Alabama has a diverse topography that includes mountains, valleys, streams, rivers, and lakes. When compared to many other states, Alabama isn’t overly endowed with lakes. (There are around 100.)
But the lakes in Alabama are recognized as some of the nation’s best, and what it lacks in the number of lakes is made up for by an abundance of rivers.
All of the larger lakes are manmade, created by building dams on the rivers. The lakes offer a wide variety of recreation in and out of the water. Visitors enjoy fishing, boating, paddling, excellent campgrounds, and more.
And since Alabama is a southern state with a mild climate, outdoor adventures can be enjoyed all year long. Come anytime and play on one of Alabama’s lakes. Here are 10 of the best to pick from.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia
Logan Martin Lake is located about 30 miles east of Birmingham. With a shoreline of 275 miles, it is nicknamed “Lake of a Thousand Coves” by locals.
The lake is also known as the Coosa River reservoir since it was created by damming the river by the Alabama Power Company in 1965. Sandwiched between Neely Henry Dam on the north end and Logan Martin Dam on the south, it covers 17,000 acres and has a depth of between 35 to 110 feet.
Logan Martin is one of only a few Alabama rivers that allow houseboats or vessels considered as fully-equipped dwellings. All of the coves along the shoreline provide the perfect places for docking and exploring the natural surroundings. This picturesque lake is also popular for boating, skiing, and swimming and is known as one of the finest lakes in the nation for bass fishing.
Mitchell Lake is situated in central Alabama just east of the city of Clanton. Its proximity to I-65 gives it easy access to visitors. The lake was originally constructed for flood control and as a source of hydroelectricity in 1922. The dam and lake were named in honor of James Mitchell, a former Alabama Power Company president.
Over the years, the lake has since grown in popularity as a recreational lake. Visitors enjoy boating, swimming, and excellent fishing. After the dam was built, the lake became a fertile habitat for sport fish and forage species. The lake has both public and private boat ramps and a few private marinas. A fishing facility near the dam is open all year and features parking, restrooms, and picnic tables.
Neely Henry is another lake located along the Coosa River, a 280-mile long tributary of the Alabama River that flows through Alabama and Georgia.
The 11,120-acre reservoir lake is about an hour’s drive northeast of Birmingham making it a great day trip for city dwellers on a hot, humid summer day. The dam and river are named after an Alabama Power Company executive.
The lake is easy to get to from I-59 near the towns of Ohatchee and Gadsden. With a 335-mile long shoreline, it’s a popular place to swim, picnic, bird watch, and fish. The lake is one of Alabama’s best-kept fishing secrets. Anglers can expect to catch largemouth bass and spotted bass. Visitors can rent lakefront cabins and boats at Neely Henry Lake.
Lake Guntersville gets kudos for being voted as Alabama’s favorite lake, and with a surface area of 69,100 acres, it’s also the largest. The lake stretches for 75 miles in the northern part of the state between Guntersville and Bridgeport. The name Guntersville is derived from John Gunter, an early settler of the area.
The lake is popular with locals for its bass fishing. Nearby Lake Guntersville State Park is home to towering cliffs and protected Bald Eagles, a symbol of the United States. A bird-watching center in the park is open in winter, the time Bald Eagles are most likely to be seen.
Boating, hunting, and camping are popular in the area. Boats can be rented at the North Alabama Sailing Marina. You can bring your own canoe or kayak or rent one at the Mountain Lake recreation area. Resort-style accommodations are available near the Eagle’s Nest Golf Course.
Wheeler Lake is Alabama’s second-largest lake after its upstream neighbor Lake Guntersville. With a surface area of 67,100acres, it’s located in northern Alabama along the Tennessee River.
The reservoir lake was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority (who made many such lakes in Tennessee) for flood control, hydroelectric generation, and to facilitate navigation on the river prior to World War II. It was named after Civil War general Joe Wheeler.
