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Camping, swimming, fishing, hiking, boating, beaching — do it all (and more) at Monroe Lake.

Monroe Lake is Indiana’s largest land-bound body of water. At nearly 11,000 surface-acres, this lake offers an abundance of space for recreation of all types — no matter the season, there's an activity for everyone to enjoy.


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Party Boat

Monroe Lake is a great spot for any type of watercraft. With nine launch ramps, it's easy to bring your own boat down to Bloomington's sandy shores. The lake is also home to three boat rental facilities, each offering a variety of pontoons, speed boats, jet-skis, fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and watersports accessories such as tubes, wakeboards, skis, and more. You can also receive kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and windsurfing lessons from LT Paddle Sports — those with experience can opt to simply rent the equipment and forgo the instruction. 


beach at paynetown

Monroe Lake offers three public beaches for all to enjoy. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, dip your toes in the water or get some sun on the beaches at the Fairfax State Recreation Area (SRA), Paynetown SRA, and Hardin Ridge Recreation Area. Beachside activities include swimming, picnicking, kite flying, volleyball, sunbathing, sandcastle building, frisbee, and more.


Little boy fishing at Hardin Ridge Recreation Area

Monroe Lake is home the largest, most varied selection of fish in Monroe County. Bluegill, largemouth & yellow bass, walleye, black & white crappie, channel & flathead catfish, and bullhead & hybrid stripers are what you can expect to catch at this well-stocked lake. Fishing is allowed year-round — popular areas for casting a line are the Crooked Creek Ramp, the Cutright State Recreation Area, and the Pinegrove Ramp. Bring your own boat, rent one for the day, or enjoy angling from the banks of the lake, shaded by the lush forestry surrounding you.

Before you cast your line, be sure to obtain an Indiana fishing license from the IDNR office for all anglers ages 17 and younger.


Two people hiking at Monroe Lake

Spending a day on the water in Bloomington doesn’t mean you have to spend a day in the water. Monroe Lake is also home to a variety of trails varying in difficulty, offering a hiking experience for everyone to enjoy. The Paynetown SRA offers three trails, none more than 1.25 miles; the Allen's Creek SRA offers one 1.75-mile moderate trail, and the Hardin Ridge RA offers two trails, neither exceeding two miles.

Camping & Lodging

Camping in Deam Wilderness

For those who don't want to part with the lake at the end of the day, Monroe Lake offers a variety of camping and lodging options:

Primitive campsites and RV hookups are available at the Paynetown SRA and Hardin Ridge Recreation Area. The nearby Hoosier National Forest also allows primitive camping in the forest and along the lakeside. 

Lake Monroe Village and Yogi Bear's Lake Monroe Jellystone Park offer the best of both worlds: primitive & RV campsites, as well as cabin & villa rentals. Jellystone Park is a favorite for families due to their range of kid-friendly amenities, including an outdoor pool, splash pad, playground, jumping pillow, and more.

Lakeside lodging is available at the Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & Marina. Located just down the shore from the Fairfax SRA beach, the resort offers two restaurants, a marina, heated pools, mini-golf, and more.

Another lodging option is the Scenic View Lodge, which is settled high in the hillside, overlooking the Monroe Lake basin and its range of hills — it's reminiscent of the Smoky Mountain region. In addition to the Lodge, Scenic View also offers an RV campground one mile from the lake in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness, as well as a private rental within walking-distance of the Scenic View Restaurant & Bar.

Prefer to enjoy your stay Airbnb-style? There are several vacation rentals available in close proximity to Monroe Lake, including the Acorn Resort and Birdies Cottage.

State Recreation Areas

Fairfax Beach at Lake Monroe

Indiana’s largest lake is surrounded by several State Recreation Areas, each offering a range of recreation opportunities from mountain biking to hiking and even horseback riding. The proximity to the lake allows you to enjoy an array of water-based activities as well as land-based recreation.

Surrounding the lake, you will find eight SRAs:

  • Allen's Creek SRA
  • Crooked Creek SRA
  • Cutright SRA
  • Fairfax SRA
  • Moore's Creek SRA
  • Paynetown SRA
  • Pine Grove SRA
  • Salt Creek SRA

Many SRAs host fun events throughout the year — check the Indiana DNR website for details!


Monroe Lake 3

Home to a variety of wildlife, a thriving forest, and fond memories for many Hoosiers, Monroe Lake is more than just another body of water. Land stewardship is key to keeping this beautiful lake accessible for all to enjoy. Whether you're visiting for a day on the water or a weekend in the woods, please practice Leave No Trace principles and respect the land around you.