The Best Lakes to Visit Near Memphis, Tennessee

Pickwick Lake may be a 2.5hr drive from Memphis, but it’s worth the day trip
Pickwick Lake may be a 2.5hr drive from Memphis, but it’s worth the day trip | © Tim Thompson / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re struggling with the heat and dust of the city (at its worst in July), visit the springs and lakes near Memphis to cool off in the water or just enjoy nature. There’s the opportunity to camp, too. Here, Culture Trip lists the best lakes near the second-largest city in Tennessee.

Sardis Lake

Natural Feature

If you’re looking for some adventure on the water, this vast 98,520-acre (39,870ha) reservoir is the place for you. Sardis has waterskiing, swimming, fishing, kayaking and canoeing in abundance year-round. It’s particularly popular with those fishing for bass. Easily accessible, it sits on the Little Tallahatchie River in Lafayette County, Mississippi, and is just an hour from Memphis. Take the whole family and spend the weekend camping.

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Arkabutla Lake

Natural Feature

Hugely popular with families, this peaceful lake is the perfect place to enjoy the sunrise or sunset and is situated on the Coldwater River, 37mi (60km) south of Memphis. It’s also known for its excellent sailing conditions. But if you’d prefer to stay out of the water, it has great wildlife viewing, hiking and horseback riding. There are also picturesque camping spots dotted along the banks.

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Pickwick Lake

Natural Feature

Part of Pickwick Landing Dam, this lake stretches all the way across to Wilson Dam and is slightly farther out from Memphis, following a 150mi (241km) drive. If you’re into waterskiing or wakeboarding, the lake is usually calm in the mornings and evenings. The stunning scenery also makes this area the perfect place to drop anchor and enjoy a party with family and friends. If you’re into fishing, it’s also a great spot to land some bass.

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Tunica Lake

Natural Feature

Located across Lee County, Arkansas, and Tunica County, Mississippi, Tunica Lake, also known as Tunica Cutoff, is an old oxbow lake. To get there, drive down the famous Highway 61 for about 1.5hr hours. The lake makes for good sailing but is more popular for fishing, with plenty of carp, crappie, bream, flathead catfish and more in its waters.

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Horseshoe Lake

Natural Feature

With its shape resembling a horseshoe, this lake is a short 40-minute drive from Downtown Memphis, making it an ideal day trip. It’s popular with swimmers and sunbathers and is great for families because of the smooth waters. It’s also an excellent spot for boating, swimming and fishing. You might struggle with wakeboarding, though, as the shape of the lake isn’t ideal for it.

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Greers Ferry Lake

Natural Feature

Often rated one of the cleanest and clearest lakes in the US, Greers Ferry Lake is a good 150mi (241km) from Memphis, but it’s worth a visit. The views are stunning, and on a clear day, you can see Sugarloaf Mountain. It’s perfect for kayaking, boating, scuba diving and fishing. If you want to stay out of the water, bring your hiking boots and enjoy one of the many trails. You’ll spot plenty of wildlife.

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These recommendations were updated on July 7, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.