Today, Wheeler Lake is used for barge traffic and recreation. Around four million visitors come to the lake each year for boating, fishing, and camping. Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge just upstream from the lake is popular for fishing and hiking. Nearby gold courses offer even more recreation.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia
Walter F. George Lake is one of those lakes in Alabama that is shared with neighboring Georgia. It’s situated along the Chattahoochee River on the border between the two states. It’s sometimes called Lake Eufaula after the town around it.
The 45,000-acre lake is also known as the “Bass Fishing Capital of the World.” Visitors from around the globe come to fish here.
Named after a US senator from Georgia, the 640-mile shoreline of the Lake Eufaula offers plenty of outdoor adventures both on the water and in the surrounding area. Lakepoint State Park and the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge provide boating, fishing, hiking, camping, and beaches for swimming.
Image courtesy of Flickr
Lake Martin is a reservoir occupying three counties in Alabama. It was created by building a dam on the Tallapoosa River. At the time of the dam’s completion in 1926, the reservoir was the world’s largest manmade body of water. It has a surface area of 44,000 acres and 750 miles of shady shoreline.
Once called Cherokee Bluffs after the surrounding geological formations, the lake was renamed in 1936 after Thomas Martin who was president of the Alabama Power Company at the time.
The lake is popular for summer homes to residents from Birmingham and Montgomery. Posh accommodations in a restored 1895 Victorian mansion draws weekend visitors from as far away as Atlanta. People come to the lake for its natural sand beaches, camping areas, boating, and dining at local restaurants.
Chimney Rock, a nearby landmark also draws visitors. The large rock formation resembles a chimney. Brave locals and visitors climb up the 60-foot rock to jump into the lake below.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia
Lake Tuscaloosa was created in 1970 to supply water to residences and industries. Located five miles north of the city of Tuscaloosa, the reservoir lake has a surface area of 5,885 acres and a shoreline of 177 miles. The lake is now popular for swimming, boating, and fishing.
The lake features several private and public boat ramps as well as private marinas. Boaters will find public launches at Rock Quarry and Sharps Landing and Binion Creek.
Anglers should be aware that the best fishing can be found in Turkey and Binion Creeks. When the lake was impounded in 1971, biologists predicted the lake would be clear and infertile near the dam due to a lack of material to provide a habitat for fish.
This proved to be true, and the visibility at the dam is often over 20 feet. The upper reaches near the creeks are more fertile and have more fish.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia
Lewis Smith Lake is in northern Alabama about an hour from the cities of Birmingham and Huntsville making it a convenient day trip for residents. It’s a reservoir lake with a surface area of 21,000 acres and a shoreline of 500 miles. It’s the state’s deepest lake with a depth of up to 264 feet.
The lake is fed by streams and rivers that flow from the nearby Bankhead National Forest and is one of the least polluted and pristine bodies of water in the southeast. The shoreline features rocky bluffs and high cliffs making it popular for cliff jumping, rope swinging hangouts, or simply sunbathing. Visitors often rent a SUP from Smith Lake Paddle Boards to explore the lake for a secluded cove or beach.
There are several top-rated campgrounds and plenty of rental cabins at the lake for multi-day getaways.
Lake Jordan is located in the center of Alabama 25 miles north of the historic capital city of Montgomery. The 6,800-acre reservoir was created in 1928 by the Alabama Power Company for flood control and hydroelectricity. It has a shoreline of 188 miles and has become popular as a recreational lake for swimming, boating, and fishing,
The Bouldin Dam, created decades later in 1967, added an adjacent basin to the lake connected by a short canal. The lake is very fertile with sport fish and forage species.
Visitors can access Lake Jordon from several public and private boat ramps. Several private marinas located near Mitchell Dam also feature boat ramps.
So, there you have it. Some of the best lakes in Alabama for you to try this summer!
There are a few others I have not covered in detail here like Lake Lurleen in Lake Lurleen State Park, Lay Lake with a huge 300 miles of shoreline, Wilson Lake and Lake Wedowee that are also worth a visit.
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!