Ten U.S. Boating Lakes Worth Exploring
It would be easy to write pages about Lake Powell, Lake Tahoe or Lake Michigan. They are big beautiful lakes filled with numerous boating opportunities. But America has more to offer than just these popular locations. There are lakes all over this beautiful country you need to explore while you’re still kicking. Here are ten to add to the bucket list. You won’t regret it.
Lake Cumberland- Kentucky
Surface Area: 102.4 sq. miles
Maximum Depth: 197 feet
Nearest Major City: Two hours from either Nashville, Tenn., or Louisville, Ky.
Fondly known as the Houseboating Capital of the World, Lake Cumberland is a beautiful reservoir with over 51 public-access ramps for boaters to use. You’ll find great fishing, a multitude of marinas with boat rental offerings and stunning lakeside lodging. Lake Cumberland is home to two Kentucky state parks: Lake Cumberland State Resort Park and General Burnside State Park. In September on Lake Cumberland, you’ll find one of the top Poler Runs in the country, where you can see some of the fastest boats in the world in person.
Lake Minnetonka- Minnesota
Surface Area: 22.7 sq. miles
Maximum Depth: 113 feet
Nearest Major City: 40 minutes from the Twin Cities
Minnetonka means "Big Waters" in the native Dakota language and the name is well deserved for this metropolitan lake. Lake Minnetonka is located twenty miles due West of Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minnesota. The lake is a favorite playground for thousands of visitors annually, locals and tourists alike. A number of cruise lines offer tours of the lake, some even on restored antique boats for extra ambiance. There are dozens of beautifully maintained parks and beaches to enjoy and special events, exhibits and festivities of all kinds are held throughout the year.
Lake Ouachita- Arkansas
Surface Area: 62.5 sq. miles
Maximum Depth: 200 feet
Nearest Major City: One hour and 45 minutes from Little Rock, Ark.
With crystal-clear water and miles of immaculate shoreline, Lake Ouachita is a perfect boating and fishing destination. The scenery alone will make your trip worthwhile. Named one of the clearest bodies of water in the U.S. (according to the EPA), Lake Ouachita has plenty of activities for everyone. In the fall and winter months, you’ll see bald eagles and peregrine falcons. A favorite year-round activity is motoring from point-to-point on the Corps of Engineers 16-mile Geo Float Trail.
Horsetooth Reservoir- Colorado
Surface Area: 1,900 acres
Maximum Depth: 200 feet
Nearest Major City: One hour and 15 minutes from Denver, Colo.
This nice mountain lake has many coves where you can anchor up for the night and sleep on your boat or on land. Surrounded by rocky terrain and beautiful scenery, you’ll quickly realize how beautiful boating in Colorado can be for people. If you want to check it out, remember it falls under the Northwest boating season which means May to October. The water may be cold but the fishing is good, from either shore or boat.
Shasta Lake- California
Surface Area: 46.87 sq. miles
Maximum Depth: 518 feet
Nearest Major City: Three hours and 30 minutes from Sacramento, Calif.
Shasta Lake is known for its boating, water skiing, camping, houseboating and fishing. Formed by the damming of the Sacramento River, the lake has beautiful mountainous shoreline covered with tall evergreen trees. The lake has four major arms, each created by an approaching river which means you have plenty of water access to a wide number of California sights. The drought in California has affected the water levels but there is still plenty of beauty to enjoy and fish to be caught.
Lake Norman- North Carolina
Surface Area: 50 sq. miles
Maximum Depth: 130 feet
Nearest Major City: 50 minutes from Charlottesville, N.C.
There is plenty to do on Lake Norman, such as water skiing, wakeboarding, rowing, fishing and sailing. Hands down, the best way to see the lake is by boat. You’ll find several marinas on shores of Lake Norman, providing boat launches, boat rentals and gas stops. There are no horsepower or speed limits on Lake Norman, so you’ll often find power boats of all kinds sharing the waters with kayaks and canoes.
Lake Texoma- Texas
Surface Area: 139.1 sq. miles
Maximum Depth: 100 feet
Nearest Major City: One hour and forty-five minutes from Dallas and two hours and forty-five minutes from Oklahoma City.
Lake Texoma is situated on the Red River, straddling Oklahoma and Texas. Attracting an amazing six million visitors a year, this is the 12th largest lake in the U.S.A. Two wildlife refuges sit on this lake, on both the North and South ends. Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma and Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in Texas are homes to eagles, ducks, geese, heron and egret during their annual migrations, as well as resident white-tail deer and wild hogs. The lake has plenty of marinas for boat rentals and so many other activities, there isn’t time to list them all. Just know Lake Texoma is a world-class recreational playground.
Lake of the Ozarks- Missouri
Surface Area: 84.37 sq. miles
Maximum Depth: 130 feet
Nearest Major City: Three hours from either St. Louis or Kansas City, Mo.
You would be hard pressed to find undeveloped land on the shores of Lake of the Ozarks. This curvy, snake-like coast is home to all kinds of boat-friendly restaurants. The lake is also known for great fishing and boating. From houseboats to speedboats to ski boats to jet skis, you will see it all on Lake of the Ozarks. Some of the most popular activities include Party Cove where boaters tie up to enjoy grilled food and loud music together. Large Mouth Bass and Crappie are two of the most common catches but if you plan on fishing, head out early in the morning to beat the traffic. This busy lake is filled with boaters traveling in all directions so make safety your number one priority.
Norris Lake- Tennessee
Surface Area: 34,200 acres
Maximum Depth: 196 feet
Nearest Major City: One hour and forty-five minutes from Knoxville, Tenn.
Probably one of the most underrated lakes on this list, Norris Lake is a beautiful reservoir located in Eastern Tennessee. One of the best perks is the vast amount of marinas available with boat rentals of all kinds. The shore winds 800 miles through thousands of tiny coves and narrow valleys. This clean water is great for wakeboarding, boating, tubing, camping, kayaking, and more. Norris Lake is a truly a sportsman paradise. If you want to see and do it all, you need to rent a speedboat to be able to travel the entire distance of the lake.
Lake Champlain- New York/ Vermont
Surface Area: 490 sq. miles
Maximum Depth: 400 feet
Nearest Major City: Five hours from either New York City or Boston
Yes, this is quite the drive from a major airport but you won’t regret it. You’ll find the green mountains of Vermont on one side and the New York Adirondacks on the other. Crossing the Canadian border, Lake Champlain is known for its scenic views and great fishing. Lake Champlain has 81 species of fish and is considered one of the best bass fishing lakes in the United States. The lake was named after the French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who encountered it in 1609. During the Revolutionary War, the lake was an important asset for allowing movement from the colonies to Canada and keeping New England a strong, connected force. If you visit Lake Champlain in the fall, you’ll have a front-row seat to the famous New England changing leaves.
Article written by Katie Burke
Katie Burke is the Editor of Houseboat Magazine and the Assistant Editor of Pontoon & Deckboat Magazine