Mississippi’s namesake river is the second-largest drainage basin in the United States after the Hudson Bay system, spanning 2,320 miles from Minnesota’s Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a variety of dam projects were undertaken by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to control regional flooding from the river and create reservoirs for public drinking water and recreational use.
Today, major waterways within the region include the Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway, a 234-mile waterway spanning between the Tennessee and Black Warrior-Tombigbee Rivers, featuring public use reservoirs at 10 dam sites along its routes. Other natural and man-made lakes within the region also offer state park facilities, campgrounds, and day-use areas for angler fishing, picnicking, and other outdoor activities.
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Aberdeen Lake is a man-made reservoir located in northeast Mississippi along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway which was dammed by the Aberdeen Lock and Dam in 1981. The 4,121-acre lake and its surrounding recreational land areas are managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. A variety of outdoor day-use recreational activities are offered, including swimming, fishing, water skiing, boating, and nature hiking to the top of the area’s surrounding clay and limestone bluffs. Campsites are offered at the Blue Bluff Campground and Recreation Area, including RV hookup sites. In April, the lake is the site of the Tenn-Tom Bassmaster Classic, which draws competing anglers from across the region. Nearby activities in the city of Aberdeen include a lakeside restaurant, the historic Elkin Theater, and a number of historic homes open to the public as living history home museums.
20051 Blue Bluff RD, Aberdeen MS 39730
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Aliceville Lake is also known as Pickensville Lake and is one of 10 lakes dammed along the man-made Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which is maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The 8,300-acre lake was originally dammed in 1980, though it was not opened for public use until 1985. Today, the lake is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including white tailed-deer, quail, and wild turkey, which may be hunted with permits in designated hunting areas. Largemouth bass and crappie populate the lake, offering ample fishing opportunities. Swimming, boating, bird watching, and picnicking are also permitted, and children’s playgrounds are available for family use. Other visitor facilities include the Tom Bevill Lock and Dam Visitor Center, which recreates a historic plantation mansion, and the Pickensville Campground, which offers tent and RV hookups.
1382 Lock and Dam Rd, Pickensville, AL 35447
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Arkabutla Lake is located within Tate and DeSoto Counties and is a man-made reservoir that was created as a result of the 1937 Flood Control Act. Today, the lake is dammed from the waters of the Coldwater River and is located approximately four miles from the community of Arkabutla. The lake and its surrounding facilities cover more than 57,000 acres and is visited by more than two million annual visitors. A visitor information center is provided, offering public exhibits on the lake’s history. 10 designated day-use recreation areas are located throughout the site, offering picnic space, playgrounds, and ADA-compliant amenities. Swimming areas, hiking and mountain biking trails, and disc golf courses are offered at several day-use sites, along with three Class-A camping facilities.
3905 Arkabutla Dam Road, Coldwater MS 38618-9737
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4.Bay Springs Lake
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Bay Springs Lake is also referred to as the Jamie L. Whitten Lock and Dam and is the northernmost body of water along the 234-mile Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The lake spans a surface area of 6,700 acres and offers 133 miles of recreational shoreline for day use and overnight accommodations. A 150-boat marina, visitor center, and several recreational areas are available for visitor use, along with a Piney Grove Campground offering 139 Class-A campsites. Popular activities include swimming, boating, picnicking, and hiking. Fishing and hunting are allowed with permits, with available wildlife including largemouth and spotted bass, walleye, sauger, white-tailed deer, and turkey. The lake is also host to a variety of fishing tournaments throughout the spring, summer, and autumn months.
82 Bay Springs Resource Road, Dennis, Mississippi 38838
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Chewalla Lake a 260-acre man-made reservoir located an hour from Memphis and Tupelo. It was created in 1966 by the damming of Chewalla Creek and is managed by the United States Forest Service as part of the Holly Springs National Forest. Four miles of shoreline offer activities such as swimming, kayaking and canoeing, and picnicking at a number of pavilions, which offer grills and children’s playgrounds. The lake is heavily stocked with smallmouth bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill, and redear sunfish and serves as a popular summer fishing site. A four-mile exploration trail offers access to nearby indigenous mound sites, and a seasonal campground allows overnight stays between April and November, including RV hookups. The nearby town of Holly Springs also offers historic bed and breakfast facilities, pre-Civil War-era historic homes, a golf course, a motor park, and an audubon center.
