10 Most Popular Lakes in America

Just because you don’t live near a beach (or don’t want to be picking sand out of your car for months) doesn’t mean you need to miss out on a water vacation this summer. There’s nothing like floating on a lake on your back or in a boat. It’s old-fashioned family fun. Actually, it’s just plain fun for everyone. Try some of these most-searched lake vacations on Yahoo. Just don’t forget to pack your swimsuit.

10. Crater Lake: A Volcanic Hole


Crater Lake. (Photo: Howard Ignatius/Flickr)

Crater Lake, Ore., is more or less exactly what it sounds like: a massive crater that has filled with water. Formed over 7,000 years ago by the collapse of a volcano, the lake is nearly 2,000 feet deep. Perhaps the most unique thing about it is that the lake isn’t fed by any rivers or streams. Instead, through evaporation and rain/snowfall, the water is completely replaced about every 250 years. In the summer, you can swim, fish, or boat. Just be warned: it’ll probably be cold. By mid-July, Rim Drive is also open so you could try biking, hiking, or driving all the way around the breathtaking and historic lake.

9. Table Rock Lake: Family-Themed Fun


Table Rock Lake. (Photo: John Starnes/Flickr)

Sure, maybe you visit Branson, Mo., for the 1800s-themed amusement park, live music, and Dolly Parton’s Wild West dinner theater. But, while you’re there, you might want to check out Table Rock Lake. The lake sits just outside of town, in the Ozarks, and was created by a dam built in the 1950s. On the east side, Table Rock State Park has boating, swimming, and camping for visitors.

Related: You Don’t Need an Ocean with These Best Lake Beaches in America

8. Caddo Lake: Under the Cypress Trees

On the border of Louisiana and and Texas, Caddo Lake is a protected wetlands and home to the largest cypress forest in the world, and it’s a beautiful spot to canoe through lush vegetation. It is also the site of several Bigfoot sightings, so keep your eyes peeled. Stay in one of the popular cabins in Caddo Lake State Park and explore the maze of bayous and ponds that make up the lake. (Or rent a private cabin.) But beware of alligators, which frequent the park and lake. You might want to read these alligator safety tips before hitting the water.

7. Lake Powell: Lounging on the Lake


Lake Powell. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Nearly 2 million people each year visit Lake Powell, on the border of Utah and Arizona. It was originally created by the Glen Canyon Dam, which filled Glen Canyon with water. It’s now the second largest man-made reservoir in the country. The lake, a popular destination in the summer, sits next to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. While you can explore the Orange Cliffs and larger park, most visitors simply rent a houseboat and lounge on the water. There are five marinas — four with launch ramps. With almost 2,000 miles of shoreline, Lake Powell is an ideal spot for a family vacation or a fun get-together with friends.

6. Lake Shasta: At the Mountain’s Base


Lake Shasta. (Photo: psyberartist/Flickr)

Lake Shasta, in Northern California, is popular for its clear water and stunning views of Mt. Shasta. Covering nearly 30,000 acres across its surface, the lake has more than enough room for boating, fishing, and water-skiing. Bridge Bay is the largest marina, known for its houseboat rentals and lodge right on the water. A warning, though: With the drought in California, the water in Lake Shasta is low. Check the conditions before you go — though it could also mean some cheap deals as the crowds stay away. Or you could use it as an opportunity to visit the nearby Lake Shasta Caverns and possibly catch a glimpse of the submerged towns and tunnels under the lake.

5. Lake of the Ozarks: Miles and Miles of Magic

Also known as “The Magic Dragon,” the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri could more accurately be described as a kind of large, twisting river. Because of its winding shape, the lake is over 90 miles long and has over 1,100 miles of shoreline to explore and visit. Originally constructed to provide hydroelectric power to state residents, it has become a major tourist attraction and resort area. Over 5 million people visit the lake annually. Because it’s so large, there are a number of different things to do: golf, relax, or party on the water. Lake of the Ozarks State Park is also home to Party Cove (formally known as Anderson Hollow Cove), which is exactly what it sounds like.

Related: Lake Vacations in the U.S. That Have Everyone Reaching for Their Swimwear

4. Lake Havasu: A Party on the Water


Spring breakers tubing on Lake Havasu. (Photo: jessica.vanni/Twenty20)

A popular spot for college spring breakers and people looking to let loose, Lake Havasu is known as a floating party. But the large reservoir on the border of Arizona and California is also a beautiful natural playground. If you get tired of boating, fishing, and floating, check out the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge upriver from the lake, the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge downriver, or Lake Havasu State Park on the eastern shore. Stay in Lake Havasu City and don’t forget to visit the London Bridge — a bridge that originally was built across the Thames River in England until it was dismantled and moved to Arizona.

3. Big Bear Lake: Among the Mountains


Big Bear Lake. (Photo: Shestock / Alamy)

Up in the mountains about two hours east of Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake is both the name of a lake and the small town next to it, which is a heavily visited ski destination in the winter. But in the summer, the seven-mile lake welcomes vacationers looking to fish, boat, or hike. While the town has a permanent population of just over 5,000, on popular weekends it can house as many as 100,000 people. Sitting near the San Bernardino National Forest, the area is known for its amazing views and miles of trails.

2. Lake Champlain: Quiet Island Paradise


Burlington Breakwater South Lighthouse on Lake Champlain. (Photo: Tony Fischer/Flickr)

Near the Canada border, Lake Champlain is a freshwater lake in the valley between the Adirondack Mountains and the Green Mountains. The lake contains nearly 80 islands, including the large islands of South Hero and North Hero, which are home to some year-round residents in addition to summer vacationers. Take a ferry to get around and be sure to visit the historic lighthouses that dot the islands. While the lake and its islands are known for their natural beauty and quiet seclusion — particularly in spots like Sand Bar State Park in Vermont and Point Au Roche State Park on the New York side, you can also enjoy the non-natural wonders, like Lake Champlain chocolates.

Related: Cycling Lake Tahoe: Crazy Inclines, Bears, and Even a Casino Pit Stop

1. Lake Tahoe: Skiing or Swimming


Lake Tahoe. (Photo: Thinkstock)

At 1,600 feet deep and just over 70 miles around, Lake Tahoe, Calif., is one of the largest and deepest lakes in the country. It’s also one of the prettiest. Sitting at 6,000 feet elevation and surrounded by mountains, which house nearly a dozen large and popular ski resorts in the winter, Lake Tahoe is known for its clear and crisp water. Often divided into areas referred to as the North Shore and the South Shore, Lake Tahoe is home to countless small towns, secluded beaches, and mountainous hiking trails (and on the Nevada side, casinos). Check out Emerald Bay or mountain bike the famous Flume Trail. For the more adventurous, the Tahoe Rim Trail makes a 165-mile loop around the lake.

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