The 10 Biggest Lakes in Virginia

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: May 14, 2022
Image Credit JWorley-Adventures/Shutterstock.com
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Virginia is a stunningly beautiful state, renowned for its picturesque scenery and nestled between the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Every year, throngs of travelers go to Virginia’s breathtaking landscape to see the wineries, mountains, beaches, and numerous lakes scattered throughout the state. Many people are unaware that there are just two naturally-formed lakes in Virginia. But that doesn’t mean the others aren’t worth seeing!

Whether you enjoy fishing, boating, swimming, or simply gazing at the tranquil reflections dancing over the water, a vacation or day trip to one of these Virginia lakes is a must. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and birdwatching along the shorelines and in the beautiful woodlands and terrain surrounding the lakes and reservoirs are possibilities for landlubbers. If you ever make a trip here, these are the 10 biggest lakes in Virginia you should not miss.

The 10 Biggest Lakes in Virginia

    10. Philpott Lake

Philpott Lake Virginia
Stretching over three counties, Philpott Lake has a surface area of 2,880 acres and is the tenth biggest lake in Virginia.

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Philpott Lake stretches over Virginia’s Franklin, Henry, and Patrick counties and is a beautiful sight to see. It’s a 2,880-acre (11.65 km2) reservoir with an irregular shape that runs along the border of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Highlands and Southern tourist districts. Visitors can enjoy boating, fishing, hiking, picnicking, and camping along the hundreds of miles of shoreline. Like boat ramps and viewing platforms, many amenities are available at Philpott Lake to make your trip more convenient and fun. There is no residential development along the lake’s shoreline, but several facilities such as boat landings, campgrounds, picnic spaces, beaches, and hiking paths abound throughout the lake. Anglers pursuing largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and walleye will have a good chance of fishing on the lake.

    9. Lake Chesdin

Also known as the Chesdin Reservoir, Lake Chesdin was established in 1968 and it supplies water and power to the Region.

Art Anderson / Creative Commons – License

Lake Chesdin, located only 10 minutes from Colonial Heights and Petersburg and 30 minutes from Richmond, offers some of Virginia’s best freshwater sports, fishing, and outdoor enjoyment. This 3,100-acre (12.55 km2) lake, also known as the Chesdin Reservoir, was established in 1968 as a drinking water supply reservoir by damming the Appomattox River.

The lake is easily accessible and offers a variety of outdoor activities such as boating, excellent fishing, kayaking, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, camping, and golf. The lake is known for its largemouth bass, making it a popular fishing site. Crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, and walleye are just a few other species. The Lake Chesdin Campground also features a children’s playground and a sandy beach for a fun day in the sun. It is an excellent weekend getaway from Richmond if you’re searching for a close but relaxing spot!

    8. Lake Drummond

Lake Drummond Virginia
Lake Drummond is located between Virginia and North Carolina.

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This freshwater lake, located between Virginia and North Carolina, is the state’s only other freshwater lake. On the other hand, Lake Drummond has a lot to offer visitors, including canoeing and kayaking on its 3,142 acres (12.72 km2) surface area. Families like going out on a boat to explore the lake and take advantage of the numerous bird watching opportunities. The lake’s low pH limits the types of fish that live there, but that doesn’t stop keen anglers from taking advantage of the lake’s offerings.

One of the most appealing aspects of Lake Drummond is its location in the heart of the Great Dismal Swamp! Black bears, river otters, white-tailed deer, pigs, red foxes, bobcats, bats, and squirrels thrive in the Great Dismal Swamp, but keep an eye out for Great Dismal Swamp alligators!

    7. Leesville Lake

 Leesville Lake VA
Measuring a surface area of 3,400 acres, Leesville Lake is one of the biggest lakes in Virginia.

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The Leesville Lake, which stretches along the border of Virginia’s Central and Southern tourism districts near Altavista in Pittsylvania County, is a 3,400-acre (13.76 km2) fishing and outdoor leisure reservoir. It is part of the Smith Mountain Lake hydropower generation project, used for water storage projects.

Boating, fishing, swimming, sailing, birdwatching, and wildlife viewing are just a few of the recreational activities available at the lake, which also has boat ramps for launching crafts, picnic sites for relaxing, and marinas for anglers and boaters. Bass, catfish, and sunfish concentrations in the bottom part are similar to those in surrounding reservoirs. However, the upstream portion of the lake has a poor fishery, with white perch, bluegill, and redbreast sunfish dominating.

    6. Claytor Lake

Claytor Lake Virginia
Located in Pulaski County, Claytor Lake is a 4,500-acre lake surrounded by stunning shale rock.

