A fast-flowing tributary of Recovery ice stream penetrates more than 500 km into the interior of East Antarctica. Recent satellite-based studies found surface features in the onset area of this tributary that indicate a significant subglacial hydraulic system, including four large smooth basins, the typical surface expression of large subglacial lakes, as well as eleven smaller areas over which ice-sheet surface elevations rapidly changed by discharge/filling of subglacial water. Here we present the first ice-penetrating radar evidence of subglacial conditions in this area. We identified a distinct ice-water interface only over a limited area within the boundaries of the investigated large smooth basins, previously hypothesized to be water-filled lakes. The radar characteristics in some areas are similar to those of a drained lake, indicating that parts of the bed are wet, but not a typical lake. We also find evidence for discrete water bodies outside of the lake boundaries. The lines of evidence indicate that the northern most two Recovery Lakes have recently drained.