Five of Indiana’s Best Lakes to Visit This Summer

One of the biggest perks of living in Indiana is all the different ways you can take advantage of the great outdoors. Exploring our state parks is an excellent place to start. And even though Minnesota and Michigan get all the credit for having beautiful lakes, Indiana can definitely hold its own.

So if you’re wanting to swim, boat, fish, waterski, skip some rocks, or just beat the heat, here are five fun lake destinations that might be the summer retreat you’re looking for.

Patoka Lake. As Indiana’s second-biggest body of water, you’d think more people would know about Patoka Lake. But it continues to be a hidden gem—probably because it’s located about two-and-a-half hours south of Indianapolis, spanning across Dubois, Crawford, and Orange Counties.

While Patoka Lake might be more popular among the Louisville crowd, it’s worth the trip down from Indy for its scenic views, birdwatching, and world-class fishing. And with more than 500 campsites along the lake, you’re sure to have plenty of privacy to enjoy all nature has to offer.

Lake Lemon. Originally created back in the 1950s as a water source for Bloomington, Lake Lemon is now the lesser-known cousin of nearby Lake Monroe. Located just a few minutes northeast of Bloomington, Lake Lemon usually attracts a modest summer crowd despite its impressive array of wildlife (including bald eagles, beavers, turtles, and herons), and sandy beaches. It’s also great for boating, and is regularly used by the Indiana University rowing teams. And with relatively shallow depths, it’s an excellent lake for kids to swim in, too.

Geist Reservoir. Who says you have to travel across the state to hang out at a big, beautiful lake this summer? If you’re on the northside of Indianapolis, you can probably get to Geist Reservoir in 30 minutes or less—and it’s well worth the trip. Geist Reservoir covers nearly 2,000 acres and touches five different zip codes, so there’s plenty of lake to explore. With lots of restaurants and stores nearby, Geist is also a great choice if you’re looking to grab a meal or go shopping after spending some time on the water.   

Lake Maxinkuckee. While the first three lakes on this list are man-made, Lake Maxinkuckee was created naturally about 15,000 years ago by melting glaciers. Lake Wawasee is the only larger all-natural lake in Indiana, and both get their names from Native American words. (Maxinkuckee roughly translates to “big stone country.”)

As you might expect, natural lakes tend to be much deeper than those that are man-made, and Lake Maxinkuckee is no exception. With depths reaching nearly 90 feet, it might actually be better for scuba diving than swimming. Since it’s located in northwestern Indiana near Culver, the lake often freezes during winter, and is a popular ice-fishing destination. But it’s also a fantastic place to visit during the summer—and the small-town atmosphere makes it a low-key choice.

Lake James. If you’re looking for another natural lake—and are ready for a road trip to the northeast corner of the state—Lake James is an outstanding choice for summer fun. And it has historically excellent water quality, making it perfect for boating, fishing, and swimming.

Lake James is also associated with lots of important Indiana history, with settlers arriving as early as the 1830s. So if you’re looking to cool off and get a history lesson, it’s worth checking out. And don’t let the northern location scare you: Temperatures regularly average into the 80s throughout June, July, and August.

We’d be the first to admit that nothing beats spending a gorgeous Indiana summer day outside—especially if you’re hanging out at the lake. These five options are great places to start, but keep in mind that Indiana has roughly 100 lakes, so there’s plenty more to explore.

When we aren’t at the lake, chances are good we’re hard at work designing and building landscapes, providing turf care, planting flowers, creating custom hardscapes, and doing everything we can to surpass our clients’ expectations. If you’re interested in learning more about what we can do for you, let’s talk.

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