Inside Columbia


Lake It Easy: Find the Right Lake for Summer

By Zola Heck
paddle board

Photos by L.G. Patterson 

With the warm weather finally sticking around, it’s prime time to step outdoors and enjoy the water. Whether you prefer taking a dip, fishing with friends, letting your dog dive into the water or floating on your boat, Columbia has a lake for you. Enjoy this guide to finding the right lake to make sure you get your fill of fun in the sun by the water this summer.

stephens lake

Splash-tacular Spots: Swimming Lake
Stephens Park

While you may be tempted to take a dip in any of the wonderful lakes in Columbia, there is only one where you can swim. Stephens Lake Park, which is located at 2001 E. Broadway, is known for its 11-acre lake, lush trees and rich historical significance within the community. Tammy Miller, the communications coordinator for Columbia Parks and Recreation, says people can swim at Stephens Lake Park only on the west side of the boardwalk. Whether you seek to explore the nature trail, admire art sculptures, enjoy waterfalls, splash in the spraygrounds, relax at the swimming beach or engage in more activities, there truly is something for everyone to enjoy.

twin lakes

Reel in the Fun: Fishing Lakes
Twin Lakes Recreation Area Cosmo-Bethel Park
Lake of the Woods Recreation Area Cosmo Park
Stephens Lake Park
Philips Park
L. A. Nickell Golf Course
Nifong Park
Smith Park
Vineyards Lake Park
American Legion Park

Grab your tackle box and cast your worries away, because there are plenty of lakes for fishing in Columbia. From the beautiful 40-acre community park near Gentry Middle School to the 140-acre na- ture oasis at Philips Park with a fishing dock, a 1.4-mile nature trail and more, you can’t go wrong with any of these lake options. Fishing is allowed year-round starting at 4:30 a.m. As long as you have a fishing license and are 15-64 years old, you are allowed to fish. The Missouri Department of Conservation stocks the lakes, generally, with channel catfish, crappie and black bass. Visit to get detailed rules and regulations for each fishing lake.

dog parkPaws-itively Perfect Spots: Dog-Friendly Lakes
Garth Nature Area
Twin Lakes Recreation Area

If you’re more in the mood to fetch some quality time in the water with your dog, Columbia has a couple of dog- friendly lakes to choose from. Garth Nature area has 1.6 miles to walk with your furry friend, a three-acre fenced, leash-free dog park with a pond and more. Along with the fishing pond at Twin Lakes Recreation Area, people can also bring their dogs to the 73-acre community park in south Columbia to enjoy the splash zone. According to the city of Columbia, all dog owners must clean up after their dogs, not leave their dogs unattended at any off- leash area, keep dogs leashed when outside of the fenced area and more. For all the Columbia dog park etiquette, visit

paddle boardGreat Sail-ection: Lakes to Bring a Boat
Stephens Lake Park
Philips Park
Vineyards Lake Park
Twin Lakes Recreation

For those who are more into floating on the water, Columbia has several lakes that allow non-motorized boats. The city of Columbia allows non-motorized boats at Stephens Lake Park on the east side of the boardwalk. At Philips Lake, you can also bring your non-motorized boat and boats with electric/ battery trolling motors. And at Twin Lakes Recreation, non- motorized boats are allowed, but all boats must be carried in from the parking lot. There is no driving access. So, chart your course and decide which boat-friendly haven you’ll be using this summer. For more information on boating on Columbia lakes, visit

fall finger lakesBonus in Boone County
Finger Lakes State Park

If you’re looking to venture a little bit out- side of Columbia, the Finger Lakes State Park in Boone County offers a unique blend of natural beauty and recreational opportunities. Once a coal strip-mining site, the park now offers more than 900 acres of off-road trails for motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. Beyond the thrill of off-roading, visitors can enjoy activities like swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and scuba diving in the finger-shaped lakes formed by the mining company’s dams and canals. Picnic and camping areas are also available, offering serene spots to relax in the woods, while hiking and mountain bik- ing trails offer further exploration. Visit to enjoy your family fun in the sun at Finger Lakes State Park.

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