Stretching only 110 miles east to west and 70 miles north to south, Connecticut may not be America’s biggest state. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty. Connecticut is home to over 3,000 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, and their glistening magnificence adds to the state’s allure.
The Nutmeg State is irresistible due to its white picket fences, lush forests, protected bridges, and roaring waterfalls. However, the lakes turn it into an outdoor enthusiast’s dream holiday destination, especially during the summer months. Because Connecticut is known for the lengthy Connecticut River (it’s the longest in New England) that carves through its middle, it is no surprise that lakes and other waterways are among the state’s most beloved attractions.
Connecticut’s lakes are beautiful in the eyes, but they also provide a terrific way to have fun in the water without dealing with the crowds, unlike on oceanfront beaches. You will also get a taste of freshwater free of salt and seaweed. Below, we will explore the 10 biggest lakes in Connecticut.
The 10 Biggest Lakes in Connecticut
10. Mansfield Hollow Lake
Mansfield Hollow Lake is a reservoir on the Connecticut border between Windham and Tolland counties. The United States Army Corps of Engineers designed and constructed the dam to substantially reduce flooding along the Quinebaug, Shetucket, and Thames rivers. The 440-acre (1.78 km2) lake is famous among locals for its free boat launch and outstanding bass and pike fishing options. Yellow perch, largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie are fish found in the lake. The state record rainbow trout (14 pounds, 10 ounces) was caught here in 1998, and while trout are no longer stocked in Mansfield, the three well-stocked rivers that feed it are, so expect drop-downs. On the other hand, Northern pike fishing attracts a lot of attention from anglers and is especially popular during the winter when the ice is thick.
9. Highland Lake
Scenic Highland Lake is in the historic town of Winchester, in Litchfield County, Connecticut. The lake is long yet narrow, spanning three miles north to south but only half a mile broad at its widest point. This 445-acre (1.80km²) lake, hidden among the Berkshire Mountains, should be on everyone’s must-see list. The gorgeous beauty has been dubbed a “resort lake” due to its shoreline being bordered by luxury residences.
The lake has three bays: the First, Second, and Third. Burr Pond State Park, located in the latter, offers campers various hiking paths through the lush woods. The state-run boat launch is in First Bay, and Second Bay is known for its excellent fishing, with large bass, smallmouth bass, trout, perch, and salmon in abundance.
8. Gardner Lake
Gardner Lake is located in three Connecticut state parks, all of which are only a few miles apart if you want to visit more than one. The lake is 528 acres in size, surrounded by the towns of Salem, Montville, and Bozrah in Connecticut’s southeast. Gardner Lake State Park in Salem, Connecticut, sits on the lake’s southern end. It boasts a dock for fishing, a boat launch, and a beach with an area for swimming. The slightly larger Hopemead State Park, nestled in the towns of Bozrah and Montville, is to the northeast of Gardner Lake.
Finally, Minnie Island State Park is only accessible by boat, located within Gardner Lake. This park is Connecticut’s smallest state park, measuring less than one acre in area. Minnie Island State Park is sometimes empty because there are no facilities. But its relative privacy attracts visitors interested in picnics or fishing on the island.
7. Washining Lake
Washining Lake is located in Salisbury and is a natural lake in the River Drainage Basin, around five miles away from both the Massachusetts and New York borders. Although much of the shore is wetlands, there are still a few private homes. The 569-acre (2.30km²) lake has a twin called Lake Washinee. The lakes are twins not because of their size or shape but because they were named after two Machain daughters by a Machain Chief.
Lake Washining, which translates to “Laughing Water,” is the larger and rounder of the twin lakes and is known as the East Twin. The Stone Tower, located on the island in Lake Washining, was built in the early 1900s as part of Camp Isola Bella. With a marina and a range of houses on its shoreline, Lake Washining is the more lively of the twin lakes.
