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The Flood Control Act of 1944, the Federal Water Project Recreation Act of 1965, and language in specific project authorization acts authorize the Corps to construct, maintain, and operate public park and recreational facilities at its projects, and to permit others to build, maintain, and operate such facilities. The water areas of Corps projects are open to public use for boating, fishing, and other recreational purposes.

The Corps of Engineers today is one of the federal government's largest providers of outdoor recreational opportunities, operating more than 2,000 sites at its lakes and other water resource projects. More than 600 million visits per year are recorded at these sites. State and local park authorities and private interests operate nearly 2,000 other areas at Corps projects.