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Driftwood Outdoors: Monroe, Patoka offer diverse lake activities short drive away

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Indiana is truly a land blessed with diversity of waters.

The Ohio and Wabash are major rivers. We are one of the fortunate few Great Lakes States. Sugar Creek and the Blue River are tranquil streams. We have reservoirs, natural lakes, farm ponds and more.

But even among all the state has to offer, for me, two waters and regions stand out from the crowd.


Lake Monroe

Lake Monroe, Monroe Lake, Monroe, Monroe Reservoir — it seems the name changes with each article you read. I prefer Lake Monroe, so from now on that’s how I’m going to refer to this crown jewel of Indiana waters.

Monroe is, in my opinion, the grandest of the state’s lakes. It is an incredibly scenic and expansive lake, and it is an outstanding fishery.

Comprising nearly 11,000 acres, Lake Monroe is by far the largest lake in the state, not considering Lake Michigan. While the size of the lake attracts many pleasure boaters, there is still plenty of room to escape the large wakes and find solitude and fishing.

There are large coves along the main lake that are no-wake zones, as is the entire side of the lake east of the State Road 446 causeway. On Monroe, if you want to run a giant boat wide open, you can. But if you want to get away from the crowd, you have over half the lake to do it in.

Lake Monroe has something to offer every person who enjoys being on the water.

It might surprise you, but Indiana is home to the fifth-largest inland marina in the United States. Four Winds Resort and Marina offers Lake Monroe enthusiasts everything from dinner, to a hotel room, to a dock slip large enough to hold a 60-foot houseboat. Four Winds is the must-visit destination on the lake.

Patoka Lake

For many Hoosier sportsmen, Patoka Lake is the best sporting destination in the state.

At 8,800 acres, Patoka Lake is the second-largest body of water in Indiana. The size and beauty of this timber-filled reservoir is enough to define Patoka as a special place, but when you consider all the public land surrounding the reservoir, the region becomes surreal.

With 25,800 acres of land and water at Patoka, visitors have room to spread out. Hunters and fisherman easily find solitude. Bird watchers witness undisturbed eagles. Hikers rarely share a trail. And there is still plenty of room to water ski.

Patoka is a place to really get away from it all.

Patoka is a destination. You’ll want to spend at least a weekend exploring all the lake has to offer. There are many overnight options. The area is full of motels and hotels, cabins and campgrounds.

Just south of the lake, Jasper, a wonderful, southern Indiana city, has all the amenities one could wish for. There is a restaurant, Schnitzelbank, that’s worth the length of any drive. If you take my advice, and visit this authentic German eatery, I’m confident you’ll leave with a smile on your face.

The French Lick Resort and Casino is located just north of Patoka. This property is much more impressive than you might imagine. French Lick has come a long way, offering many entertainment options for adults and children.

The lakes of Indiana may not number as many as other states, but what we may lack in quantity is made up for with quality.

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Saturdays in the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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