Nine Of Georgia’s Absolute Best Lakes – Plus a Small Mountain Gem!

Written by Sean Moore
Updated: October 6, 2022
© iStock.com/Eric Benz
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Nine Of Georgia’s Absolute Best Lakes – Plus a Small Mountain Gem!

Georgia is home to a variety of really great lakes. From massive bodies of water spanning across multiple counties and into other states to small mountain lakes, several different lake experiences are available. A few of the lakes are near cities and others offer a more remote atmosphere.

One Georgia lake has paranormal stories and a dark past. Another sits high in the mountains at the bottom of a beautiful granite walled canyon. Georgia Power and the Army Corps of Engineers manage many of the lakes and surrounding areas providing full-service amenities for camping and boating.

Wildlife is rampant in the state, and the lakes, surrounding recreational areas, and forests provide a home to tons of animals and birds. From manatees and alligators to woodpeckers and butterflies, Georgia is a fascinating state with plenty of outdoor parks, lakes, rivers, and attractions to entertain locals and tourists.

Lake Hartwell

Lake Hartwell, Georgia
Lake Hartwell is one of the most popular and largest lakes in the state of Georgia with a huge nine hundred and sixty-two mile-long shoreline

©iStock.com/Ashley Strickland Photography

  • Surface Area: 56,000 acres
  • Max Depth: 185 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available:
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Good Bass Fishing, Largest Lake In Southeartern United States, Named After Revolutionary War Soldier Nancy Hart

Lake Hartwell is one of the most popular and largest lakes in the state of Georgia. Its massive waters span all the way into South Carolina. The lake is part of the Hartwell Project, which encompasses over seventy thousand acres of water and land areas. The lake sports a huge shoreline of nine hundred and sixty-two miles supplying ample opportunities for boating and fishing.

There are several different types of bass swimming around Lake Hartwell including Smallmouth, Spotted, White, Striped (also called Rockfish), and Largemouth. In addition to the wide variety of bass, the anglers can also catch crappie, bluegill, sunfish, walleye, rainbow trout, yellow & white perch, flathead catfish, bull shark, and bream.

Over two hundred and fifty species of birds can be seen around Lake Hartwell. A few of the many bird types include yellow-billed loons, killdeer, kingfisher, sandpipers, and swallows.

Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier
Lake Lanier is a great place for Striped and Spotted bass fishing and ghosts!

©iStock.com/Steve Samples

  • Surface Area: 37,068 acres
  • Max Depth: 160 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Lady of the Lake Ghost Story, Dark History, Best Striped & Spotted Bass fishing in the US

Locals might know Lake Lanier from some of its dark history and paranormal activity. Anglers may know it for the great striped and spotted bass fishing provided by the lake’s interesting waters. Wildlife enthusiasts visit the lake for the large variety of birds and other animals that call the area home.

Some of the common birds and animals at the lake include Canadian geese, great blue herons, green-backed herons, kingfishers. Beyond the amazing wildlife display, there is much to learn about the dark history of Lake Lanier. In modern days the lake is mostly used for recreation by tourists and visitors to Georgia.

Lake Lanier is well known for its superior striped bass fishing. Other fish species anglers can expect to catch at the lake include largemouth bass, spotted bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, black crappie, walleye, rainbow trout, bluegill, green sunfish, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish, warmouth, white bass, yellow perch, striped bass, and longnose gar. There are several boat clubs and launches around the lake and shore fishing is known to be quite productive.

Richard B. Russell Lake

Richard B. Russell Lake
Richard B. Russell Lake is an undeveloped body of water known for clear water and great Striped bass fishing

©Cesar Zapata-Lozada/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 26,650 acres
  • Max Depth: 147 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes (Caution Underwater Debris & Trees)
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Undeveloped, Clear Water, Bass Fishing

Richard B. Russell Lake is a serene, undeveloped body of water that’s more natural than some of the other larger ones in Georgia. This natural lake setting is perfect for boating, fishing, camping, and wildlife viewing. The expansive five hundred and forty-mile shoreline creates a lush habitat for many different types of birds, fish, and other animals.

The area where the lake now sits has an interesting archeological and Native American history that was preserved before construction began. In addition to the older artifacts, the more modern Georgia-Carolina Memorial Bridge is still under the water today.

Anglers hit the lake regularly for the abundant Black bass (Spotted & Largemouth), crappie, and catfish. Other fish targeted at the lake are rainbow trout, bluegill, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish, and perch. The surrounding state park is fully equipped for your camping expedition.

