The U.S. is full of noteworthy landmarks and landscapes, including top-notch beaches, mountains, and cities. Many destination lakes may fade into idyllic backgrounds when in fact they are much more.
The U.S. is home to thousands of remarkable lakes spread across its 50 states, from the 12,000 lakes in Minnesota to the largest freshwater lake on the planet, Lake Superior, which borders three states and one Canadian province.
We have rounded up a couple of freshwater lakes that deserve a spot on your boating bucket list, or at the very least, a good amount of time on your next vacation itinerary.
- Location: Straddles the California-Nevada border
- Size: 22 miles long and 12 miles wide (122,240 acres)
- Fish: Rainbow trout, lake trout, largemouth bass, and kokanee salmon
- Boat Amenities: 17 launch ramps, 13 marinas, and 2 yacht clubs
Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and the largest freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada. The lake is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide, straddling two states (California and Nevada). It’s also the second deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,645 feet.
Lake Tahoe is known for its remarkable clarity, with visibility as far as 70 feet deep in some spots. This is largely due to the precipitation falling directly onto the lake rather than draining into it from nearby land.
It’s surrounded by snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which attracts skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers during the winter. In summer, Lake Tahoe is known for its outdoor activities along its massive shoreline. You can go boating, wave-jumping, hiking, and biking. Lake Tahoe also delivers some fantastic fishing, with trophy-worthy trout and kokanee salmon.
- Location: Arizona and Utah
- Size: 200-mile stretch (161,390 acres)
- Fish: Striped, largemouth, and smallmouth bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill, and channel catfish
- Boat Amenities: 5 launch ramps and 5 marinas
Lake Powell is the second-largest reservoir in the country. It’s also a man-made creation, resulting from the damming of the Colorado River at Glen Canyon. Here, you’ll find one of the most unique places in the U.S., between the crimson sandstone cliffs and deep turquoise waters. It feels like you’re boating in the middle of the desert, making Lake Powell a surreal experience for boat enthusiasts.
This lake stretches for nearly 200 miles from Arizona into Utah, with over 96 side canyons to explore along the way. In fact, Lake Powell is considered one of the country’s largest houseboat communities. There are both rental options and full-timers. Lake Powell is also well-known among wakeboarders and water skiers, weekend anglers, and paddlers who enjoy kayaking through the protected bays and slot canyons. For vacationers, you can easily rent ski boats, pontoons, personal watercraft, and runabouts.
Lake of the Ozarks
- Location: Central Missouri
- Size: 1,150 miles (54,000 acres)
- Fish: Paddlefish, bluegill, black and white crappie, gizzard shad, channel catfish, white bass, walleye, gay, hybrid striper, largemouth, and spotted bass
- Boat Amenities: 16 launch ramps and 63 marinas
Lake of the Ozarks is a popular summer vacation destination in central Missouri. This is a manmade lake created by impounding the Osage River. It winds through nearly 100 miles of Missouri and totals nearly 1,150 miles of shoreline. To put it in perspective, that’s more than the California coast.
This lake is known for its boating scene. Speedboats are especially popular at the Lake of the Ozarks since there are no horsepower or speed restrictions. There is also great fishing, with bass and catfish as the predominant species in the lake. With the massive acreage, it shouldn't be hard to find a secluded fishing spot. There are also plenty of tournaments to join during the weekends. It’s not uncommon to reel in a 100-pound paddlefish in this lake.
» MORE: The Best Fishing Techniques
For more action, visit Anderson Hollow Cove (known as “Party Cove” by the locals). It’s a mile-long gathering spot for boaters, which attracts nearly 3,000 boats during the height of summer. This lake also hosts the largest unsanctioned boat race in the United States - The Lake of the Ozarks Shootout. It’s often characterized as the biggest boating event in the Midwest.
- Location: Montana
- Size: 185 miles of shoreline (126,080 acres)
- Fish: Lake whitefish, lake trout, bull trout, rainbow trout
- Boat Amenities: 9 launch ramps and 22 marinas
With over 185 miles of shoreline, Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. It’s located along the northwest corner of Montana, not too far from Glacier National Park. This body of water is actually the remains of an ancient glacial-dammed lake. Then in 1930, the Kerr Dam tamed the Flathead River and raised the lake level by 10 feet.
The best time to visit Flathead Lake is late spring through early fall as the winters are quite cold in this area of Montana. You will find boating activities of all types - including rentals and guided tours along Flathead, sunset cruises through Polson Bay, and river-rafting at the rapids on Flathead River. Flathead Lake is also one of the top fishing spots in Montana, with abundant whitefish and trout.
- Location: Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada
- Size: 2,700 miles of shoreline (20,364,800 acres)
- Fish: Lake trout, walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and more
- Boat Amenities: Plenty of public marinas and safe harbors to access the lake
Lake Superior is one of the five great lakes and the largest freshwater lake (by surface area) in the entire world! With a massive 2,700 miles of shoreline, it covers three states - Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin - and crosses over into Ontario, Canada.
» MORE: Great Lakes Boating
There are multiple ramps, marinas, safe harbors, and other access points throughout the shoreline. They often serve as on-land gathering spots for boaters and their families after a day of fun on the water. Lake Superior is great for all water activities - including water skiing, wakeboarding, jet skiing, kayaking, sailing, and fishing.
For anglers, you’ll find an out-of-this-world freshwater fishing adventure. Lake Superior offers unparalleled angling opportunities, with more than 200 rivers and 80 species of fish found in the lake’s waters.