One approach for simulating ground water–lake interactions is to incorporate the lake into the ground water solution domain as a high-conductivity region. Previous studies have developed this approach using fully saturated models. This study extends this approach to variably saturated models, so that ground water–lake interactions may be more easily simulated with commonly used or public domain variably saturated codes that do not explicitly support coupled lake–water balance modeling. General guidelines are developed for the choices of saturated hydraulic conductivity and moisture retention and relative permeability curves for the lake region. When applied to an example ground water–lake system, model results are very similar to those from a model in which the lake is represented as a specified head boundary continuously updated by a lake mass balance. The high-conductivity region approach is most suitable for relatively simple geometries and lakes with slower and smaller fluctuations when the overall flow pattern and system fluxes, rather than the detailed flow pattern around the intersection of the lake and land surfaces, are of interest.