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Best Boating Lakes in the USA

By The Ahoy! Crew
Published June 15, 2022|Last updated July 20, 2022

Where are the best boating lakes in the U.S.? Check out this list of the most famous, most beautiful, and the largest freshwater lakes in America.

If you're like me, you're counting the days until you can get out on the water and enjoy boating and your favorite watersports. With so many lakes in the US, how do you choose the best lake to visit during your summer holidays?

It often depends on where you live. Most of the time, we go to lakes close to home. But once in a while, we get a chance to take a road trip and explore lakes farther away.  

Whether you're looking for hot sun and warm water, cold water and spectacular mountain scenery, or the best lake to fish in, this list of the best boating lakes in the U.S. has something for every boater.

These are some of the most popular lakes in the country. They're also some of the largest, deepest, and most beautiful lakes in the world. 

Lake Winnipesaukee

Known as the most scenic lake in New England, Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire. Its many bays and peninsulas provide 290 miles of shoreline to explore. 260 islands add to the beauty of the forested hillsides, sandy beaches, and boulder-dotted shore. Boaters enjoy scenic cruises and the full range of watersports. Fishing for trout is popular here, with brooks, rainbows, and lake trout up to 20 pounds. You can catch smallmouth, largemouth, and rock bass here, too. A favorite event every year is the Ice Fishing Derby.  

Lake George

Lake George is a beautiful lake in the Adirondack Mountains of Eastern New York. 32 miles long and 3 miles wide, it's surrounded by dense forest. Visitors enjoy sunset and dinner cruises, steamboat rides, and many popular watersports including parasailing. It's renowned for ice fishing and fishing in the summer. You can catch both cold and warm water fish, including lake trout, salmon, smallmouth, largemouth, and black bass, and yellow perch. Water flows north out of the lake and down a series of waterfalls into Lake Champlain.

Lake Champlain

The largest freshwater lake in New England and one of the largest natural freshwater lakes in the U.S., Lake Champlain borders New York, Vermont, and Quebec Province in Canada. It's 120 miles long, 12 miles wide, and has nearly 600 miles of forested shoreline. The fall colors surrounding the lake are a beautiful sight. The lake is rated as one of the top bass fishing lakes in the U.S. If bass fishing isn't your thing, there are 80 species of fish in the lake. Not only can you catch trout and perch, but also crappie, sunfish, pike, sturgeon, and catfish. Bring your own boat or hire a fishing charter.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan is the third largest of the Great Lakes. It's the only Great Lake completely in the U.S and the largest lake in the world located in just one country. At 300 miles long and 120 miles wide, it's an impressive body of water. It has over 1,600 miles of shoreline, and is over 900 feet deep. Like the sea, it can have large, breaking waves, and dangerous currents. Boaters and swimmers need to be aware of the weather and their skill levels.

Twelve million people live near the lakeshore in the surrounding states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Even with Chicago and Milwaukee on its shores, it still has an expansive open coastline. It's famous for its sandy beaches, sand dunes, and lighthouses. It has a well-developed water transportation system, with car ferries, historic cruise ships, sailing ships, and steamboats. Boaters enjoy watersports including yachting and kite surfing. Trout and salmon are the most sought after fish here.

Lake Superior

Lake Michigan is impressive, but the largest Great Lake, Lake Superior, is larger than you can imagine. Sitting between Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario Province in Canada, it has over 30,000 square miles of surface area. It's 350 miles long, 160 miles wide, and 1,300 feet deep. It holds 10% of the earth's surface freshwater. It's like a small sea surrounded by forest and low, rolling hills. Some of the islands here are so large they even have their own lakes on them. 

Much of Lake Superior is covered with ice in the winter, but doesn't usually freeze over completely. The cold water is great for salmon fishing. You can catch Coho, Chinook, pink, and Atlantic salmon, as well as steelhead, rainbow, and brown trout, and walleye.

