The Top 10 Reasons Alabama Has the Best Lakes in the U.S.

Written by Shreya Agrawal
Published: September 26, 2023
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When it comes to breathtaking lakes, few places in the United States can rival the natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and overall charm that Alabama offers. The Heart of Dixie has an impressive collection of lakes, each with its own unique appeal. From clean water quality to rich biodiversity and a deep-rooted cultural significance, here are ten compelling reasons why Alabama is the ultimate destination for lake lovers.

1. Natural Beauty

In the early 1900's Mentone, Alabama was becoming a popular resort destination. In 1924 Lahusage Dam was built to create Lake Lahusage on the East Fork of the Little River on Lookout Mountain.

In the early 1900’s Mentone, Alabama was becoming a popular resort destination. In 1924 Lahusage Dam was built to create Lake Lahusage on the East Fork of the Little River on Lookout Mountain.

©James Deitsch/Shutterstock.com

Alabama’s lakes are known as gems of natural beauty. They are surrounded by lush forests, rolling hills and often framed by the backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains. Thus, these lakes have some of the most picturesque landscapes in the United States.

The gentle ripples on the water’s surface, the swaying of tall pine trees along the shore and the occasional call of a distant loon create a serene atmosphere that invites visitors to unwind and connect with nature. Whether you’re hiking along a lakeside trail or simply sitting on the dock with your feet in the water, you will absolutely enjoy the scenic beauty of Alabama’s lakes.

2. Size and Depth

Guntersville Lake, Alabama

Guntersville Lake, Alabama

©Ray Tan/iStock via Getty Images

Alabama’s lakes also come in all sizes. Lake Guntersville, the largest in the state, spans over 69,000 acres, with ample space for boating, fishing, and recreational pursuits. Its impressive depth, up to 60 feet in some areas, ensures that even during the hottest months of summer, the waters remains cool and inviting. The vast quality of these lakes allows for diverse experiences, such as sailing across open waters to finding secluded coves for a quiet swim.

3. Water Quality

Vertical shot of a Lake Martin with trees and boardwalks under a cloudy sky, Alabama, USA

A vertical shot of a Lake Martin with trees and boardwalks under a cloudy sky, Alabama, USA

©Wirestock/iStock via Getty Images

Alabama is committed to preserving its natural resources. This decision has led to exceptional water quality in its lakes. Stringent environmental regulations, conservation efforts, and water management practices have all contributed to the clarity and purity of the water.

Whether you’re snorkeling in Lake Cheaha or enjoying a leisurely swim in Lake Martin, you can trust that the water will be clean and safe. The high water quality also enhances the overall experience of visiting these lakes, whether you visit them for swimming, boating, or fishing.

4. Biodiversity

High angle shot of scary giant alligators swimming in the lake

A high angle shot of scary giant alligators swimming in the lake

©Wirestock/iStock via Getty Images

Alabama’s lakes are centers of biodiversity. Beneath their serene surfaces exist diverse ecosystems that support a wide range of aquatic species. Anglers come from far and wide to experience the incredible bass fishing that these lakes offer.

The nutrient-rich waters sustain healthy populations of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. This way, they providing opportunities for both novice and experienced fishermen. Birdwatchers are also in for a treat, as these lakes are home to various avian species, making it an ideal spot for them.

5. Recreational Activities

Aerial overhead view of marina and campground at Jackson County Park on Lake Guntersville in Scottsboro Alabama.

Aerial overhead view of marina and campground at Jackson County Park on Lake Guntersville in Scottsboro Alabama.

©Carl Banks Photography/Shutterstock.com

The recreational opportunities in Alabama lakes are abundant and diverse. Boaters can explore the open waters, while thrill-seekers can enjoy water skiing, tubing, and wakeboarding. Kayakers and paddleboarders can also glide peacefully across calm bays and inlets. If you prefer a slower pace, lakeside parks also have picnic areas and sandy beaches for sunbathing and swimming. The versatility of these lakes ensures there’s something for everyone, whether you seek adventure or relaxation.

6. Fishing Opportunities

Man fishing on Lake Guntersville in Alabama.

Man fishing in a bass boat surrounded by grass and milfoil on Lake Guntersville in Scottsboro Alabama.

©Carl37306/Shutterstock.com

Alabama is rightfully known as the “Bass Fishing Capital of the World.” Its lakes provide some of the best bass fishing in the nation. Anglers can chase after largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass in these waters, while the abundance of fish in the lakes ensures that your day on the water will be exciting. Whether you’re casting from the shoreline or cruising in a boat, the thrill of landing a trophy-sized bass is an experience that keeps anglers coming back year after year.

7. Scenic Trails and Parks

Aerial view of a lake in a forested landscape in Florence, Alabama

An aerial view of a lake in a forested landscape in Florence, Alabama

©Wirestock/iStock via Getty Images

The shores of Alabama’s lakes also have several scenic trails and parks, making them ideal destinations for nature lovers. These trails wind through forests. Hikers, bikers, and nature lovers can explore the diverse flora and fauna that call these areas home. Some trails even lead to hidden waterfalls, adding an extra element of wonder to your outdoor adventures. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll, the trails around Alabama’s lakes have something to offer everyone.

8. Accessibility and Amenities

aerial view of sandy beach on Lake Guntersville Alabama

An aerial view of a sandy beach on Lake Guntersville, Alabama.

©Dharris324/Shutterstock.com

Alabama’s lakes are highly accessible with well-maintained public access points, marinas, and boat ramps. This accessibility makes it easy for visitors to launch their boats, kayaks or paddleboards. Many lakes also have campgrounds, cabins and resorts on their shores that cater to various preferences and budgets. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or prefer the comforts of a lakeside cabin, you’ll find all the amenities and accommodations to make your stay enjoyable and convenient.