West Point Lake

West Point Lake
West Point Lake has a diverse wildlife selection and is known for great Largemouth bass and Crappie fishing

©ImAlexiss/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 25,900 acres
  • Max Depth: 85 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Killer Bass Fishing, Close to Atlanta, Excellent Facilities

West Point Lake is a great getaway for Atlanta locals. The lake is also a great opportunity for tourists to take in some southern fishing and camping. West Point Lake is known for good largemouth bass and crappie, fishing but you can also catch catfish, stripers, and hybrids.

Anglers can take advantage of ample fishing opportunities along the five hundred and twenty-five miles of shoreline. For better fishing try one of the public piers at Hardley Creek Park, Rocky Point Park, and McGee Bridge Par. West Point Lake also provides multiple facilities for launching boats out into the water.

Wildlife is abundant at the lake and surrounding areas. Some of the birds and animals frequently spotted include eagles, copperhead snakes, cottonmouths, ivory gulls, osprey, white-tail deer, squirrels, rabbits, loons, deer, turkey, and foxes. West Point Lake also provides forty acres of pasture open to goose hunting.

Lake Oconee

Lake Oconee
Lake Oconee gets its name from the ancient, indigenous town of Creek

©iStock.com/Eric Benz

  • Surface Area: 19,053 acres
  • Max Depth: 102 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Top Bass Fishing Lakes In Georgia, Incredibly Clean, Prestigious Gated Golf Course communities

Lake Oconee is exceptionally clean because Georgia Power owns it. Strict regulations are in place that prevents building structures, septic tanks, and power lines from being anywhere near the lake. These implements impart an undeveloped nature to the waterfront making it awesome for angling.

The fish that you can expect to catch at Lake Oconee include crappie, catfish, white bass, bluegill, stripers, hybrid striped bass, and sunfish. There are great fishing opportunities along the lakes three hundred and seventy-six miles of shoreline. Several boat launches are also available for even more fishing fun!

The pristine waters and surrounding area provide an excellent home to beavers, white-tailed deer, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, turkey, vireos, woodpeckers, warblers, and hawks. For a really special experience check out the Greensboro KOA and spend the night in one of the thirteen authentic railroad boxcars, club cars, or cabooses on their fifty-five-acre campground.

Lake Sinclair

Lake Sinclair
Lake Sinclair is home to national fishing tournaments and a diverse population of wildlife

©iStock.com/Ed Williams

  • Surface Area: 15,328 acres
  • Max Depth: 90 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: National Fishing Tournaments, Laid Back Atmosphere, Diverse Wildlife Population

Lake Sinclair is considered somewhat of a relative to nearby Lake Oconee. The atmosphere is a bit more laid back and low-key in contrast. Sometimes this is exactly what anglers need to snag a tournament-size fish.

Anglers can fish the four hundred and seventeen miles of shoreline or try their luck from the boat. Check into Little River Park Campground & Marina; it’s the bass tournament headquarters of Lake Sinclair. Fish species found at the lake include large and smallmouth bass, crappie, and several different types of catfish.

Bartram Forest is a one thousand three hundred and forty-three-acre wildlife management area surrounding Lake Sinclair. The forest provides shelter and home to many animals, birds, and other critters. Some of the wildlife inhabiting the area include alligators, deer, turkey, raccoon, heron, osprey, red-cockaded woodpecker, and ninety-two species of butterflies!

Allatoona Lake

Lake Allatoona Georgia
Allatoona Lake is the most popular lake in Georgia and a prehistoric Mississippian culture site

©iStock.com/RobHainer

  • Surface Area: 12,012 acres
  • Max Depth: 145 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Most Popular Lake in Georgia, Prehistoric Mississippian Culture Site,

Allatoona Lake area is an extensive site of prehistoric Mississippian Culture. The lake’s two hundred and seventy-mile shoreline is stocked with bass, crappie, bream, gar, and catfish. The north part of the lake and surrounding area is open to the public to view wildlife.

The lake is less than an hour from Atlanta, close, but far enough away to escape into nature. It has twenty-seven public recreation areas that offer hundreds of campsites for overnight excursions. Red Top Mountain State Park is a popular park on the shore of the lake.

Hunting is popular at Allatoona Lake. A few of the animals that roam the area include white-tailed deer, wild turkey, waterfowl, quail, and rabbit. Regulations apply and passes are required for hunting, as you would expect.