Flathead Lake

Moving west, you'll find spectacular Flathead Lake. It's known as one of the cleanest lakes in the world. Located in Northwestern Montana, just outside of Glacier National Park, you can see Rocky Mountain peaks reflected in its blue water. At 30 miles long and 16 miles wide with 185 miles of shoreline, it's the West's largest natural freshwater lake. Kerr Dam was built in 1930 and made it even larger. People come here for the spectacular scenery, watersports of all kinds, and catching large fish. 3-8 pound mackinaw, or lake trout, are often caught here, along with the occasional 20 pounder. You can catch whitefish over 10 pounds, as well as kokanee, bass, pike, yellow perch, sturgeon, and numerous species of trout.

Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan is in the rain shadow of the massive Cascade Mountains, so summers are hot and the water is warm. At 50 miles long and just 2 miles wide, it's the largest natural lake in Washington State. Building Lake Chelan Dam raised the lake level 20 feet. The glacier-carved lake is 1,486 feet deep, making it the third deepest lake in the U.S. Even though it's located on the inland side of the Cascades, the bottom 380 feet of the lake is below sea level. 

The surrounding mountains are covered in golden grass and dry forests in the summer and snow in the winter. It's a great lake for boating, watersports, and fishing for kokanee and trout. There are several kokanee fishing tournaments every year. You can also catch cutthroat trout, Chinook salmon, smallmouth bass, and burbot.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake is located in Southern Oregon. Visitors go here for the incredible views. The lake fills a 6-mile wide crater on top of a collapsed volcano. The rim rises to 8,000 feet and is all that remains of the 12,000-foot peak that erupted nearly 8,000 years ago. The 1,950-foot deep lake is the deepest in the U.S. It's renowned for having some of the purest fresh water in the world. There are no streams running into, or out of, the lake. The lake was stocked with kokanee salmon and rainbow trout between 80 and 130 years ago. Many fish still live in the lake. The only access to the lake is by a mile-long trail that drops 700 feet down to the lake from the rim of the crater. Private boats and flotation devices are prohibited, though you can fish from shore. You can tour the lake and Wizard Island by charter boat. 

Lake Tahoe

The second deepest lake in the U.S. is in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, on the California/Nevada border. 1,600-foot deep Lake Tahoe is a magnificent lake also known for its exceptionally clear water. Rugged mountains surround the lake. The shoreline is protected by several state parks and U.S. National Forest lands. South Lake Tahoe is famous for its beaches. Though the high elevation lake water is cold all year long, it is a popular destination for boating and watersports such as wake surfing, water skiing, and jet skiing. Other popular boating activities include kayaking, paddle boarding, and taking cruises for sunrise, sunset, cocktails, dinner, and weddings. Lake Tahoe is also famous for trout fishing.   

Lake Havasu

Lakes in the Southwest are known for their warm water and sunny days. Lake Havasu sits on the California/Arizona border. The Parker Dam was built to store irrigation water in the lake in 1938. Desert stone and mountains provide a fitting backdrop for the soothing, warm water of the lake. Lake Havasu has a reputation for being one of the best fishing lakes in the U.S. Fishing tournaments have been a major attraction here for decades. You can catch smallmouth, largemouth, and striped bass, channel and flathead catfish, crappie, bluegill, and redear sunfish. Popular boating activities include house boating, water skiing, wakeboarding, and eating at "boat-in" restaurants.

Lake Powell

Lake Powell is the reservoir behind Glen Dam on the Colorado River. Located along the Utah/Arizona border, it's the second largest freshwater reservoir in the U.S. Layered rock and canyons form the shores of the lake. The weather here is hot and the water is warm most of the year. The lake is a favorite destination for house boating, watersports, and fishing for warm-water fish. Popular fish here include smallmouth, largemouth, and striped bass, walleye, channel catfish, crappie, and bluegill. Though the drought in recent years has lowered the water level in the lake, marinas have adapted by extending walkways to their docks to maintain convenience for their customers. 

These are some of the most famous boating lakes in the U.S. There are so many more that couldn't be covered here, but you can use this list as a reference to get you started enjoying boating this summer.

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