Patoka Lake is a large reservoir located in the rolling hills of Southern Indiana. The Patoka Lake Campground is part of a 25,800-acre facility featuring seven state recreational areas surrounding the 8,800-acre lake. The area, run by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, is a favorite location for RV campers and those who love water recreation. The lake and the camping facilities are popular draws year-round.
The Patoka Lake and dam was built and is still managed by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources; the state park system does not operate it. The facility was created to grow and support Indiana's recreation, conservation, and preservation of the state's natural areas.
Since the campground is close to many other recreational areas, there is no shortage of activities for people of all ages and interests. The large RV campground has over 400 RV-friendly campsites. There are also group tent-camping areas as well as a Fisherman’s Campground designated for those anglers who need to be close to the water. If you plan on spending time outdoors, gather information on the hiking and biking trails, or find the best places to view birds and other creatures native to the area. The lake has three marinas, so those who wish to spend time on the lake have plenty of opportunities to rent boats or reserve a tour. The recreation is spectacular at Patoka Lake, and once you visit, you will want to come back again.
The Patoka Lake Campground is located within a half of a day’s drive from many of the major cities in Indiana and its surrounding states. The park is 221 miles east of St. Louis, Missouri, 143 miles west of Lexington, Kentucky, 119 miles south of Indianapolis, Indiana, and 189 miles north of Nashville, Tennessee.
Patoka Lake requires guests to pay a daily Department of Natural Resources access fee. Prices vary depending on the residency of the person entering the park. Residency is determined by the license plates of the vehicle entering the park. For specific rules, regulations, and cost, contact Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Campers, visitors, and guests may come and go during the park’s operating hours. Visitors are welcome, but they must park in the parking lot and walk to your campsite. All guests must leave before the gates close for the night. Most campgrounds have a gatehouse with security during the summer camping season.
The campground at Patoka Lake is a large, multi-looped camping area. The pet-friendly facility has large sites up to 68 feet in length that allow rigs up to 55 feet in length. Each space is paved and has either 50 or 30 amp electric, a fire ring, and a picnic table. The popular camping area has minimum stays on some weekends and holidays. Showers, restrooms, playgrounds, and hydrants are scattered conveniently throughout the camping area, giving each section of the campground proximity to the amenities. There is also a park office, dump station, and fish cleaning area in the vicinity. The facilities winterize during the colder months, so amenities that use water close during the winter. Campers who need to use a generator may do so between the hours of 7:00 am through 11:00 pm. Please be mindful of park hours as gates close and camping set up is restricted after midnight.
If you are an avid fisher or you’d like to start fishing, Patoka Lake is an ideal location for any angler. The large lake has plenty of places for boats to sneak off to find a quiet fishing location. The lake is heavily stocked with redear, crappie, walleye, bluegill, catfish, or bass. Launch your boat from any of the boat ramps, or rent a boat from one of the three Patoka Lake Marinas. A state fishing license is required for anglers over 18. Fishing licenses are available at the office.
The lake isn’t just for fishing and boating. During the summer months, bring the whole family to the beach and watch the water activities from the sand. Once you’ve warmed up, head to the water and cool off. In between enjoying the beach and swimming, visit the concession stands for a snack. The beach is close by a bathhouse with restrooms, showers, and a dressing room, so park guests don’t have far to walk to access the amenities.
The Nature Center is a favorite place for guests to stop by when visiting Lake Patoka. Even if you don’t have time to attend an interpretive event or special program, the Nature Center offers plenty of information on the lake’s facilities. The Nature Center is open year-round and contains displays featuring the nature and heritage of the area. People interested in birds should visit the bird observation room or walk through the backyard wildlife habitat and try and spot a raptor.
Patoka Lake hosts special programs and events throughout the year. The events, structured to appeal to a variety of ages and interests bring people to the park from the community as well as help to educate park guests. The events change often, but generally, there are events involving recreational instruction, programs based on the park’s species, and community activities like 5K races. The park posts a calendar on their website for guests who want to know what’s going on in advance. If you are a guest of the park, stop by the park’s Interpretive Center or the Nature Center and ask what is happening during your stay.
Guests who like leisurely biking will enjoy the bike trails at the Patoka Lake camping area because the paths are not multi-purpose trails; they are designated bike trails. The trails begin at many of the parking areas and lead to the different camping areas within the park. Bikers have plenty of places to start and end a ride. There are over six miles of bike paths in the park. The path varies from natural to paved surfaces, so ensure your bike can handle varied terrain. For mountain bike riders who want more of a challenging trail, check with the Indiana State Park website for information on the location of the trailheads as well as the requirements for trail permits.
The Patoka Lake hiking trails are well-maintained and restricted to foot traffic to ensure the safety of every hiker. The park has three trails, each rated as moderate to rugged difficulty. The Main Trail is a six and a half-mile hike that begins at the Nature Center. Hike the entire path, or stop when you feel ready. The park makes it easy to get back to the trailhead because the route has several waypoints that will guide guests back to the Nature Center. The Garden Rock Loop is a short trail that runs in a circuit from the Nature Center’s front door. Hikers who want a hilly, but short hike can complete this hike under an hour while still enjoying the ferns, pines, and rock overhangs. The Wildlife Management Demonstration Trail is two miles long and provides guests with a self-guided interpretive walk. Stop by the Nature Center to pick up an interpretive booklet and learn more about hiking in the park.