Travlang Travel Guide

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The Absolute Best Lakes in the US That You Need to Go Boating On


Did you know that in 2016, there were 11,861,811 boats registered in the United States?

If you’re among these boat owners or even just a fan of water recreation, you may have found yourself Googling phrases such as “boating lakes near me” or “nice lakes near me.”

Sound familiar? 

If so, stop Googling and start reading. From massive desert waterways to hidden mountain gems, we’ve got a breakdown of the best lakes in the US.

Here’s the full scoop on where to boat and why. (Just be prepared to add some new destinations to your bucket list.)

1. Lake Tahoe

This impossibly clear, high-elevation lake sits at the juncture of California and Nevada. Surrounded by the towering, verdant slopes of the Sierra Nevadas, you’ll fall in love with this gorgeous alpine waterbody.

For conservation purposes, make sure you double-check with boating regulations for Lake Tahoe. Because of the threat of invasive species, you’ll need to have your watercraft inspected before hitting the waves.

There are six inspection sites available where you can get a Watercraft Inspection Sticker:

  1. Incline Village
  2. Homewood
  3. Spooner Summit
  4. Northstar at Tahoe
  5. Alpine Meadows
  6. Myers, California

Once you’ve got your sticker, get ready for a picturesque boat ride around one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

2. Lake Martin

Lake Martin is located in Alabama, and it does a great job of representing the state’s motto “Alabama the Beautiful.” The lake boasts an impressive 750 miles of stunning shoreline.

Like Lake Tahoe, you’ll need to read up on local regulations. These include a prohibition on three specific boat types:

  1. Any houseboat
  2. Any vessel longer than 30’6″
  3. Any watercraft longer than 26’11” that can go more than 60 miles per hour

It also includes plenty of fascinating sites along the way. These landmarks include Chimney Rock and Acapulco Rock. Each of these rugged cliffs provides the perfect temptation for swimmers who wish to take a summer plunge.

3. Lake Powell

Lake Powell remains Arizona’s most iconic waterway and with good reason. It holds a mind-boggling 24,322,069 acre-feet of water and measures an incredible 558-feet at its deepest point.

Surrounded by expansive periwinkle skies and otherworldly pastel-colored desert landscapes, Lake Powell is like boating the Grand Canyon. Only filled with crystal-clear blue water.

A prime spot for water fun, the lake has also earned a reputation for parties. If a lake party sounds like your kind of weekend, here’s a word of caution.

Alcohol consumption while driving a boat remains the number one contributor to recreational boat injuries in the US.

In 2018 alone, 100 people died as a result of mixing alcohol and boating. That accounts for 19 percent of all water-related fatalities.

Fortunately, houseboating is fully endorsed on Powell. In fact, it’s the safest way to enjoy the lake with friends, especially if you’re going to drink.

4. Lake Michigan

Despite its name, much of Lake Michigan’s shoreline sits in the state of Illinois. It also borders Indiana and Michigan. The second-largest of the five Great Lakes by volume, it’s the third-largest by surface area.

Of course, boating such a massive body of water comes with extra precautions. Most accidents happen because of carelessness in the water.

What’s the best way to avoid injury? By staying on your boat and resisting the temptation to jump in. Most people underestimate how difficult it is to get back on a boat or to catch up with one that’s left you behind.

Also, pack the right equipment. This should include everything from life jackets to wetsuits and night illumination.

That said, when you plan sufficiently, boating Lake Michigan can be one of the most wonderful experiences of your life. You’ll be awestruck by its size. What’s more, it boasts a rich history reaching back to the Ojibwe tribe who named this water body.

5. Lake Okeechobee

Near the tip of Florida sits its largest freshwater body of water, Lake Okeechobee. Covering an astounding 750 square-miles, it proves a popular destination for fishermen.

On the lake’s southern shoreline, Clewiston provides plenty of allure to anglers. Its life-giving verdant waters hide speckled perch and legendary largemouth bass.

But you’ll also find black crappies, Okeechobee catfish, and more. Local guides and resorts can point your boat in the right direction and guarantee you get the catch you’re after while visiting the area.

6. Redfish Lake

If you’re after boating, fishing, and hiking in one of the most pristine areas in the Western United States, then look no further than Idaho’s Redfish Lake.

Originally named for its abundance of sockeye salmon during spawning season, it remains an outdoorsman’s paradise.

From Cutthroat trout and Brookies to Kokanee salmon, Dolley Varden trout, and rainbow trout, get ready for some serious angling.

Besides fishing, boating the lake lets you see take in the panoramic beauty of the surrounding Sawtooth National Forest. And when you’re ready to head ashore? The lake’s plentiful beaches prove great spots for wading, swimming, and sunbathing.

7. Lake Mead

When it comes to all-around recreation, it’s hard to beat Lake Mead located in Southern Nevada. This hotspot for boating, swimming, and fishing boasts 290 days of sunshine.

Because of the endless fair weather, you’ll love cycling and hiking local trails. Camping also proves a popular activity. In fact, the wilderness surrounding Lake Mead covers 1.5 million acres of idyllic canyons, mountains, and valleys.

What’s more, you’re an easy travel distance from the surreal landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park and the endless nightlife of Las Vegas. So, get ready for the ultimate outdooring adventure in this picturesque desert region.

The Seven Best Lakes in the US

From the mountain shores of Lake Tahoe to the massive surface area of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, you’ve got plenty of options when it comes to boating the best lakes in the US.

There are also hidden gems such as Redfish Lake in Idaho and Lake Martin in Alabama that make for unforgettable vacations on the water.

Still not sure where your next trip should lead you? Browse our blog now for more great travel inspiration.