Variations in a lake area constitute an important indicator of the modifications of the lake hydrology. This paper explores the inter-annual variations of the Poyang Lake area during the dry seasons occurring within the 1961 to 2010 period and further quantifies the severity of dryness recently endured during the 2000s. A physically based hydrodynamic model of Poyang Lake established the relation between the lake area and lake level. The lake area was calculated using the observed lake water level. Results indicated the average lake area in the dry seasons was 1,015 km2. There was a considerable inter-annual variation of the minimum lake area that varied from 702.8 km2 to 1,259.7 km2. Poyang Lake experienced the most severe dryness in the 2000s, resulting in an average lake area during 2001 to 2010 of 124 km2 less than that of the preceding period. During the dry seasons, the catchment of the river discharge is likely the primary cause of the changes in lake area. This study evaluated the inter-annual variations of the Poyang Lake over a period of 50 years. Our results may provide support for an integrated management of the lake-catchment system, securing the water supply.