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Gibson Lake, located in southwestern Indiana just north of Interstate 64, holds the record for the largest lake built completely above ground in the state. It covers 3,500 acres and acts as a cooling pond for Duke Energy Indiana's Gibson Generating Station, a coal-burning power plant. Four of its six sides are levees built out of rock, and it has a two-mile break wall built into the lake. Gibson Lake was completed in 1972, and has been in full operation since. The constant inflow of cool water from the McCarthy Canal and the Patoka River to the Generating Station makes the residence time in Lake Gibson only 2 weeks. Due to the outflows of hot water from the main plant's boilers, the lake never gets colder than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes Gibson Lake an ideal home for thousands of ducks and geese in the winter months when other lakes are frozen over. Gibson Lake is located within 6000 acres of reservoirs, ponds, and a 160-acre area of natural wetlands known as the Gibson Lake Wildlife Habitat Area.
Gibson Lake began allowing anglers on the lake in 1978, and the lake became a popular site to fish for bass, catfish, bluegill and carp. Fishing was suspended in 2007 while selenium levels are investigated. Despite being closed to recreational activities, Gibson Lake still welcomes visitors for bird watching. Regardless of the season, visitors will be delighted by the extensive variety of birds, including the American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Pacific and Red-Throated Loon, Snowy Egret, Peregrine Falcon, Wild Turkeys, Golden Eagles, and Snowy Owls. The lake is a stopover for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl during their fall flight south. Gulls, duck, and geese make Gibson Lake their winter home. Winter also brings Bald Eagles to Gibson Lake. They nest in the area, so visitors driving around the levee may encounter these amazing birds.
Duke Energy employs personnel specifically to work with the Department of Natural Resources to protect endangered species found on their property. Among the 55+ species of birds found at Gibson Lake, the Least Tern is an endangered species, and the lake is one of only two locations east of the Mississippi River where they have been found nesting. Because of their need for protection, visitors are asked to be extremely careful not to disturb them. Areas of the lake are closed to the public during their breeding season. The Least Tern can usually be spotted around Gibson Lake between mid-May and early September.
Gibson Lake's diverse bird population makes it an ideal destination for any bird lover. It is also a great spot for parents to take children wanting to learn about birds native to this area. Because of Gibson Lake's warm water temperature, it is a year-round destination.
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