726 Chewalla Lake Rd, Holly Springs, MS 38635
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Choctaw Lake Recreation Area is open seasonally within Mississippi’s Tombigbee National Forest and offers a wide variety of outdoor day use activities, including swimming, boating, fishing, and bicycling. The recreation area is located between the 100-acre Choctaw Lake and the smaller adjacent Cabin Lake. A moderate-skill three-mile hiking trail is offered for exploration and wildlife watching, along with two boat ramps for water access and an ADA-accessible fishing pier. 18 campsites with hookups are offered, including accessible sites and sites with private picnic facilities. Nearby attractions include the Natchez Trace Parkway, Noxubee Wildlife Refuge, and Mississippi State University.
Suite 500-N, 200 S. Lamar St., Jackson, MS 39201
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7.Clear Springs Lake
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Clear Springs Lake is a 12-acre spring-fed lake within the Homochitto National Forest, offering a variety of day-use outdoor recreational activities, including fishing and picnicking. It is located off of United States Highway 84, approximately 35 miles west of the city of Brookhaven. Swimming is permitted between the beginning of March and the end of September. Four mountain biking and hiking trails are offered, though visitors should note that the area’s terrain is steep and most trails and access roads feature slopes higher than eight percent. Camping is available at 22 primitive campsites along with two secluded group campsites that sleep up to 30 people. A historic pavilion and amphitheater constructed in the 1930s is also offered.
Clear Springs Rd (CR 104) Meadville, Mississippi 39653
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Enid Lake is located approximately one hour from Memphis within northern Mississippi’s Hill Region and was dammed in 1952 with authorization from the 1928 Flood Control Act. Today, the lake is overseen by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and spans a surface area of 28,000 miles, providing 220 miles of visitor access shoreline. The lake is known as a popular fishing site, offering abundant populations of largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and bream and is the catch site of two world-record holder fish. Other popular day-use activities include hunting, swimming, water skiing, boating, hiking, and horseback riding. Primitive and hookup campsites are offered at six campsites throughout the recreational area, along with sites at the nearby George Payne Cossar State Park.
457 CR 36 Enid, Mississippi 38927
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Grenada Lake is located within northern Mississippi’s Hill Region and is the state’s largest body of water that is entirely contained within state lines. It was dammed in 1954 following the disastrous flooding of 1927’s Great Flood and spans a surface area today of more than 35,000 acres. 148 miles of visitor access shoreline provide opportunities for outdoor activities such as swimming, boating, water skiing, and crappie fishing. The Haserway Wetland Demonstration Area is the country’s first public-use wetland demonstration site, offering 330 acres of wetland for wildlife observation and natural exploration. 25 recreation areas offer more than 250 picnic sites, along with a wide variety of sporting fields, children’s playgrounds, and an 18-hole golf course. 300 primitive and hookup campsites are offered, and a variety of accommodations and attractions are available off Highway 51.
2151 Scenic Loop 333, Grenada, MS 38901
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Horn Lake and its surrounding city region are considered a suburb of Memphis, offering easy access to the city’s shopping, dining, accommodations, and visitor attractions. The lake was formed in the mid-19th century when a small section of the Mississippi River was cut off naturally, forming a dammed lake area. The ox bow lake spans 1,200 acres within Mississippi’s DeSoto County and Tennessee’s Shelby County and offers a variety of outdoor visitor activities, including boating, canoeing, kayaking, and pumpkinseed sunfish, flathead catfish, and largemouth bass fishing. Though no camping accommodations are provided on site, a variety of attractions and accommodations are available in the nearby city of Horn Lake, including restaurants and bed and breakfast facilities.
4716 Pepper Chase Dr, Southaven, MS 38671
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11.Lake Bill Waller
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Lake Bill Waller is named for former Mississippi governor William Lowe Waller, Sr., and is located in Marion County, approximately seven miles southeast of the city of Columbia. The 168-acre man-made lake was briefly closed in 2003 for draining and renovation and was restocked with a wide variety of game fish. It is best known as the site of the state’s second-largest largemouth bass catch, weighing 15 pounds, four ounces. The lake is monitored by state biologists to maintain populations for freshwater angling. Though no campground accommodations are available on site at the lake, campsites are available at nearby Lake Columbia and a number of state parks within easy visitor access.
