What’s the Largest Man-Made Lake in Indiana? 

Written by Alan Lemus
Updated: September 17, 2023
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Key Points

  • There are 86 different lakes in the state of Indiana, with the vast majority of them being man-made.
  • Lake Wawasee is the most massive natural inland lake in the state, spanning an impressive 3,000 acres.
  • The largest man-made lake in Indiana blows Lake Wawasee out of the water, being about 3.5 times bigger than its closest natural competitor.
Monroe Lake is located in Monroe County, Indiana. It stands as one of the state’s most remarkable lakes. It spans across 10,750 acres.

Did you know Indiana is home to some of the most amazing natural resources? From picturesque lakes and forests to meandering rivers, this state is a nature lover’s paradise. 

Speaking of lakes, did you know that some of them are actually man-made? Man-made lakes are constructed by building dams, canals, or levees. Its water can be used for various purposes, like drinking, irrigation, and even hydroelectric power. 

These lakes are also great for recreational activities like fishing, swimming, and boating. And of course, they provide a habitat for wildlife.

Let’s discover the largest man-made lake in Indiana by delving into its history and learning about its physical characteristics, flora, and fauna.

The Largest Man-Made Lake in Indiana

Did you know Indiana has tons of beautiful lakes to explore? Some are natural, while others are man-made, but they all offer amazing recreational opportunities and are essential resources for the state.

One of the most impressive lakes in Indiana is Monroe Lake, located in Monroe County. Covering an area of 10,750 acres, it’s the largest lake in the state. Even though Monroe Lake is technically a natural lake, it was expanded with the Monroe Dam’s construction back in the 1960s. That’s why it’s considered the largest man-made lake in Indiana.

Monroe Lake is not only impressive in size, but it also offers some fantastic outdoor activities. You can go fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish or take a dip in the water during the hot summer months. If you prefer to stay dry, you can hike or bike the scenic trails around the lake or rent a boat and cruise around.

Overall, Monroe Lake is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves spending time in the great outdoors. So, pack up your gear and get ready for an adventure!

History of Lake Monroe

There’s more to Monroe Lake than just its impressive size and stunning beauty. Did you know that it has a pretty rich history too? The lake’s story goes back to the early 1800s.

The lake was named after President James Monroe and was initially created in 1818 when the federal government built the Old State Dam. Back then, the dam created a relatively small lake that was primarily used for navigation and milling.

But in the 1960s, things got much more exciting for Monroe Lake. That’s when the Monroe Dam was constructed, significantly expanding the lake’s size and creating the massive body of water we know and love today. With its expansion, the lake opened up new opportunities for recreation, and it has since become a top spot for boating, fishing, camping, and hiking.

Physical Characteristics of Lake Monroe

Lake Monroe (Indiana)

Popular in sci-fi, awesome for anglers, full service for families, Lake Monroe literally has it all!

©NASA / public domain – License

Monroe Lake is Indiana’s biggest and most impressive lake. This unique water body covers a massive 10,750 acres and has an irregular shape that only adds to its charm. It’s pretty deep, too, with an average depth of 18 ft. and a maximum depth of 66 ft.

What’s also cool about Monroe Lake is that it has over 100 miles of shoreline and several inlets, bays, and coves that provide sheltered areas. 

But let’s not forget about the impressive Monroe Dam, which created this beautiful lake. This concrete gravity dam stands 178 ft. tall and 2,224 ft. long. It’s situated on Salt Creek, a tributary of the East Fork of the White River. The dam is used for flood control and as a water supply source.

All in all, Monroe Lake is a gem of a destination, with breathtaking scenery and plenty of activities to keep you entertained. No wonder it’s a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike!

Where is Lake Monroe Located on a Map?

Lake Monroe is located in Southwestern Indiana, about 65 miles from Indianapolis. There are many state parks, hiking trails, and other outdoor attractions located conveniently offshore.

Lake Monroe’s Flora and Fauna

Field of purple coneflowers

Visitors to Lake Monroe are greeted with a colorful array of wildflowers, including purple coneflowers.

©Milosz Maslanka/Shutterstock.com

Monroe Lake and its surroundings are a haven for a wide range of plant and animal life. The lake’s diverse ecosystem supports many native species that thrive in the area’s wetlands, forests, and grasslands. 

From the vibrant wildflowers and towering trees to the bustling wildlife, the lake and its natural surroundings are a treasure trove of biodiversity.

Here is a closer look at the flora and fauna found in and around Monroe Lake:


If you’re a nature lover, you’ll notice the diverse range of plant life. The area’s forests, wetlands, and grasslands are teeming with various species of plants that provide shelter and nourishment for local wildlife. It’s a beautiful natural area that’s definitely worth exploring if you’re in the region.