Lake Blackshear

Lake Blackshear Georgia
Tourists and locals can find upscale dining, resorts, golf, and great fishing at Lake Blackshear

©iStock.com/Allen Allnoch

  • Surface Area: 8,499 acres
  • Max Depth: 77 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available:
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Upscale Lake Experience, Annual National Bass Fishing Tournament

For anyone looking to find an upscale lake experience, Blackshear is a good bet. The lake provides excellent fishing in addition to being home to some awesome amenities. Georgia Veterans State Park and Lake Blackshear Resort are exquisite places to take in Georgia nature, wildlife, air, and water.

Anglers love the location for the largemouth bass, crappie, white bass, hybrid bass, striped bass, and catfish abundant in the lakes waters. Hardcore bass enthusiasts come to the lake for the annual national tournament. Wildlife viewers can often spot deer, squirrels, beavers, and otters at the lake.

Boating is popular at Lake Blackshear. Larger vessels and high-speed craft need to take caution. Tall trees thought to erode were left when the lake was created creating a modern-day hazard!

One of Georgia’s Hidden Gems

Lake Yonah

Lake Yonah Georgia
Lake Yonah is a smaller, three hundred and twenty-five-acre body of water sitting in a steep, solid granite canyon, well above sea level

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 325 acres
  • Max Depth: N/A
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Record Breaking Bass Fishing, Mountain Lake Environment, Unique Canyon Setting,

Lake Yonah is a narrow, winding body of water situated along the Tugalo River. Its over nine miles of shoreline provide a unique and beautiful experience for anglers, boaters, and campers. The lake sits at the bottom of a steep-walled granite canyon.

The lake is limited to small boats with motors under twenty-five HP. There are boat launch capabilities available, free parking, and a picnic area. You’ll see mostly vacation and summer homes along the shore that are uninhabited in the winter.

Anglers head up the hills to Lake Yonah for the excellent fishing away from the hustle and bustle of Georgia’s larger lakes. A few of the fish species that inhabit the lake include spotted bass, largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, white catfish, walleye, yellow perch, and brown trout.

The Largest Lake In Georgia

Lake Strom Thurmond Aka Clarks Hill Lake

Lake Strom Thurmond is one of ten most visited Army Corps lakes in the USA

©Jake Wasdin / flickr – License

  • Surface Area: 71,000 acres
  • Max Depth: 180 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Third Largest Artificial Lake East of Mississippi River, Striped & Hybrid Bass Fishing

Lake Strom Thurmond also called Clarks Hill Lake has been known for killer bass fishing since the 70s. This draws millions of yearly visitors to utilize the many public parks, marinas, and campgrounds on the Thurmond “Project”. The total area of the project is over one hundred and fifty thousand acres of land and water.

Anglers rejoice for the numerous fishing piers, and bank fishing areas in hopes of catching a huge catfish. The lake is also known to contain striped & hybrid bass, crappie, bluegill, and shellcracker. Wildlife enthusiasts can explore Elijah Clark State Park to view the massive selection of animals and birds that call the lake home.

Some of the animals and birds at the park include bufflehead, horned grebe, common loon, fish crow, ruby-crowned kinglet, ring-billed gull, great blue heron, black vulture, red-shouldered hawk, yellow-bellied sapsucker, red-bellied woodpecker, ring-necked ducks, mallards, gadwalls, wood ducks, deer, squirrels, turkey, and raccoons. The prime spot to look for birds is on Georgia’s Little River Water Trail.

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The Featured Image

Lake Oconee
Lake Oconee gets its name from the ancient, indigenous town of Creek
© iStock.com/Eric Benz

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About the Author

Sean is a professionally published author, mostly in the tech space. He's worked as a writer, editor, and reviewer for O'Reilly Media, Adobe, Manning, Addison-Wesley, and many more. Sean is also a lifelong musician and writes about audio production. Recently he's been focused on web3 and music NFTs.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Which lake in Georgia draws millions of visitors each year?

Lake Strom Thurmond also called Clarks Hill Lake has been known for killer bass fishing since the 70s. This draws millions of yearly visitors to utilize the many public parks, marinas, and campgrounds on the Thurmond “Project”. The total area of the project is over one hundred and fifty thousand acres of land and water.

What is a hidden gem in Georgia?

Lake Yonah is a narrow, winding body of water situated along the Tugalo River. Its over nine miles of shoreline provide a unique and beautiful experience for anglers, boaters, and campers. The lake sits at the bottom of a steep-walled granite canyon.

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