81 Columbia Purvis Rd, Columbia, MS 39429
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12.Lake Bogue Homa
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Lake Bogue Homa spans 882 acres within Mississippi’s coastal region, located in Jones County. The artificial reservoir was dammed in 1939 and is overseen by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. Its name is derived from the Choctaw words for “red creek.” Outdoor day-use activities include swimming, boating, hunting, and bass, crappie, and largemouth bass fishing. Waterfowl hunting is also permitted on select days with special permits. The nearby city of Laurel offers a wide variety of visitor activities, including a Central Historic District with a number of sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the acclaimed Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, and several annual music and arts festivals.
149 Bogue Homa Lake Road, Laurel, MS 39443
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Lake Tangipahoa is the centerpiece of Percy Quin State Park and was created in 1940 during the region’s development for park use by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Its name is derived from the former nearby indigenous village Tangibao, which translates to “corn gatherers.” Today, the lake spans a surface area of 554 acres and offers five miles of visitor access shoreline. 1,700 acres of visitor activities are offered within the state park, including a swimming beach, an eight-mile nature trail, and a marina with boat launch facilities. Campsites with cable television and RV hookups are offered, as well as temperature-controlled rental cabins and a nine-unit motel and lodge overlooking the lake.
I-55, Osyka, MS 39657
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Lake Washington is a natural freshwater lake that was formed around the year 1300 due to diversions in the Mississippi River’s course. The double-crescent-shaped lake spans a surface area of more than 2,900 acres and offers 23 miles of visitor access shoreline, all located within a few miles of the Mississippi’s current course. The lake is a popular fishing spot, attracting fishermen from around the American Southeast region for crappie, bream, channel catfish, and largemouth bass fishing opportunities. Other popular visitor activities include swimming, boating, water skiing, tubing, and wildlife watching. Campground and RV hookups are available at several sites, and visitor services such as convenience stores are available in the nearby village of Glen Allan.
216 South Walnut Street, Greenville, MS 38701
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Okatibbee Lake is located near the city of Meridian within eastern Mississippi’s Pines Region and offers a wide variety of nature and water recreational activities. The 4,144-acre reservoir was formed in 1968 with the completion of the Okatibbee Dam and also serves as a drinking water reservoir for surrounding communities. 28 acres of visitor shoreline provide access to activities such as swimming, boating, and bass and crappie fishing areas managed by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. Recreational amenities on the shore include sporting fields, picnic areas, horsehoe pits, hunting grounds, and two campground facilities offering electric hookups and restrooms. The lake is also the site of the Okatibbee Water Park, which offers waterslides, a lazy river ride, a children’s play area, and a 25-room motel.
8604 Okatibbee Dam Road, Collinsville, MS 39325-0098
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Okhissa Lake was the first reservoir completed as part of the Bill Dance Signature Lake program, opened to the public in 2007 with the aim of promoting economic and tourist growth within the state’s Capital/River Region. The 1,000-acre lake is located within Homochitto National Forest off Highway 98 and has been honored with the Forest Service’s National Rise to the Future Award. 39 miles of shoreline at the lake offer a wide variety of visitor activities, including largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, and threadfin shad fishing opportunities. Campground facilities are located at the Homochitto Hide-Away and the Clear Springs Campground. Planned additions to the recreational area include swimming beaches, nature trails, and environmental education sites.
1200 Highway 184 E, Meadville, MS 39653
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Pickwick Lake’s name dates back to the mid-19th century and is a reference to the local post office’s colloquial name, which was given in reference to Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. The lake was created in 1938 by the Tennessee Valley Authority with the construction of the Pickwick Landing Dam on the Tennessee River. Today, it spans a surface area of more than 43,000 acres and offers 496 miles of shoreline for visitor activities such as boating, water skiing, tubing, and swimming. Boat docks and rentals are offered at numerous sites, along with houseboat and jet ski rentals. The lake is a popular spot for anglers, offering ample populations of large- and smallmouth bass and catfish. 1,400 acres of state park activities are offered throughout the region, including a 2.8-mile hiking trail, an inn and restaurant, and the Pickwick Dam Tailwater Campground, which offers 95 electric hookup campsites. Nearby attractions include Shiloh National Military Park, which highlights indigenous sites and Civil War battlefields.
