The area provides fun both on the water and on shore. Boat ramps and courtesy docks are located nearby, and the vast lake allows for plenty of water sports. Fishing is a popular pastime, and the lake and Kaskaskia River offer year-round varieties of fish such as bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, flathead catfish, white bass, largemouth bass, freshwater drum, carp and walleye. There is an on-site playground and plenty of open space for children to play. A multi-use biking and walking trail is located a short walk away.
Dam East Spillway is connected to the Dam East Recreation Area. It has one reservable group picnic shelter that can accommodate up to 75 people, as well as 15 individual campsites that are open year-round. A courtesy dock and two boat ramps are available, including one of the best high water boat ramps on the lake. There is a beach located nearby at the McNair Group Area.
The Carlyle Lake Visitor Center, located in the Dam West Recreation Area, has information available and nature exhibits on display, including a 215-gallon aquarium with native fish.