Dam West Recreation Area provides fun both on the water and on shore. Boat ramps and courtesy docks are provided, and the vast lake allows for plenty of water sports. Fishing is a popular pastime, and the lake offers 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, as well as an amphitheater for educational programs. A multi-use biking and walking trail is located a short drive away at the dam.
The area consists of a day use area and campground, including 109 campsites (64 reservable, and 45 non-reservable). It provides modern amenities and access to a marina and boat storage facility. The adjacent Dam West Spillway and Dam West Day Use Area offer additional recreational opportunities. Visitors can also walk or bike across the dam to the Dam East facilities and 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.