613 CR 321, Iuka MS 38852
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18.Ross Barnett Reservoir
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Ross Barnett Reservoir is colloquially referred to as “The Rez” by Capital/River Region citizens and was formed in 1965 by the damming of the Pearl River for drinking water supply. The lake is located approximately 20 miles from downtown Jackson and attracts more than two million annual visitors. It spans a surface area of more than 33,000 acres and offers 105 miles of shoreline featuring 16 parks, 22 boat launches, and several hiking and mountain biking trails. Popular visitor activities include sailing, boating, water skiing, wakeboarding, and visitor cruises. Channel, blue, and flathead catfish weighing up to 100 pounds are available to anglers, along with crappies and largemouth bass. Five campgrounds offer RV hookups, sporting courts, picnic tables, and children’s playgrounds, and hotels and bed and breakfast facilities are available in the nearby city of Madison. Nearby attractions include the Natchez Trace Parkway and the Pearl River Waterfowl Refuge.
1000 Highland Colony Pkwy #6006, Ridgeland, MS 39157
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Sardis Lake was formed in 1940 by the damming of the Little Tallahatchie River and was the first of four reservoirs created for the Yazoo Basin Flood Control System. Today, it is overseen by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and covers a surface area of 32,500 acres. More than five million visitors come to the lake every year, which offers a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities and overnight accommodations. Bass, crappie, and catfish angling is offered, along with hunting areas for deer, turkey, quail, and waterfowl. 20 recreational areas and six swimming beaches offer recreational spots for families, and a variety of amenities are offered within the nearby John W. Kyle State Park, including a swimming pool, sporting courts, and an 18-hole golf course. 514 campsites are also offered throughout the region, along with cabins for overnight rental.
29049 Highway 315, Sardis, MS 38666
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Tunica Lake was developed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to straighten a channel of the Mississippi River by demolishing a horseshoe bend in the river. Today, the lake spans a surface area of 3,000 acres within Tunica County, approximately 40 miles south of the city of Memphis, and receives fish and water from the nearby Mississippi Delta. Bluegill and crappie are available for angler fishing, along with populations of largemouth bass, green sunfish, drum, and gar. A boat ramp and bait shop are offered along the lake’s northeast bend. Though no onsite camping is available at the lake, the nearby city of Tunica offers a variety of visitor accommodations, including hotels connected to several casinos and resorts.
13625 US Highway 61 North, Tunica Resorts, MS 38664
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20 Best Lakes in Mississippi
- Aberdeen Lake, Photo: Courtesy of DmyTo - Fotolia.com
- Aliceville Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Fedir - Fotolia.com
- Arkabutla Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Stefan - Fotolia.com
- Bay Springs Lake, Photo: Courtesy of David - Fotolia.com
- Chewalla Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Alison Morton - Fotolia.com
- Choctaw Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Baronb - Fotolia.com
- Clear Springs Lake, Photo: Courtesy of kichigin19 - Fotolia.com
- Enid Lake, Photo: Courtesy of fredlyfish4 - Fotolia.com
- Grenada Lake, Photo: Courtesy of art_rich - Fotolia.com
- Horn Lake, Photo: Courtesy of nopporn - Fotolia.com
- Lake Bill Waller, Photo: Courtesy of Fedir - Fotolia.com
- Lake Bogue Homa, Photo: Courtesy of alamour - Fotolia.com
- Lake Tangipahoa, Photo: Courtesy of yarohork - Fotolia.com
- Lake Washington, Photo: Courtesy of Mak - Fotolia.com
- Okatibbee Lake, Photo: Courtesy of saumhuhn - Fotolia.com
- Okhissa Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Dagmar Breu - Fotolia.com
- Pickwick Lake, Photo: Courtesy of R+R - Fotolia.com
- Ross Barnett Reservoir, Photo: Courtesy of afratton - Fotolia.com
- Sardis Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Jonathan Schöps - Fotolia.com
- Tunica Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Baronb - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Jason - Fotolia.com