best lakes in georgia
Last Updated: November 16, 2020

The Best Lakes of Georgia

Georgia is an iconic Southern state on the eastern coast of the United States. Its diverse topography includes lots of outdoor playgrounds from the sandy beaches of the barrier islands to the rolling plains of the piedmont, and a scattering of rivers and lakes.  The upstate leads to the Blue Ridge, a chain of time-worn mountains that are part of the Appalachian Range. Brasstown Bald is the state’s highest point at 4,784 ft  above sea level. The piedmont slopes gently from a fall line of 2,000 ft to a ridge of sandhills between the cities of Augusta and Columbus. Stone Mountain, a mammoth rock of solid granite 1,686 ft high with a Confederate memorial etched into its side, is the state’s most famous natural landmark. The memorial has caused a rash of controversy in recent years.

Nicknamed the Peach State, Georgia has a variety of lakes for fishing, swimming, boating, and paddling.The lakes are situated inland away from a sparsely populated coast with towns built at the mouths of rivers.  The dregs of a prehistoric ocean were caught in a large shallow basin near the Georgia-Florida border. Over the centuries, it slowly filled with fresh water to become the Okefenokee Swamp. Smaller lakes called lagoons dot the coast, often with neighborhoods built around them, and aren’t open to the public.

Most of Georgia’s lakes were created by dams, some of which are reservoirs and serve as a water supply. They’re the result of the Tennessee Valley Authority Act signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933. But the state’s geographical formations helped to create a few natural lakes. The lakes range from small and peaceful to large lakes that can accommodate houseboats and party pontoons.

You’ll find national forests and state and county parks at or near some of the lakes. You can double your fun with great hikes for viewing breathtaking scenery and wildlife. Georgia has a sub-tropical climate with short, mild winters and long, hot summers perfect for cooling off at a refreshing lake. The nearest ski resorts are across the border in Western North Carolina about a five hour drive north of Atlanta. A few places in Northwestern Georgia offer snowboarding with artificial turf and an occasional dusting of the “real stuff.”

For accommodations, you’ll find everything from tent and RV camping to cabins and sprawling resorts. Some of the lakes are an easy day trip from Atlanta, a major U.S. city with lots of fantastic museums and points of interest. Visit the World of Coca-Cola that celebrates the founding of the ubiquitous  beverage where the secret recipe is locked in a vault. And Georgia boasts the world’s largest aquarium with over 100,000 sea creatures. Award-winning restaurants serve international and authentic Southern cuisine like fried green tomatoes and barbecue to wash down with a cold glass of sweet tea. Shop at the huge Mall of Georgia or at small, trendy boutiques.

Come to Georgia to experience the great outdoors from the beaches to the mountains. Ya’ll be sure to stop and play along the way on the best lakes in Georgia.

clarks hill lake georgia

Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia – Image Courtesy of Wikimedia 

Clarks Hill Lake

Clarks Hill Lake is a man-made lake located in the small, laidback town of Lincolnton. It straddles the Georgia-South Carolina border near the Savannah, Broad, and Little Rivers.  It was created by the US Army Corps of Engineers with the Thurmond Dam in 1954 for hydropower, flood control, water supply, and recreation. With 71,100 acres of water at full elevation and a shoreline of 1,200 miles, it’s one of the top 10 most visited Corps lakes in the United States. Clark Hill is one of the state’s most popular lakes for fishing.

Lake Allatoona, Georgia

Lake Allatoona, Georgia – Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Lake Allatoona

If you’re looking for a sizable lake in a suburban setting, it’s Lake Allatoona. The 12,000-acre lake is a 35-minute drive north of Atlanta near the upscale community of Marietta in Cobb County and winds through two other counties. The reservoir lake was filled by the Army Corps of engineers damming the Etowah River in the northwestern part of the state to provide drinking water for the surrounding communities as well as for recreation. On most any weekend of the year, sailboats from the Atlanta Yacht Club and the South Winds Sailing Club swarm the lake.

Lake Lanier and Lanier Islands

Residents of “Hotlanta” need a place to cool off during the long, hot Georgia summers. It’s a four-hour drive to Tybee Island, Savannah’s beach, but they can cool off much closer to home at Lake Lanier and the Lanier Islands. The massive 38,000-acre reservoir lake with almost 60 square miles of fun is the state’s largest and arguably the favorite. That’s because there’s so much to do visitors return again and again. The lake welcomes all sorts of watercraft from jet skis to houseboats and the islands feature luxury accommodations, fine dining, a gaming area, a fitness center, and a saltwater lounging pool.