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Claytor Lake is a 4,500-acre (17.66 km2) impoundment of the New River that runs over 21 miles in Pulaski County in southwestern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Highlands region. Claytor Lake is a beautiful place to visit if you enjoy watersports like power boating and sailing. Because of the variety of fish that make the lake home, fishing is also a popular hobby. But fishing isn’t the only water sport available; many people enjoy wakeboarding, scuba diving, sailing, and rowing here.

The Claytor River is surrounded by stunning shale rock, which only adds to its splendor. Claytor Lake State Park features many activities, including camping, cabins, lodges, a meeting facility, nature and history programs, miles of hiking trails, and a visitor center. The vegetation is primarily that of mature oak-hickory-poplar woodland, and reforestation is in full swing. Raccoons, squirrels, and other animals such as white-tailed deer are common. 

    5. South Holston Lake

Sunset over South Holston Lake
Although the South Holston Lake reservoir is predominantly in Tennessee, its portion in Virginia still offers anglers more than 1,600 acres of water.

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The South Holston Lake reservoir is predominantly in Tennessee, although a portion of it is in Virginia, near the cities of Bristol and Abingdon. This magnificent lake, covering 7,580 acres (30.68 km2) surface area, offers breathtaking vistas and is ideal for camping, fishing, and boating. Because of the wide variety of ecosystems, there is abundant wildlife and several opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts.

The Virginia Creeper Trail passes through broad meadows and rolling hills surrounding South Holston Lake, where indigo buntings and eastern kingbirds sing. In the swampier portions of South Holston Lake, wood ducks, muskrats, green herons, and painted turtles thrive. It’s a fantastic place to catch black bass, crappie, bluegill, and walleye. Additionally, there are numerous fishing and boat racing events throughout the summer, so if you prefer spending time on the water, you’ve come in the right direction.

    4. Lake Anna

Take at Lake Anna VA
Measuring a surface area of 13,000 acres, Lake Anna is one of the largest inland reservoirs in Virginia.

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Lake Anna is a freshwater inland reservoir in Northern Virginia, between Washington, D.C., Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, and Richmond. Lake Anna is Virginia’s fourth-largest lake, featuring 9,600 acres (38.85 km2) of sandy beaches and leisure areas for picnicking, camping, fishing, and boating. There are around 30 distinct fish species in the lake, and many anglers prefer largemouth bass, striped bass, walleye, catfish, and crappie. You might even see an alligator or two while relaxing by the lake. With so much to do at Lake Anna, it’s easy to see why families and adults of all ages enjoy cooling down here during the hot summer months.

On the other hand, Lake Anna has more copperhead bites than anywhere else in Virginia. Many experts claim it’s because riprap shorelines provide an ideal habitat for different snakes.

    3. Lake Gaston

Lake Gaston
Covering an area of 20,300 acres, Lake Gaston is the third biggest lake in Virginia.

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Lake Gaston is one of three lakes formed by dams on the Roanoke River, and it spans two Virginia counties and three North Carolina counties. Many people from all over the state visit this picturesque lake on the border of Virginia and North Carolina. Boating, skiing, and other water sports are ideal in the vast open waters, covering 20,300 acres (82.15 km2).

More than 150, 000 people live in the surrounding areas, with South Hill and Clarksville on the Virginia side nearby. Since the 1970s, the rural atmosphere and beautiful scenery have made it a popular retirement destination. There are no gators or sharks here, but the copperhead, cottonmouth, and timber rattlesnake are three dangerous snake species that can still be found in or near Lake Gaston.

    2. Smith Mountain Lake

Smith Mountain Lake
Created in 1963, Smith Moutain Lake is the second biggest lake in Virginia.

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Smith Mountain Lake may be the answer if you’re looking for a water paradise. Smith Mountain Lake is called the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge,” with topaz blue waters, emerald green shoreline, and soaring surrounding mountains. It is the second-largest and perhaps the most famous lake in Virginia. The lake’s 20,600-acre (83.37 km2) surface area provides vast open water areas excellent for a fun-filled water experience. Smith Mountain Lake offers a variety of water-based activities, such as a beach for sunbathing and swimming, boat rentals and ramps, and a public fishing pier.

    1. Kerr Lake

Kerr Lake Virginia
Measuring a wide area of 50,000 acres, Kerr Lake is the biggest lake in Virginia.

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Kerr Lake (officially John H. Kerr Reservoir) is a reservoir in the United States sitting on the border of North Carolina and Virginia. It is Virginia’s largest lake, comprising 48,900 acres (200 km2) and providing excellent swimming and recreational opportunities throughout the summer.

Fishing aficionados go to Kerr Lake to capture a variety of species, with some using the boating ramp’s 24-hour access to catch catfish late at night. This lake is also known as Bugg’s Island Lake, named after the Bugg family, who owned the land in 1752. You can catch white perch, catfish, and bass if you go fishing while you’re here! The lake draws a crowd of locals and tourists who enjoy the gorgeous scenery and its cold, deep waters.

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