The United States of America is defined by water. From the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, the Caribbean Sea to the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi to the Colorado rivers, vast waterways have shaped this land and the people who call it home. Let’s not forget the lakes — beautiful bodies of water that have been awing all comers for centuries. Whether you prefer fishing, boating or just sitting on the shore with a good book, do yourself a favor and find a way to visit these lakes.
And remember, if you’re going to take the boat out for some fun on the water, you need to get a boating license first.
Crater Lake, Oregon
Nothing is quite like Crater Lake. Crystal clear, blue water filled the hole left when an ancient volcano, Mount Mazama, collapsed nearly 8,000 years ago, and everyone who has seen it since has had their breath taken away. It is the centerpiece of Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, and a hike to the caldera is one of the best trips you could ever take.
Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid is best remembered not for its water but for ice. The 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid featured the U.S. hockey team’s improbable upset over the Soviet juggernauts in the “Miracle on Ice.” But those who have seen the lake in person would probably tell you that its splendor is even more amazing than the outcome of a sporting event. It gets a gold medal in beauty.
Skilak Lake, Alaska
The majestic Skilak Lake in Alaska is partly filled by glacial melt runoff, making it an incredibly gorgeous oasis in a land of stark, harsh terrain. And since this large lake — it is 15 miles long and up to 4 miles wide in some places — sits just two hours from Anchorage, it is one of the more accessible of the many wondrous lakes in a state that may have more natural beauty than the other 49 combined.
Lake Powell, Arizona
Not all wonder has to be natural. The manmade Lake Powell, which was created near Glen Canyon when a dam was built in 1963, is a true sight to behold. A huge reservoir of water in such an arid climate makes for a dynamic contrast that will wow any visitor. The Rainbow Bridge National Monument is something you cannot miss.
Lake Chelan, Washington
Washington’s biggest lake is a tourist draw, and it’s easy to see why. It is the third deepest lake in the United States, something that was only magnified when a dam installation in 1927 raised the water level almost 30 feet. With great fishing and easy access, it is one of the state’s best vacation spots.
Lake Okeechobee, Florida
After Lake Michigan, Lake Okeechobee — or just “The Lake” in Florida — is the largest lake entirely in the Lower 48. It is unique for being so mammoth yet so swallow, with an average depth of less than 10 feet.