6. Lake Waramaug
Lake Waramaug is serenely set in one of Connecticut’s top state parks, Lake Waramaug State Park. This natural lake has a total surface area of 656 acres (2.655 km2), named after Chief Waramaug of the Potatuck Native American tribe. A variety of fish, birds and woodland animals call Lake Waramaug home. Bass, brown trout, freshwater crayfish, mussels, snapping turtles, and pike thrive in the water. Songbirds abound in the spring and summer, including finches, cardinals, robins, blue jays, and sparrows.
Outdoor enthusiasts will not want to leave, as this vast, scenic lake is breathtakingly beautiful. Still in doubt? Visit in the fall to see the brilliant colors of the trees reflected on the quiet water’s surface. No wonder it was featured in the book “1000 Places to See Before You Die,” the stunning scenery will take your breath away.
5. Bantam Lake
The largest natural lake in Connecticut, Bantam Lake, is a great place to spend quality time with your family. It is located on the western side of Connecticut, between the towns of Morris and Litchfield, and has two beaches, Morris Town Beach in Morris and Sandy Beach in Litchfield, where everyone will enjoy frolicking on the beach.
Every season is beautiful at Bantam Lake. There’s no shortage of things to do on this popular 947-acre (3.83 km²) lake, whether you want to trek along its shores in the spring, float on its refreshing waves in the summer, enjoy the fall foliage from a canoe, or skate on the thick ice in the winter. The lake has more than 20 bass tournaments each year, and opportunities for northern pike, black crappie, chain pickerel, and bluegill fishing.
4. Lake Zoar
The Stevenson Dam created Lake Zoar, a vast body of water that borders the towns of Monroe, Newtown, Oxford, and Southbury. Each has a boat launch, making it simple to set sail for a day of fishing, swimming, water skiing, or windsurfing on this exciting reservoir. This 909-acre (3.679 km²) lake sits near the Housatonic River in Connecticut, loaded with different fish, including bass, catfish, trout, and perch, which means that anglers will not be dissatisfied with their catch. Others who want to admire the beautiful water views from afar might take advantage of the numerous hiking trails running along the shore.
3. West Thompson Lake
The West Thompson Dam and Lake is a vast location that offers a variety of activities such as hiking, camping, boating, and disc golf. You may find this 1,250-acre (5.06km2) lake in Connecticut’s northeast corner. In addition, it was built as part of the Quinebaug River damming project and is now a popular recreational area. The West Thompson Lake Campground is located on the east side of the lake and provides tourists with a place to sleep and hike. The six-kilometer (4-mile) Shoreline Trail loops around the lake and is one of three primary trail systems. Fishing, kayaking, and boating are popular activities on the lake, accessible by public boat ramps.
2. Lake Lillinonah
Coming in at the third spot, the 1,900-acre (7.69 km²) Lake Lillinonah is nestled in Fairfield, Litchfield, and New Haven counties in Connecticut’s northeast. Due to its massive size, it rarely sees large crowds along the beach. The beautiful and clear waters of Lake Lillinonah are irresistible to swimmers, anglers, and kayakers alike. The 72-kilometer (44.5 miles) shoreline of Lake Lillinonah is a magnificent wooded spot, making it a very peaceful lake. The lake has its own bald eagle observation area, emphasizing Lake Lillinonah’s most significant feature: its wildlife. The nearby George C. Waldo State Park is ideal for hunting and horse riding, while the Upper Paugussett State Forest offers extensive hiking and mountain bike paths, as well as fishing and boating opportunities.
1. Candlewood Lake
With a total surface area of 5,420 acres (21.93 km²), Candlewood Lake is Connecticut’s largest lake, lying in Fairfield and Litchfield counties. Five towns surround this beautiful lake, making it a popular summer getaway for locals. Because of its outstanding recreational opportunities, it is possibly the most well-known lake in the state.
Swimming, boating, fishing, and boarding are examples of these activities. Many people come to the lake to scuba dive and see the 18th-century underwater buildings and pathways. Some people also come to jump off the 7.6-meter-high Chicken Rock into the ocean. Candlewood Lake is known for its smallmouth bass, but it also has walleye, trout, crappie, perch, sunfish, catfish, chain pickerel, and largemouth bass.
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