To the Lakes for Fun on the Water

Kosciusko County has more than 100 natural lakes and is part of an even bigger system of lakes in North Central Indiana, giving residents and visitors endless opportunities to enjoy water sports, breathtaking views and relaxation on and near the water.

“Our county is special because we have this domain of natural beauty provided by our lakes that give people so much peace and serenity wherever they go in the county and whether or not they are on the water,” says Jill Boggs, CEO of the Kosciusko County Convention and Visitors Bureau (KCCVB).

At the heart of Kosciusko County is the city of Warsaw, nicknamed “the city of lakes,” located off of U.S. 30 between Valparaiso and Fort Wayne. The city is known for its three main lakes: Center Lake, Pike Lake and Hidden Lake, which provide opportunities for paddle boarding, fishing, ski shows, swimming and kayaking. There are walking and biking trails around the city and parks and beaches. Center Lake is just three blocks north of the county courthouse, adjacent to Central Park and Warsaw Biblical Gardens.

Center Lake is 130 acres, with a sand and gravel bottom and an average depth of 40 feet. The city maintains a park, tennis court, pavilion picnic area and a sandy bathing beach on the lake’s south side. Center Lake’s game fish include largemouth bass, bluegills and crappies.

The 200-acre Pike Lake is located on the north edge of Warsaw, has a sandy bottom and an average depth of 20 feet, with camping facilities nearby.

Hidden Lake is a private lake and is the home of Lake City Skiers, Indiana’s only show ski team. The team is a four-time national champion.

Just north of Warsaw is the city of Syracuse, home of Lake Wawasee, the largest natural glacier-made lake in the state.

Oakwood Resort on Lake Wawasee sits on 27 acres and has paved paths for walking or jogging, a one-mile bike route, unpaved hiking paths and lots of ways to enjoy the water.

The Oakwood Boat Tour departs from Oakwood Pier every evening shortly before sunset. If it’s a full day on the water you want, rent your own pontoon from the Main Channel Marina. Some pontoons come equipped with their own wave creation machine to aid surfing in the wake. For a quieter time, rent a paddleboat or kayak. Snorkel, scuba diving and fishing opportunities abound as well.

If you enjoy a view of the water but don’t want to be on the lake, spend the day golfing on one of the three golf courses in the region or shop at one-of-a-kind boutiques and stores like the Revolving Closet, the Creative Fish for locally made crafts and decorations, or at the many antique shops.

The S.S. Lillypad II is a two-story, 110-passenger houseboat that’s 70 feet in length, making it the largest vessel on Lake Wawasee. Take a two-, three- or four-hour cruise, some including dinner and dancing, or rent the boat for special occasions like weddings, receptions, corporate outings or private parties. To schedule a cruise, call the cruise manager at (574) 529-3300 or email [email protected].

The 640-acre Webster Lake, next to the town of North Webster, is home to the state’s oldest sternwheel paddleboat. In 1914, Captain Joseph Breeck began operating a 65-foot wooden-hulled sternwheeler named The Dixie, primarily used to transport people, mail and groceries to various locations around the lake. That boat is on the National Register of Historic Places and was replaced with the 76-foot steel-hulled boat that’s used today.

The Lilly center is located in the town of Winona Lake, also home to Grace College and Theological Center, the Billy Sunday Home Museum and the Winona History Center. A restored historical district called the Village at Winona sits along the canal and is full of specialty shops. The body of water called Lake Winona is located in the town named Lake Winona.

The KCCVB annual 2021-2022 Experience Guide (formerly known as the Visitor Guide) helps people to navigate all the places to go for lakes-area recreation, dining, shopping, arts and culture. It was delayed this year due to the pandemic but will be available June 1 online at visitkosciuskocountyorg, at rest stops, visitor centers, and locations in neighboring states. It provides a map of every lake in the county, plus the size of the lake, best fishing in each body of water and the lake bottom composition.

The guide also lists public access sites, Indiana fishing and license regulations, boating safety information, and reports from the Lilly Center of Lakes and Streams, which is devoted to research and education to ensure the lakes and more than 600 miles of streams in the county are clean, healthy and aesthetically pleasing.

The Fort Wayne area boasts many gems in its crown and its neighboring lakes region is surely one of the brightest. ❚