Patoka Lake, Indiana, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Indiana - South -

Patoka Lake lies nestled within the Hoosier National Forest in southern Indiana. Authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1965, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the lake by impounding the Patoka River with construction of the Patoka Lake Dam from 1972 to 1979. Built primarily for flood control, Patoka Lake also provides drinking water to 65,000 people in nine counties, fish and wildlife enhancement, and recreation. With 8,800 surface acres, Patoka Lake is the second largest reservoir and the third largest body of water in Indiana.

The Patoka Lake area is a four-season recreation destination. Warm weather pursuits include fishing, boating, swimming, water skiing, wake boarding, hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, and wildlife viewing. Water enthusiasts can choose from small fishing boats to large houseboat rentals. The fun doesn’t stop when temperatures turn colder. The lake area is alive with cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, and ice fishing during the winter. Colorful dogwood blossoms bring spring to life, and the dazzling fall foliage makes autumn a season to remember at Patoka Lake.

Patoka Lake is a fisherman’s haven with many coves worth exploring. The lake is loaded with largemouth bass, striped bass, walleye, crappie, redear sunfish, and bluegill. Patoka Lake is well known as Indiana’s best bass and crappie fishing lake. It hosted the 2008 Crappie USA National Classic. The lake is also heavily stocked with channel catfish and flathead catfish. The “channel cats” average 5 to 10 pounds, but often grow to reach 15 to 20 pounds. Bank fishing is popular along roads bordering the lake. Adventurous anglers can try fly fishing for hybrid striped bass.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) operates seven State Recreation Areas (SRA) around Patoka Lake: Newton-Stewart SRA, Jackson SRA, Lick Fork SRA, Little Patoka SRA, Painter Creek SRA, Walls Lake SRA, and South Lick Fork SRA. Newton-Stewart is the most developed SRA with a visitor center, marina, campgrounds, and a 1200 foot-long swimming beach with diving tower, bathhouse and solar-heated showers. The recreation areas provide 10 boat launch ramps for lake access. DNR hiking trails range from leisurely 1/2-mile interpreter-conducted walks to a rugged 6-1/2 mile trek through pines, ferns, and rock overhangs. DNR campsites include 450 electric sites, a Fisherman Campground with primitive camping, and Youth Tent camping. Additional DRN offerings include picnic areas and shelters, 17 miles of paved bike trails, an archery range, a disc golf course, and year-round programs at the Patoka Interpretive Center.

Indiana DNR also provides ample opportunity for hunting of deer, rabbit, squirrel, turkey, quail, dove, and migratory game birds. There are separate deer hunting seasons for archery, gun, and muzzle loader. All hunters must register with DNR. In years past this area was full of buffalo that created well-worn paths during their annual migrations. Early settlers used these paths as primitive roads.

When visiting Patoka Lake, make sure to save some time to explore the surrounding 200,000-acre Hoosier National Forest. The forest offers more than 260 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. About 170 miles of trails are available for mountain biking. The lakes, ponds, rivers, marshes, and wetlands of Hoosier National Forest provide ecosystems for 50 species of mammals, 142 bird species, 36 reptilian species, 28 amphibian species, and 125 fish species. The U.S. Forest Service identifies wildlife and wildflower viewing areas with “Watchable Wildlife” signs, so bring your binoculars and cameras to maximize your viewing adventures.

Patoka Lake spans across three counties: Orange, Crawford, and Dubois. Orange County is well known for its striking architecture (including the West Baden Springs Dome), mineral springs, and recreation. A train ride through a tunnel in the Hoosier National Forest is a fun adventure for the whole family. Winter visitors enjoy 15 machine-groomed slopes for downhill skiing and snowboarding. Adults can try their luck at a new casino.

The southeast part of Patoka Lake is in Crawford County, widely known for its scenic byways. Enjoy caving year-round at Marengo and Wyandotte Caves, where the temperature remains 52 degrees. Rent a canoe and float down the Blue River, one of Indiana’s best known rivers. Hemlock Cliffs and O’Bannon Woods State Park provide additional venues for hiking and biking.

No wonder Patoka Lake is referred to as the “Jewel of Southern Indiana,” with the scenic beauty of forested hills, rocky ravines, and limestone bluffs. Outdoor adventures await the entire family.

Things to do at Patoka Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • National Forest
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Patoka Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Flathead Catfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)
  • Striped Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Patoka Lake Photo Gallery

Patoka Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 8,800 acres

Shoreline Length: 161 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 536 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 506 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 548 feet

Average Depth: 21 feet

Maximum Depth: 52 feet

Water Volume: 167,290 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1979

Drainage Area: 168 sq. miles

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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