Lake Seminole

Lake Seminole is another reservoir lake in Georgia managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Located on the borders of Alabama and Florida, the 37,000-acre lake is popular for fishing, boating, and birding. It’s in a quiet and picturesque subtropical setting with exotic flora and fauna like songbirds, alligators, pretty canvasback ducks, water lilies, pondweeds, and hydrilla. The area is a great place for family fun and to relax and enjoy nature. Hardwoods and pines offer shade, and the Seminole Park at the lake’s south end is in a cove with glass-smooth waters for tubing and skiing.

lake hartwell

Lake Hartwell

Lake Hartwell

Another Georgia favorite, Lake Hartwell is a party lake that has drawn visitors from two states for over 50 years.  Located on the border between Georgia and South Carolina, the reservoir lake is fed by the Savannah, Tugaloo, and Seneca Rivers. In recent years, Hartwell has gained a reputation as one of the country’s best fishing lakes thanks to the numerous professional bass tournaments hosted. With 56,000 acres, there’s plenty of room to romp on the water in all kinds of craft. The lake features 963 miles of shoreline to explore and is surrounded by 25,000 acres of recreation.

Carters Lake

Carters Lake is another man-made lake owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, but its rugged, unspoiled shoreline gives the lake a natural look. And at a depth of 450 ft, it’s the deepest reservoir in the state. The lake has no private homes or docks along its 62 miles of pristine shoreline. The steep terrain of the shoreline limits bank fishing, but six boat ramps are available, and there is a marina. Cabins and campsites are surrounded by the peaceful scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills. Carters Lake is a little over an hour’s drive northwest of Atlanta.

lake russell

Lake Russell, Georgia – Image Courtesy of Wikimedia 

Russell Lake

Richard B. Russel is another popular lake Georgia shares with South Carolina. Commonly called Lake Russell by the locals, the 26,650-acre reservoir lake is a part of the Richard B. Russell State Park. The reservoir was created by the construction of a dam of the same name on the Savannah River between Elbert County in Georgia and Anderson and Abbeville counties on the South Carolina side. The filling of the lake was completed in 1984. Get to Lake Russell from Atlanta via I 85 N and GA- 98 S and GA -72 W. From Augusta, take I 20 W and GA-79.

Lake Walter F. George

Enjoy boating, fishing, and other water sports at Lake Walter F. George. The 46,000-acre lake is located about 60 miles south of Columbus in the southwest corner of Georgia. The lake extends for 85 miles along the iconic Chattahoochee River (affectionately called the “Hooch” by Georgians) bordering Alabama and Georgia in a setting of stunning natural beauty. The lake is known as Lake Eufaula by Alabamians. The name was passed by Alabama law in December of 1963. You’ll want to visit the historic towns of Culbert Georgia and Eufaula, Alabama to admire the antebellum mansions leftover from Southern plantations.

West Point Lake

West Point is another lake shared by Georgia and Alabama. It extends for 35 miles on the Chattahoochee River and is two hours up the river from Lake Walter George. The 25,864-acre lake is nestled in deep forests and surrounded by rolling hills. The 525 miles of shoreline affords plenty of room for fishing, boating, and other outdoor recreation. The lake is accompanied by 21 pristine day-use parks and four campgrounds. In addition to boating and camping, West Point offers tennis and basketball courts and nature hiking trails. The lake has two privately owned and operated marinas.

Lake Burton Georgia

Lake Burton Georgia – Image Courtesy of Wikimedia 

Lake Burton

Lake Burton is part of a chain of lakes created by a dam to generate electricity for the surrounding towns. It’s named after the small town of Burton which now lies at the bottom of the lake! The 2,775-acre lake is relatively quiet and popular for fishing but turns into a party lake at the height of the summer season when fireworks explode from the middle of the lake on the Fourth of July. Lake Burton is a two-hour drive northeast of Atlanta in a gorgeous setting near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Explore the area with several excellent side trips including the Tallulah Gorge, often called the “Grand Canyon of the East” and Helen, an alpine replica town that hosts a famous hot air balloon race every June.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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