Here are a few examples of plants that grow here:

  • Bald cypress trees. When you see bald cypress trees, you’ll immediately notice their unique roots that are often submerged in water. These trees are easy to identify, thanks to their impressive root structures.
  • Wildflowers. Monroe Lake is a beautiful spot to enjoy the stunning variety of wildflowers in Indiana. When you visit, you’ll be greeted with a colorful array of blooms, including goldenrod, purple coneflower, and bee balm. It’s a lovely place to take a leisurely stroll on a spring day.
  • Oak trees. There’s no shortage of mighty oak trees around Monroe Lake! These stately trees are common in the surrounding woodlands, adding to the area’s natural beauty.


Monroe Lake and the surrounding areas are also a haven for diverse animal species. Here are a few examples:

  • Fish. Monroe Lake is home to many fish species, including catfish, largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie. Whether you prefer to cast a line from a boat or the shore, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to reel in a catch.
  • Birds. With over 200 bird species in and around the lake, you’re likely to spot some soaring overhead. Look out for the majestic bald eagles, the impressive ospreys, the regal great blue herons, and various waterfowl. It’s an ornithologist’s dream come true!
  • Mammals. Monroe Lake and the adjacent areas provide a natural habitat for various mammal species. White-tailed deer, raccoons, opossums, and coyotes are just a few mammals in this region.

Activities and Attractions at Lake Monroe

Monroe Lake is a great destination for anyone looking for fun and adventure. There are plenty of activities and attractions to suit people of all ages and interests.

Plus, the area surrounding the lake is home to several parks and natural areas, including the Hoosier National Forest, perfect for exploring and experiencing nature. 

Here are some of the top things to do at Monroe Lake:


Boating is a major draw for visitors to Monroe Lake. With its expansive surface area, the lake can accommodate all types of watercraft, whether you’re looking to paddle around in a kayak or hit the waves with a sailboat or motorboat. 

If you don’t own a boat, you’re still in luck. Plenty of marinas around the lake offer rentals so you can get out on the water and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.


Monroe Lake is a great spot for fishing enthusiasts. The lake is home to a diverse range of fish species like bass, catfish, crappie, and walleye. 

There are several designated areas for fishing, and anglers can choose to fish from the shore or a boat. Additionally, the lake holds several annual fishing events.


Beach at Lake Monroe, Indiana

The lake features several designated swimming areas, like Fairfax Beach, Hardin Ridge Beach, and Paynetown Beach.

©Shannon VanB Photography/Shutterstock.com

If you’re looking for a refreshing swim, Monroe Lake has got you covered! The lake features several designated swimming areas, like Fairfax Beach, Hardin Ridge Beach, and Paynetown Beach, where you can cool off and have some fun in the sun. 

During the summer months, lifeguards are on duty, ensuring everyone’s safety and peace of mind. These beaches are perfect for families, so bring your towels and sunscreen and get ready to make a splash!


Monroe Lake isn’t just for water activities; it’s also home to several hiking trails. These trails offer breathtaking views of the lake and the rolling hills around it. 

Whether you’re a veteran hiker or just starting, you’ll find a trail for your skill level. Some trails are easy, perfect for a leisurely stroll, while others are more challenging, providing a rigorous workout and rewarding you with stunning vistas. 


The lake has a bunch of campgrounds to choose from that cater to all kinds of campers. There’s tent camping for those who prefer roughing it and access to full hookups for those who prefer an RV. One of the best things about these campgrounds is that they’re situated near the lake, so you’ll have easy access to various recreational activities. Monroe Lake is a great spot to camp out and enjoy quality time with nature.


Monroe Lake offers some great hunting opportunities for various game species like deer, turkey, and waterfowl. You can hunt in designated areas around the lake, but ensure you get the necessary permits and follow all the rules and regulations. It’s always good to be responsible and respectful of the environment and other hunters, so ensure you’re fully aware of the dos and don’ts before heading out to hunt. 

Key Takeaways

As the largest man-made lake in Indiana, Monroe Lake is a vital resource for the region, providing flood control, water supply, hydropower, and recreation opportunities.

The lake offers a range of activities and attractions for visitors of all ages. Plus, the lake and its surroundings boast some truly stunning views of Indiana’s natural beauty. It’s a perfect destination for families, outdoor enthusiasts, or anyone looking for a peaceful escape from the everyday grind.

What’s remarkable is that the creation of the lake has also positively impacted the region. It reduced the risk of flooding, provided a reliable water supply, generated electricity, and opened up new opportunities for outdoor activities. 

Monroe Lake is a shining example of how humans can work together to create something that benefits both society and the environment. It’s a testament to human ingenuity and the importance of balancing our needs with those of the natural world.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Shannon VanB Photography/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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