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Visitor Activities



A lazy afternoon on the lake may be accompanied by the splash of a jumping fish, the sight of turtles sliding into the water, gators imitating floating logs, or the wild cry of an osprey bringing a fish to its nestlings.  Whether fishing for crappie (speckled perch), bream, or bass, other treats await those who look and listen.

  • Fishing


    Night fishing is allowed. Fishing tournaments require a special use permit and privately-sponsored bass tournaments are held frequently year-round. Largemouth bass is the most popular sport fish, and ten-pounders are occasionally caught. Other favorites are speckled perch (crappie), bream (bluegill), and catfish.  Check the regulations page for refuge restrictions.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Osprey bringing fish to the nest in a cypress

    Alligators, herons, ibis and egrets patrol the lake year-round, but other wildlife may change with the seasons.  Ospreys nest on tall cypress in the middle of the lake, and warblers and flycatchers nest in the hardwood uplands around the water’s edge.  Hundreds of sandhill cranes stop over during fall and late winter migration. Turtles such as Florida softshell, yellow-bellied slider, and Florida cooter are seen frequently in the water and basking on logs. 

  • Interpretation

    Banks Lake Fishing Derby

    The Banks Lake Youth Fishing Derby is held annually on the first Saturday of June, with the derby itself taking place at nearby Flatlanders Lake.  Activities, events, and the awards ceremony are held at Banks Lake NWR.  Food, childrens’ crafts, live reptiles, knot-tying, worm grunting, and other activities are also part of the event. 

    A short nature trail near the Outpost winds through a hardwood forest and cypress-black gum wetlands.

  • Photography


    The moss-draped cypress ringing the lake’s waters are perhaps the most photogenic aspect of the refuge, with white water lilies an intriguing foreground.  Sunsets are quite spectacular from the boardwalk, and the bank is a great place to see the full moon rise.  There are always opportunities for alligator and turtle photographs, but ospreys can be seen on their bulky stick nests in late spring and early summer. Sandhill cranes overwinter by the hundreds and are great subjects for nature photographers. The most intriguing photographs are taken from a boat, as you can see much more on the water.

  • Paddling

    Canoe in fog

    A very pleasant way to experience Banks Lake is from a canoe or kayak. Paddle amid water lilies and wind through the bell-bottomed cypress rising out of the water for a swamp-like experience. While quietly paddling you can hear cricket and pig frogs in the warm months, along with birdsong and the wild call of the osprey or nesting bald eagles.

  • Facilities

    Nature trail

    Facilities at Banks Lake NWR include restrooms, boat ramp, short walking trail, boardwalk and platform, and accessible fishing dock. Night fishing is permitted, and there is no launch fee.  The concession operation, Banks Lake Outdoors, will be opening on or around March 1, 2015.  Check out the new operation and see all of the great things happening at Banks Lake!

Page Photo Credits — Boating: Art Webster/USFWS, Fishing: Art Webster/ USFWS, Sunset and Cypress © Cindy McIntyre, Canoe in fog: © Cindy McIntyre, Nature trail: Jasmine Olsen,

Osprey: © Cindy McIntyre

Last Updated: Apr 30, 2015
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