9. Cultural and Historical Significance

Tallapoosa River in Randolph County, Alabama

Tallapoosa River in Randolph County, Alabama

©Ray Tan/iStock via Getty Images

Some of Alabama’s lakes also have a rich cultural and historical significance. For example, Lake Martin was created in the 1920s when the Tallapoosa River was dammed. Today, the lake still retains its historical charm, with the iconic Martin Dam serving as a reminder of its past. You will encounter remnants of old towns and structures submerged beneath the lake’s surface. This unique blend of history and nature adds depth and character to the lake experience.

10. Community Engagement

Guntersville Lake in Scottsboro Alabama

Aerial view of lakefront homes and boat houses on Guntersville Lake in Scottsboro Alabama.

©Carl Banks Photography/Shutterstock.com

Finally, Alabama’s lakes are hubs of community engagement. Throughout the year, people in lakefront communities host a myriad of events, festivals, and fishing tournaments that bring people together and celebrate their natural surroundings. These gatherings share a strong sense of community and love for the lakes. Whether it is a local fishing derby or a lakeside music festival, there is always a palpable sense of togetherness around these lakeside communities in Alabama. It’s not just about the natural beauty; it’s also about the people who come together to enjoy and protect these precious resources.

Must-Visit Lakes in Alabama

Let’s explore some of the best lakes to visit in Alabama, each of which offer a unique experience and a range of recreational opportunities:

1. Lake Guntersville

Size: Approximately 69,000 acres Location: Northeastern Alabama

Lake Guntersville is Alabama’s largest lake and is famous for its size, biodiversity and natural beauty. It lies against the backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains and can provide an incredible fishing experience with an abundance of bass, crappie, and catfish. Visitors can enjoy boating, water skiing, and hiking in nearby Lake Guntersville State Park.

2. Lake Martin

Size: Approximately 44,000 acres Location: Central Alabama

Lake Martin is known for its crystal-clear waters and the picturesque Martin Dam. It’s a popular destination for boating, swimming, and fishing. It also has an array of waterfront restaurants and marinas. The lake’s clear waters make it a fantastic spot for snorkeling and diving, allowing you to explore underwater treasures and submerged remnants of the past.

3. Smith Lake

Size: Approximately 21,000 acres Location: North-Central Alabama

Smith Lake is celebrated for its clean, deep waters and is a favorite among anglers, particularly those seeking trophy-sized striped bass. The lake’s serene coves and scenic vistas attract boaters, wakeboarders, and paddleboarders. The surrounding Bankhead National Forest also provides ample hiking and camping opportunities.

4. Lake Wheeler

Size: Approximately 67,000 acres Location: Northern Alabama

Lake Wheeler is part of the Tennessee River system and can provide excellent boating and fishing experiences. Anglers can always expect to catch a variety of fish, including bass, catfish, and crappie.

5. Lake Jordan

Size: Approximately 6,800 acres Location: Central Alabama

Lake Jordan is a smaller lake with big opportunities for fishing, particularly for largemouth bass. It is a peaceful spot for kayaking and canoeing and has calm waters and scenic coves. The lake is also home to several parks and recreational areas, making it a great destination for families.

6. Lewis Smith Lake

Size: Approximately 21,000 acres Location: Northern Alabama

Lewis Smith Lake is known for its clear, blue waters. Whether you’re into wakeboarding, water skiing, or simply relaxing on a pontoon boat, Smith Lake offers it all. The lake’s deep, rocky areas are perfect for anglers seeking a challenge during their fishing.

7. Logan Martin Lake

Size: Approximately 15,000 acres Location: Central Alabama

Logan Martin Lake, located on the Coosa River, is a popular spot for both recreation and relaxation. Fishing, boating, and swimming are all on the menu here. The lake’s proximity to Talladega National Forest means you can combine your lake trip with some hiking and camping adventures.

8. Lake Harding

Size: Approximately 5,850 acres Location: Eastern Alabama

Lake Harding is a small but inviting lake on the Chattahoochee River. It also provides visitors and residents with excellent opportunities for boating, kayaking, and fishing. The lake’s calm waters and scenic beauty make it a favorite spot for picnics and family gatherings.

9. Lake Wedowee

Size: Approximately 10,600 acres Location: Eastern Alabama

Lake Wedowee is known for its peaceful ambiance and sporty fishing. Largemouth and smallmouth bass, as well as catfish and crappie, are plentiful. The lake’s numerous coves and islands also make it ideal for exploration by boat or kayak.

10. Pickwick Lake

Size: Approximately 47,500 acres (Alabama portion) Location: Northwestern Alabama

Pickwick Lake is part of the Tennessee River system and provides boating and fishing experiences. The lake is also famous for its trophy-sized smallmouth bass, making it a top destination for anglers. The scenic beauty of the lake and its surrounding bluffs also adds to its allure.

Each of these lakes in Alabama has its own unique charm and attractions, catering to various interests and preferences. Whether you’re a fisher or angler, a water sports lover, or are simply seeking a peaceful lakeside retreat, Alabama’s lakes offer a wide range of experiences that will leave you with lasting memories.

In conclusion, the ten reasons mentioned above collectively make Alabama’s lakes some of the best in the U.S. Whether you’re seeking adventure or a deep connection with nature, the lakes of Alabama will leave you with a profound appreciation for the beauty of the South.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/bjray1


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About the Author

Shreya is a climate scientist. She also studies paleontology and evolutionary biology. She enjoys reading all kinds of literature and listening to rock music in her free time.

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