The 10 Biggest (and Best) Lakes Near Raleigh, North Carolina

Wheeler Lake
© Jennings

Written by Taiwo Victor

Updated: April 27, 2023

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Since many of North Carolina’s lakes border protected territories like national parks, the state has a great reputation for cleanliness and beauty. Thanks to the lovely oak trees that border many of the streets, Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina, is also known as the “City of Oaks.” In addition, it is a culturally rich city with various museums, outstanding dining options, vibrant nightlife, and craft breweries.

Raleigh is renowned for various pursuits and does not disappoint regarding water leisure. Numerous lakes surround the city, offering hours of entertainment to both locals and visitors alike. Residents can discover various water recreation options within a half-hour drive, regardless of whether they live right on Raleigh’s waterfront or further away in downtown townhomes.

The best recreational areas in the state are natural treasures, including Falls Lake and Jordan Lake. But which ones are the biggest? If you’re up for a more unforgettable experience away from the bustle, we’re here to give you the 10 biggest (and the best!) lakes near Raleigh, North Carolina, and other interesting facts.

Infographic of the 10 Biggest (and Best) Lakes Near Raleigh, North Carolina
Residents have a variety of water recreation options within 30 minutes’ drive in Raleigh.

The 10 Biggest (and Best) Lakes Near Raleigh, North Carolina

10. Bass Lake

Bass Lake North Carolina

Bass Lake is a man-made lake that covers 54 acres.


In Holly Springs, North Carolina, lies a man-made lake called Bass Lake that covers 54 acres. Originally, the lake was known as Mills Pond. After Bass Lake Dam was devastated by Hurricane Fran in 1996, the lake was emptied, and the lake property was bought by the Town of Holly Springs for $230,000 two years later. The town rehabilitated the lake as a public lake, which opened in 2004.

Bass Lake is a serene place to experience the outdoors because it is surrounded by Bass Lake Park. There are many routes in the park, one of which travels two miles around the lake. On the lake’s northern shore are two fishing docks, picnic tables, and food stands. Since personal boats are prohibited, renting a canoe or a Jon boat is another option. Greenway routes and a few secluded picnic shelters can be found across the park.

9. Lake Lynn

Lake Lynn North Carolina

Lake Lynn is located in Northwest Raleigh.


Another man-made lake, called Lake Lynn, is situated in Northwest Raleigh. Although the 55-acre lake was built in 1976 to manage floods, it now serves recreational purposes too.

Lake Lynn’s 2.8-mile greenway trail, consisting of paved walkways and boardwalks that cross the water, is its main attraction. The track is tucked away in a forest-like setting with enough trees for shade, and the surrounding scenery is unbeatable. Swimming is not permitted, but you are welcome to fish, canoe, or participate in any other activities offered in the lake park. Playgrounds, tennis courts, bocce ball courts, a youth baseball field, and even a batting cage are also located in the park, plus a community center and a sizable picnic shelter are also available.

8. Lake Johnson

North Carolina Lake Johnson

Lake Johnson is a 150-acre lake.


In Raleigh’s far southwest corner, in Lake Johnson Park, is the 150-acre Lake Johnson. It’s wonderful to spend a day outdoors and appreciate the lake and its beauty, and Lake Johnson is a tranquil natural area that is great for getting away from the bustle of the city.

A waterfront facility on Lake Johnson offers kayak, canoe, pedal boat, and stand-up paddle board rentals. Additionally, there is a personal boat launch on the property that both locals and guests of Raleigh are welcome to enjoy. The five-mile hiking paths in the park are available for those who would prefer to view the lake from the ground. The lake’s shoreline includes picnic spaces, a fishing boardwalk, and a six-station fitness track.

7. Lake Crabtree

Lake Crabtree NC

The 520-acre Lake Crabtree was constructed for flood management.


Lake Crabtree is located in Lake Crabtree County Park in Morrisville, a suburb west of the city. In fact, the Raleigh-Durham International Airport is only a short distance away. The 520-acre lake was constructed for flood management and to provide a location for locals to engage in recreational activities. While many people also come here for boating and fishing, sailing is particularly well-liked. It is an urban lake great for picnics with friends, families, and daily adventures.

Although fishing is popular here, the lake only receives average reviews. Despite its small size, there have been tales of largemouth bass weighing more than 8 pounds, in addition to catfish, crappie, and carp. Lake Crabtree does not allow swimming, but visitors can hire kayaks and canoes from the park during the summer months, which is a fantastic way to get out on the water.

6. Lake Wheeler

Wheeler Lake

Lake Wheeler was built in 1956.

