After more than five years of drought, the West experienced record rainfall and snowfall last winter. Most reservoirs are above historic average levels. The snowpack in the Sierras is 185% of normal! What does this good news mean to most of us? It’s time to pack up the water skis, towables, floating mats, paddle boards and other water fun-time gear and head out to those full-to-capacity lakes. There are hundreds of beautiful lakes in the West, some that are ideal for fishing, some the perfect tranquil getaway, and some that are ideal for watersports. The following list catalogs our 9 favorite watersport-friendly lakes.
Shasta Lake, California
Northern California’s Shasta Lake is, hands down, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. With a 30,000-acre surface area, it is California’s largest reservoir. Accommodations include campsites, cabins, houseboats and nearby motels and hotels. The National Forest Service operates six public boat ramps around the lake, all of which have public restrooms and parking areas. A favorite of wakeboarders because of its generally glassy conditions, Shasta Lake has plenty of opportunities for more casual watersport fun.
Trinity Lake, California
Smaller and a bit harder to get to than its cousin Shasta Lake, Trinity Lake is still the third largest reservoir in California. The 90-minute drive from Redding, through winding mountain roads, is absolutely worth it. Trinity Lake is a wakeboarder’s dream and is almost always less crowded than more accessible California lakes. While you could hardly call any of the accommodations at the lake luxurious, the many campsites and cabins along the tree-lined shore make for a memorable family vacation.
Big Bear Lake, California
Located 100 miles Northeast of Los Angeles, in Southern California’s San Bernardino County, Big Bear Lake is nestled over a mile above sea-level in the San Bernardino Mountains. Kayaking, wakeboarding, water skiing and pleasure boating are the favorite activities on this snow-fed reservoir. Big Bear Lake is an easy daytrip from many well-populated urban areas but also offers campsites, cabins and luxury accommodations.
June Lakes Loop, California
With the June Lakes Loop, you get four lakes in one: June, Gull, Silver and Grant Lakes. Located just East of Yosemite, in the heart of California’s Eastern Sierras, the June Lakes area has the feel of a European mountain resort. If wakeboarding or waterskiing is your thing, Grant Lake is your destination. If you just want to float on a cozy lounger, tethered to a floating cooler, there is a gorgeous swimming beach adjacent to the Forest Service’s Oh! Ridge Campgrounds.
Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
Lake Tahoe, which shares its 72 miles of shoreline with both California and Nevada, is America’s largest alpine lake. It boasts dozens of beaches, from well-developed parks to remote hike-in coves. Stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking are near shore favorites at Lake Tahoe. Easy launching and take out spots abound. Once you are out on the lake, you are rewarded with unobstructed views of the more isolated parts of the shore.
Lake Mead, Nevada
Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States. It has an incredible 759 miles of shoreline and four well-maintained marinas. Run by the National Park Service, Lake Mead National Recreation Area lives up to its name. It has 290 square miles of navigable water ways, so even on the busiest days, there is room for every boat. If you want to take a one of a kind guided kayak tour, check out the newly designated Black Canyon Water Trail. With campsites aplenty, and more well-appointed lodging nearby, Lake Mead is a great place to get your watersports fun on.
Crescent Lake, Oregon
Located in the Deschutes National Forest in Southern Oregon, Crescent Lake has almost blinding blue-green water. There are three boat ramps on the lake and no shortage of affordable campsites. One of the smaller lakes in Oregon, it nonetheless provides ample opportunity for waterskiing or wakeboarding. Crescent lake is almost always calm enough to give the little guys the chance to try out their EZ skis or just enjoy a ride on a towable.
Fern Ridge Lake, Oregon
Fern Ridge Lake is only 12 miles from downtown Eugene. There are six developed day use areas and several unofficial access points to this large reservoir. Wakeboarding and water skiing are favorite activities. Although the lake can get crowded, its accessibility and breathtaking shoreline make it worth the trip. Coyote Creek, which is ideal for a leisurely kayak paddle, empties into the Southern end of Fern Ridge Lake.
Lake Sammamish, Washington
Lake Sammamish is a large natural lake near Seattle. With an average depth of 56 feet, it is a wakeboarding and water skiing paradise. There is even a public slalom course on the north end of the lake. There are nine boat ramps and an extensive 510-acre day use area run by Washington State Parks. There are also areas designated for personal watercraft and swimming.