We Hoosiers who live in southern Indiana do have a lot of lakes. Most, however, are man-made. Unless it is an oxbow lake or a lowland body of water near a river like Hovey Lake in Posey County, it is not a natural lake. To see most of Indiana’s natural lakes, we have to travel to the northern one third of our state.
Most of our Hoosier natural lakes are found north of the Wabash River, and are left over from the Ice Age. These lakes are usually classed as either pit lakes or kettle lakes. Both are the result of the glaciers that once covered a large segment of our state.
When they finally moved back to the north, they left behind scooped out terrain like the Great Lakes and some of our present natural lakes. In addition, the kettle lakes were formed when huge blocks of ice were left behind that caused the ground to sink and then fill up with melt water. Today these lakes are some of the most attractive in the United States.
While we don’t have 10,000 like Wisconsin claims to have, Indiana still has hundreds of lovely natural lakes. The best of these are found in Steuben, Noble, Koschuskio, Elkhart, Marshall and St. Joseph counties. While they are still very attractive lakes, most of the shorelines are now full of houses and summer homes that distract from their former glory.
Most books list Lake Wawasee at 3,410 acres as Indiana’s largest natural lake. While it is the largest lake all within the boundaries of Hoosierland, Lake Michigan is our largest lake. Lake Michigan, with 154,000 acres enclosed within our boundary, is larger than all the other natural lakes combined. Don’t forget Lake Michigan.
These are 19 natural lakes in Indiana over 500 acres in size. Hundreds more range from a few acres to nearly 500 acres. Other large Hoosier natural lakes are Bass Lake, 1,345 acres, Lake James, 1,039 acres, pretty Lake Maxinkukee, 1,854 acres, and Clear Lake, at 800 acres.
The only large natural lake in southern Indiana is Hovey Lake down in Posey County. It covers 1,400 acres with much of this acreage due to the construction of the John T. Myers Lock and Dam, downstream from Hovey on the Ohio River. While it has always been a lowland natural lake, the construction of the lock and dam, filled several low sites with water and greatly increased its size.
Hovey is in the Hovey Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area. It has a large number of bald cypress trees, and is a great place to see wildlife of all kinds. The northern natural lakes are some of the most scenic sites in Indiana. In spite of the homes on the shoreline, once you get past the shore, most are still blue and a treat to the eyes. They also are a great place to fish as the Indiana D.N.R. does its best to keep the lakes full of fish, many of which you won’t find in other lakes.
Pokagon State Park in Steuben County is a great place to view and enjoy Lake James.
Most of these lakes have state boat ramps that allow access to their waters. Others have nature preserves around the smaller lakes that help protect the natural aspect of the lake, and are a great place to observe the wildlife and plants that help make these lakes one of the crown jewels of our Indiana natural heritage.