© Jennings

South of Raleigh sits a 650-acre reservoir called Lake Wheeler. Lake Wheeler, one of the most well-known lakes in the area, was built in 1956 as a water source, and it still is today for the city and the communities of Wake County. It is a beautiful day-use location that offers wonderful paddling opportunities and stunning sunsets.

A well-maintained county park with a volleyball court, playgrounds, and boat rentals surrounds the lake. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards to explore the numerous coves. It can take 3 or more hours to complete the 7-mile loop along the shore. Here, fishing isn’t too bad. Despite the lake’s size, reports of largemouth bass of 7 pounds or more have been made; however, channel catfish, the second most frequent catch, are typically small.

5. Lake Benson

Lake Benson

At Lake Benson, fishing is permitted and cost-free.

©Emily Adira/

Lake Benson has a surface area of 650 acres and is located south of Raleigh, but the only way to get to it is through Lake Benson Park, located on the lake’s northern side. Fishing and boating are excellent activities on the lake, which may be done from a boat or the pier at the neighboring boathouse.

Although it isn’t as versatile as some of the other places on the list, it is a pleasant location where you may rent kayaks, canoes, and Jon boats (no personal craft allowed). At Lake Benson, fishing is permitted, and cost-free and largemouth bass can get rather big in this area. Dog owners would also adore this location. It’s uncommon, but the park has two dog playgrounds.

4. Buckhorn Reservoir

Buckhorn Reservoir

Buckhorn Reservoir is a 2,300-acre lake.

© / CC0 1.0 – Original / License

The town of Sims features the 2,300-acre Buckhorn Reservoir, situated east of Raleigh. Wilson City’s main water supply source and recreation come from the reservoir, and anglers report catching bream, bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, muskie, white bass, catfish, and rainbow trout here.

A park shelter and a 1.5-mile horse track can be found close to Sullivan Road on the southeast beach, and the lake’s northeastern corner is where the boat ramp is located.

3. Harris Lake

Harris Lake North Carolina

On Harris Lake’s northeastern side lies Harris Lake County Park, which offers recreational opportunities.

©EvanS / CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

Buckhorn Creek was impounded to form Harris Lake, a 4,100-acre lake located next to Jordan Lake and just southwest of Raleigh. On the lake’s northeastern side lies Harris Lake County Park, which offers recreational opportunities. You can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, or fishing, and for the genuine outdoor enthusiast, there are also primitive campsites here.

With only a few access opportunities, it is primarily underdeveloped and wild. You can take advantage of the two boat ramps for a more isolated experience; however, most people go to the county park on the northern shore. On-site amenities include volleyball courts, playgrounds, and picnic shelters. At Harris Lake, the fishing is fantastic. The waterways are dominated by largemouth bass, and lunkers of over seven pounds are common.

2. Falls Lake

Falls Lake North Carolina

The second-largest lake in Raleigh, North Carolina, is Falls Lake.

©MadeYourReadThis / Creative Commons – Original / License

Falls Lake is located in Wake Forest, a town immediately north of Raleigh, about 10 miles from the city. It sits within the Falls Lake State Recreation Area, one of North Carolina’s largest recreational regions and a must-see for any outdoor enthusiast. Drive along Creedmoor Road from Raleigh, and you can easily visit the 12,410-acre lake split over three counties. You can go swimming, boating, and fishing when you get here.

There are five bathing beaches, numerous boat ramps, a network of mountain biking trails, and a separate impoundment ideal for paddling, swimming, and even fishing, so you won’t likely have any issues with personal space. Animals and vegetation of various kinds can be found in Falls Lake. The vibrant wildflowers that thrive next to oak and loblolly pine trees include tick-seed sunflowers, butterfly weeds, and asters.

1. Jordan Lake

Jordan Lake North Carolina

Jordan Lake is the biggest lake in Raleigh, North Carolina.


The natural gem of the Piedmont region, Jordan Lake, is located in the middle of North Carolina’s most populated area and offers a breath of fresh air. The main draw is that Jordan Lake is a short drive from downtown Raleigh, making it a fantastic getaway location on good days. There are many things to do at this huge reservoir, which is 13,940 acres in size, plus it sits at number 6 among the 10 biggest lakes in North Carolina.

Jordan Lake’s beaches are popular with tourists for activities including swimming, hiking, birdwatching, and boating. Around the lake, numerous well-known species can be seen, such as osprey and hawks, herons, deer, songbirds, flying squirrels, and beavers. Additionally, there are numerous bald eagles, so keep a lookout.

1Jordan Lake13,940 acres
2Falls Lake12,410 acres
3Harris Lake4,100 acres
4Buckhorn Reservoir2,300 acres
5Lake Benson650 acres
6Lake Wheeler650 acres
7Lake Crabtree520 acres
8Lake Johnson150 acres
9Lake Lynn55 acres
10Bass Lake54 acres

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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