Smithville Lake, Missouri, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Smithville Lake.

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Smithville Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - Midwest - Missouri - Northwest -

Smithville Lake, located in the City of Smithville in northwest Missouri, is a recreational wonderland. With nearly 7,200 surface acres of water, Smithville Lake entices nature lovers to come out and play. The purpose of Smithville Lake is to provide flood reduction, water supply, fish and wildlife management, and recreation. Outdoor sports include fishing, hunting, swimming, bird watching, boating and camping.

In 1965, the town of Smithville was covered with 12 feet of water due to the flooding of the Little Platte River. To prevent future flooding, the US Army Corps of Engineers constructed a dam on the Little Platte River forming Smithville Lake. Today the Corps manages the dam and wildlife management land, now known as the Smithville Lake Project. The Smithville Dam is an earthen dam that stretches 4,000 feet long and reaches 90 feet above the streambed.

Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the dam and wildlife areas, the Clay County Parks Department and the City of Smithville operate the campsites located around Smithville Lake. Crows Creek and Camp Branch Campground are run by Clay County Parks Department, while Smith’s Fork Campground is run by the City of Smithville. Campers of all types will enjoy the amenities offered at the campgrounds. Electric and non-electric campsites are available and also include restrooms, dump stations, and hot showers. The campgrounds offer hundreds of picnic sites and numerous shelter houses where visitors can take pleasure in a picnic lunch or enjoy a group get-together. After campers pitch their tents or park their RVs, they may take a dip in the refreshing waters at one of two swimming areas, the Little Platte Park and Camp Branch Park.

Visitors to Smithville Lake may want to bring along their bike, horse, or a pair of hiking boots to partake in many miles of multi-use trails that meander around the lake. Lake views from the trails are spectacular. The multi-use trails are completely paved, while the horseback riding trails are unpaved. Mountain biking and hiking are permitted on the horseback riding trails, although the terrain can be a bit rough.

Smithville Lake is an angler’s paradise with many fish waiting to be caught. Since Smithville Lake was created, the waters have been stocked with channel catfish, blue catfish, flathead catfish, largemouth bass, bluegill, walleye, and tiger muskie. Crappies can also be found in Smithville Lake but have not been stocked. Fish enthusiasts from all over exhibit their fishing skills in one of the many bass tournaments held yearly on Smithville Lake. Anglers are not the only ones who flock to Smithville Lake; hunters have over 7,000 acres available to hunt in the Smithville Wildlife Management Area and Honker Cove Waterfowl Refuge. Honker Cove is closed during designated times of the year. Wildlife viewers, nature lovers, and photographers will also take pleasure in visiting Honker Cove Waterfowl Refuge when it is open to the public. Ducks, shorebirds, geese, and eagles are commonly spotted by those who walk along the refuge.

The Smithville area was once inhabited by a Missouri Tribe of Native Americans, but its most famous citizens were the James Gang led by Frank and Jessie James. The home of Jessie James is located near Kearney, Missouri and is still open to the public for viewing. Although the notorious outlaws have been gone for some time, visitors who fall in love with Smithville Lake area can purchase a home of their own. Real estate owners have the benefit of Smithville Lake within an easy drive. Smithville Lake is a great vacation destination or weekend getaway. Families and friends can camp together while having a relaxing time along the shores of beautiful Smithville Lake.

Custom Smithville Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Smithville Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Smithville Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Blue Catfish
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Flathead Catfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Sunfish
  • Tiger Muskellunge
  • Walleye

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Smithville Lake

The Smithville Lake map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

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Smithville Lake photo gallery

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Smithville Lake statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: US Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 7,190 acres

Shoreline Length: 175 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 864 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 876 feet

Water Volume: 102,200 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1979

Drainage Area: 213 sq. miles

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