anglers from far and wide to catch bluegill, black crappie, largemouth and smallmouth bass, which are in abundance, along with channel catfish, muskie, northern pike, and walleye, which are stocked up by the Indiana Department of Fish and Game.
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Originally called Eagle Lake in 1886, Winona Lake is a 562-acre natural lake located near the towns of Warsaw and Winona Lake that is popular for providing a variety of year-round outdoor activities from boating, fishing, hiking, and watersports in the summer to ice-fishing, ice-skating, cross-country skiing, and wildlife watching in the winter. There are quaint cottages set along the shores of the lake that date back to the late 1800s, along with the oldest building, the Winona Hotel. Located on the shores of the lake in the town by the same name, Winona Lake Park features tennis courts, a children’s playground, pavilions with picnic tables, and a protected beach area for sunbathing and swimming.
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Located a short drive from Indianapolis in central Indiana, Morse Lake is a reservoir that was built in 1956 as part of a flood control and water supply project. Filled by three creeks, including Cicero Creek, Morse Lake is renowned for being a recreational oasis with a variety of outdoor and recreational activities to enjoy, from hiking and mountain biking to fishing, boating, jet-skiing, water-skiing, and swimming. The lake has two parks on its shores where visitors can picnic, play volleyball and frisbee golf, sunbathe and swim, as well as play golf at one of several golf courses, ranges, and country clubs in the nearby vicinity.
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Mississinewa Lake is a 3,180-acre lake that is surrounded by unspoiled, scenic beauty and is a well-known destination for fishers and hikers alike. Located along the Mississinewa River, Mississinewa Lake, also known as the Mississinewa Reservoir, means “water on a slope,” reflecting the rich Native American folklore and history that run deep in this region. The lake contributes towards flood control in the Upper Wabash region, in conjunction with J. Edward Roush Lake and Salamonie Lake. It also provides a myriad of year-round recreational activities, ranging from fishing and fly-fishing, hiking, and horseback riding to sunbathing and swimming on plenty of beaches, canoeing, kayaking, and picnicking and camping at one of the hundreds of campsites in the area.
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25 Best Lakes and Beaches in Indiana
- Barbee Lake Chain, Photo: Courtesy of Marc Scharping - Fotolia.com
- Bass Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Juhku - Fotolia.com
- Brookville Lake, Photo: Courtesy of coachwood - Fotolia.com
- Cagles Mill Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Kenneth Keifer - Fotolia.com
- Cedar Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Robert - Fotolia.com
- Chapman Lakes, Photo: Courtesy of Alex - Fotolia.com
- Clear Lake, Photo: Courtesy of yak_olesya - Fotolia.com
- Crooked Lake, Photo: Courtesy of osiris59 - Fotolia.com
- Dallas Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Reiner P. - Fotolia.com
- Dewart Lake, Photo: Courtesy of galaganov - Fotolia.com
- Geist Lake, Photo: Courtesy of JuanPablo - Fotolia.com
- Gibson Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Alvydas - Fotolia.com
- Hamilton Lake, Photo: Courtesy of lockyfoto - Fotolia.com
- Hardy Lake, Photo: Courtesy of kichigin19 - Fotolia.com
- Hovey Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Aleksei - Fotolia.com
- J. Edward Roush Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Evdoha - Fotolia.com
- Koontz Lake, Photo: Courtesy of sunselle - Fotolia.com
- Lake Freeman, Photo: Courtesy of Mikhail - Fotolia.com
- Lake James, Photo: Courtesy of Brad Sauter - Fotolia.com
- Lake Lemon, Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie - Fotolia.com
- Lake Manitou, Photo: Courtesy of Sundi - Fotolia.com
- Wolf Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Giovanna - Fotolia.com
- Winona Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Sergii - Fotolia.com
- Morse Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Kristina - Fotolia.com
- Mississinewa Lake, Photo: Courtesy of schankz - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of baluzek - Fotolia.com