Gardner Lake State Park Salem CT

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Gardner Lake State Park is a beautiful place to visit in Salem, CT. This small state park is located on the south shore of Gardner Lake. The state park offers opportunities for boating, fishing, and swimming.

gardner lake state park boat launch.

I spent a lot of time at this lake growing up. I grew up a couple miles from the lake and we frequented the public beach. When I got older, it became one of my favorite spots to go to just hangout by the water.

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It became my favorite local spot and I would go there just about every week. Whether I was there to have a moment of peace or to take some photographs, it became my happy spot. I have countless images I’ve taken at the lake.

kailey with camera sitting on the dock at gardner lake state park.


Gardner Lake State Park was established in 2001. The park is a total of 10 acres and it features lake access with both boating and recreational access. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) is responsible for taking care of the park.

gardner lake state boat launch sign.

The lake is named after the Gardner family, who originally owned much of the land in the area. The lake is about 529 acres in size and it is in Bozrah, Montville, and Salem.

Gardner Lake has an interesting history attached to it. In February of 1895, a grocer by the name of Thomas LeCount decided he wanted to move his house across the lake while it was frozen. It didn’t go too well for him and it ended up falling through the ice. Some people say you can still hear the piano that was in the house. But, I’ve never heard it in all the years I’ve been going…

Things To Do

This state park might be small, but there is plenty to do!

Boating and Tubing

In the summer, Gardner Lake is a popular spot to go boating. The park features a boat launch that is accessible year-round. The boat launch area has a fixed concrete dock as well as concrete ramp into the water.

long exposure night shot of the gardner lake dock and ramp at the boat launch.

The boat launch area also has paved parking spaces to fit trucks with trailers. If there is no available parking near the launch itself, there is additional parking in an upper lot closer to the entrance that is suitable for trucks with boat trailers.

Exploring Minnie Island State Park

While you’re boating on the lake, be sure to check out Minnie Island State Park! Minnie Island is Connecticut’s smallest state park. It is the only island located in the lake. The island is about only 1/3 of mile from the boat launch. There are three entrances to the island on the north, south, and east shores.

Jet Skiing

This park is also a great place to go jet skiing. My best friend’s family had jet skis and they would go jet skiing quite often in the summer. It was rare that they weren’t out on the lake on their jet skis. This is true for many locals.


Gardner Lake is also a great place to go fishing. Some of the fish you might catch here are largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white catfish, black crappie, walleye, rainbow trout, brook trout, brown trout, bluegill, green sunfish, pumpkinseed sunfish and yellow perch.

Going to The Beach

beach at gardner lake state park.

The park also features a public beach. My parents brought us swimming here a lot when I was growing up because it was so close. The beach is free, but if you’re from out of state, you will have to pay for parking.

out of state parking at gardner lake state park.

There is a paved parking lot specifically for the beach on the right. There are port-a-potties in this lot if you need a restroom. To get to the beach, you’ll walk down the hill from the parking lot.

This is a great beach for children because there are no waves and it’s fairly shallow. And, it’s a small enough where your children really can’t get out of your sight.

swimming at gardner lake state park.

If you are planning on going to the beach, you might want to get there early. It is a small park and in the summer, the beach fills up pretty quickly. This is especially true on holidays like Memorial Day and The Fourth of July. DEEP will close the parking lot when it gets to capacity.

Watch The Sunset

This was always one of my favorite spots to watch the sun set. I’ve seen some pretty, colorful sunsets there. There’s nothing like getting to see the colors reflect off of the lake’s water.

sunset at gardner lake state park.

Enjoy Fall Foliage

This is also a great spot to enjoy New England’s fall foliage! When the lake is still, you can enjoy some great reflections of the trees and their colors in the lake. It’s really quite beautiful!

gardner lake dock with fall foliage in the background.

Nearby Attractions

While you’re in Salem, be sure to check out some of these nearby attractions!

Hopemead State Park

Hopemead State Park is another Connecticut state park that provides access to Gardner Lake. This state park is located in Bozrah. Unlike Gardner Lake State Park, Hopemead has a trail you can hike to get to the lake.

Salem Valley Farms Ice Cream

If you’re in Salem, be sure to check out Salem Valley Farms Ice Cream! Salem Valley Farms, referred to as the “Ice Cream Barn” by locals, has a variety of options as well as gluten-free and dairy-free options!


Planning a trip to Gardner Lake State Park? We answered some of the most frequently asked questions below!

Are dogs allowed at Gardner Lake?

Yes! This state park is dog-friendly. Just make sure your dog is on a leash.

How many acres is Gardner Lake?

Gardner Lake is 529 acres in total.

Can you swim at Gardner Lake?

Yes! There is a public beach located at the state park.

Is Gardner Lake Private?

The lake itself is not private! However, there are many private homes and properties along the lake, so be respectful of those that live on the lake.


If you’re in Southeastern Connecticut, you may want to check out these spots too.

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  1. Near by hiking is close to Gardner’s lake! Not far in Salem is Walden Preserve as well as several hiking trails in preserves offRt. 82 towards Lyme on the way to the ferry near Gillette Castle, which is also a fun ride and goes towards Cockaponset State Park.
    Rt 82 has Chapel Farms preserve, opposite Fox Hollow gulf course which is also on the road to Devil’s Hopyard and Chapmen Falls.
    Hartman Park is a few miles past Salem Valley Ice cream.

    1. I grew up in Salem and these are some of my favorite spots that I spent a lot of time at growing up. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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