It may be Indiana’s second-largest public reservoir, but there’s nothing second-rate about Lake Lemon. A nature-lover’s paradise, the body of water spans 1,650 acres and 24 miles of shoreline inhabited by bald eagles, great blue heron, egrets, muskrats, and more. One of the area’s best-kept secrets? The “Little Africa” wetlands on the lake’s east end. Fed by Bean Blossom Creek, this spot is shaped like the continent that bears its name. Here you’ll find cattails and American lotus, the latter blooming spectacularly in mid-to-late summer.
Established in 1953, Lake Lemon was Bloomington’s primary water source until the late ’60s, and conservation officers still take its health very seriously, regularly checking for nuisance species and testing the water quality. The result? Anglers enjoy some of the best largemouth bass fishing around. (There are also crappie, catfish, and bluegill.)
Lake Lemon is strictly B.Y.O.B.—bring your own boat—as rentals aren’t available. There’s just one public ramp for large watercraft (7599 N. Tunnel Rd., Unionville), making Lemon generally less crowded and chaotic than its aquatic neighbor to the south, Monroe. (Pro tip: Kayakers may also launch via South Shore Drive, which goes from the mouth of Bean Blossom Creek right into Little Africa.) Riddle Point Park (7599 N. Tunnel Rd., Unionville, 812-334-0233) is home to the only public beach, and includes picnic areas, volleyball courts, and hiking trails. Leashed dogs are welcome everywhere.
When hunger hits, you can head over to the nearby Port Hole Inn (8939 E. South Shore Dr., Unionville, 812-339-1856), accessible by land or boat. Although best known for its catfish, the Port Hole offers everything from pizza and calzones to tenderloins and deep-fried pickle chips. The eatery also features live music on weekends. Rather DIY? Feel free to take your own grub and grill to Riddle Point Park. Because the beach at Lake Lemon is one of the few in the state to allow alcohol on its premises, you can bring your own beer, too. A toast to nature!