The 10 Most Snake Infested Lakes in the United States

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: January 27, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Fifteen species of aquatic snakes inhabit the water sources of the United States.
  • The only venomous, semi-aquatic snake in the U.S. is the cottonmouth, also called the water moccasin.
  • Out of all of the lakes in the country, the most snake-infested lake is Lake Sweetwater, Texas.

Snakes occur everywhere in the United States. From forests to deserts, and even water sources, these snakes inhabit a wide array of environments across the country.

Next time you are swimming in your favorite lake, keep an eye out for snakes, as there are 15 aquatic species in the country. You will, however, be relieved to hear that the United States only has one deadly water-dwelling snake, so it’s not likely a concern.

Of the venomous snakes found in the United States, the cottonmouth, sometimes known as the water moccasin, is the only dangerous snake found in the country that lives predominantly in or near water.

Water snakes can be found near any significant water source, including rivers, lakes, ponds, and marshes, though they prefer quieter environments. With that in mind, we need to know where these snakes thrive so we can be on the lookout for them. Below, we will explore the 10 most snake-infested lakes in the United States.

The 10 Most Snake-Infested Lakes in the United States 

    10. Lake Hartwell, Georgia

Lake Hartwell, Georgia
You can find the Georgia copperhead snake in or around Lake Hartwell.

©iStock.com/Ashley Strickland Photography

When visiting the Lake Hartwell area, you will undoubtedly encounter a variety of species, but one, in particular, you may want to avoid: the eastern copperhead. They live in a wide variety of habitats, from forests to rocky areas. They tend to prefer dryer areas with leaves and brush for camouflage, but seem pretty common around Lake Hartwell.

Eastern copperheads have a gray to tan base color with reddish-brown hourglass-shaped markings. Viewed from the side, they often look like chocolate kisses. The bright copper color of their heads is where they get their name. However, the shade of copper sometimes varies. It’s better to take note of the distinctive pit viper head and thin neck. People new to the area or inexperienced with snakes on Lake Hartwell may confuse the copperhead with the northern water snake, which has similar colors and markings.

If startled, a copperhead shakes its tail before striking, similar to a rattlesnake and many nonvenomous colubrids. However, most copperhead bites happen when someone steps on or otherwise harasses the snake because their first line of defense is sitting still — hoping you don’t see them.

    9. Collinsville Lake, Oklahoma

If you enjoy the lakes in Oklahoma, keep in mind that there is a hidden danger. Cottonmouth snakes are relatively common in the eastern third of the state. Cottonmouths are semiaquatic, and spend as much time in the water as on the land. Their favorite prey items are fish and frogs.

They are the only venomous snakes that spend a lot of time in the water in the United States. Cottonmouths, like copperheads and rattlesnakes, are pit vipers. They feature heat-sensing facial pits between their eyes and nose.

These unique pits can detect minute temperature variations, allowing the snake to precisely hit the source of heat.

    8. Lake Martin, Alabama

Lake Martin, Alabama
Timber rattlesnakes, pygmy rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths can be found in or around Lake Martin.

©iStock.com/Shackleford-Photography

Snakes are one of Alabama’s most divisive species and are one of the most likely to elicit a reaction when spotted. Fortunately, only six of their snakes are venomous. They include timber rattlesnakes, pygmy rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths — by far the most common is the copperhead.

These snakes are frequently regarded as “bad guys” due to their deadly nature, and they receive a lot of negative attention and press. Copperheads are perhaps the least feared of the Alabama’s venomous snakes. Maybe it’s because copperheads are prettier snakes than the cottonmouth, or they lack or the rattlesnake’s auditory warning and intimidating reputation. Copperheads are beautiful, non-aggressive pit vipers with the least toxic venom of any native venomous snake in the United States.

    7. Lake Gaston, Virginia

Lake Gaston
The cottonmouth and copperhead are the most active snakes in or around Lake Gaston.

©EnterTheLight/Shutterstock.com

The copperhead, cottonmouth, and timber rattlesnake are three venomous snake species still found in or near Lake Gaston today. The cottonmouth and copperhead are the most active snakes in this area, but you may also see a timber rattlesnake.

The site of any pit viper usually results in pain, swelling, bruising, and redness at the bite site. Their venom, depending on the species, can contain hemotoxins, cytotoxins, neurotoxins, or a combination of two or three.

    6. Lake Texoma, Texas

The Texas coral snake occurs in Texoma, but not on the Oklahoma side.

©iStock.com/asiantiger247

Texoma is home to many different species of snakes. As the weather warms up, so do the snakes. There are three types of venomous snakes common around Texoma Lake: Copperhead, cottonmouth, and three rattlesnake species. It’s possible to see a Texas coral snake there, but unlikely because they’re very shy.

Before you approach any snake, take a breath and try to identify it. Texas also has a lot of people willing to help you relocate a snake if needed. 

    5. Lake Okeechobee, Florida

Lake Okeechobee
Timber rattlesnakes and copperheads are exclusive to North Florida.

©Allison Michael/Shutterstock.com

The south Florida region is home to 34 of Florida’s 46 native snake species, including four of the six venomous species. In addition, south Florida is also home to three non-native species, while timber rattlesnakes are exclusive to northern Florida and copperheads only occur in a small area of the panhandle.

Here soon, Burmese pythons may reign supreme over all other creepy-crawlies in a state teeming with them.

In recent decades, they have grown from a small population in the southern Everglades to the Naples area and even as far north as Lake Okeechobee.

Everything is potential prey: from relatively small wading birds and rabbits to large deer and even alligators. The pattern on their camouflage is nearly perfect. Even experienced snake hunters may have difficulty spotting them when lurking in the grasses and under shrubs.

The Burmese python is an invasive species that has grown so prolific in Florida that it has become a serious threat to many other native species. While we know that some people released their unwanted pet snakes, the biggest problem with Burmese pythons was caused by nature. Specifically, hurricane Andrew in 1992 – the hurricane that devastated Florida also destroyed a breeding facility and released countless snakes.

Floris residents are encouraged to capture and humanely kill Burmese pythons whenever possible.

    4. Lake Tahoe, California

Rattlesnakes thrive in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

©iStock.com/heyengel

As the weather warms up and more people go for picnics and swim outdoors, they must be alert to their surroundings. Rattlesnakes thrive in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and spring is when they emerge from their winter brumation.

Although rattlesnakes are venomous, they usually avoid people. While sightings of snakes sunbathing in the middle of the day are common, they spend a surprising amount of time out and about at night, especially during the summer.

Three species of garter snakes inhabit the Lake Tahoe basin: the common garter snake, the western terrestrial garter snake, and the Sierra garter snake.

Even with the high-elevation environment of the Lake Tahoe basin, small mountain streams offer limited habitat for most aquatic-associated vertebrates, particularly amphibians and snakes.

    3. Lake Mead, Arizona

There are four species of deadly rattlesnakes found within Lake Mead’s recreation area.

©iStock.com/Sean Pavone

Forty-one species of reptiles and 12 species of amphibians thrive at Lake Mead. Snakes are abundant across the region, as one might anticipate in a warm environment.

There are four species of rattlesnakes found within the recreation area, and all are highly venomous. These include the southwestern speckled rattlesnake, sidewinder, and the speckled rattlesnake. However, the Mojave rattlesnake has the most dangerous venom — a potent cocktail of neurotoxic and hemotoxic venom.

All rattlesnakes are pit vipers and have hollow, hypodermic needle-like fangs in the front of their upper jaws connected to large venom glands.

Rattlesnakes get their name from their unique tails with with nature’s own rattle design, which they use to warn off potential threats. Another local snake is the king snake, one of the best-known and readily identified non-venomous snakes. It has a striking black or extremely dark brown pattern with white to cream-colored rings along its length.

When temperatures allow, it’s diurnal, but when temperatures rise too high, it becomes crepuscular or nocturnal.

    2. Lake Erie, Ohio

Lake Erie
Lake Erie water snake population is closing in on 12,000.

©iStock.com/becky johnson

The population of Lake Erie water snakes is approaching 12,000. It was the 23rd species to be removed from the federal Endangered Species List in 2011, joining the bald eagle, American alligator, and peregrine falcon. About 300 acres of the inland habitat and 11 miles of shoreline also were protected of the water snake.

The Lake Erie watersnake is a smallish nonvenomous snake native to Lake Erie’s islands. This snake is highly semiaquatic, as its name implies, but spends a good portion of time on land. When it’s in the water, it’s usually within about 150 yards from shore. The body is pale grey to dark brown, with a subtle pattern of darker grey or brown bands.

They spend most of the day foraging amphibians and fish in or near water. The rocky beaches of the Lake Erie islands it calls home to provide plenty of opportunities for sunbathing and concealment.

    1. Lake Sweetwater, Texas

Lake Sweetwater
Texas has the highest number of species of snakes.

©Michael R Ross/Shutterstock.com

If you’re curious about which state has the most snakes, look no further. The number of species in Texas is the highest. In terms of areas of Texas with a large population, West Texas, Central Texas, and South Texas are excellent places to look for snakes.

The World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup attracts an estimated 25,000 visitors to Sweetwater each March, infusing $8.3 million into the local economy. Sweetwater’s history and culture intertwine with the roundup. It all started in 1958 when local farmers and ranchers tried to eradicate the local western diamondback rattlesnake population.

Hunters capture the snakes who compete for the largest ones and take them to the Nolan County Coliseum. However, not everyone is a fan. Ecologists and animal rights activists have criticized the event, but it hasn’t deterred what has become a cultural and economic pillar in Sweetwater, uniting generations of its citizens.

Other Semiaquatic Snakes in the US

The only truly aquatic snakes are sea snakes, some of which live off the coast of the U.S. However, there are a few other semiaquatic snakes:

  • Common Watersnake – Eastern U.S.
  • Plain-bellied Watersnake – Southeast U.S.
  • Queen Snake – Scattered in eastern U.S.
  • Saltmarsh Watersnake – Coast of Gulf of Mexico

Summary

Highest to Lowest Snake PopulationLakeState
#1Lake SweetwaterTX
#2Lake ErieMI
#3Lake MeadAZ
#4Lake TahoeCa
#5 Lake OkeechobeeFL
#6Lake TexomaTX
#7Lake GastonVA
#8Lake MartinAL
#9Collinsville LakeOK
#10Lake HartwellGA

Up Next…

Now we’ve learned the importance of researching a lake before swimming in it. If you’re curious about where else snakes inhabit the U.S. and how big they might be, check out our articles:


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Snake infested lakes
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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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