Sure, the ocean is nice if you live on the coast. But most people in the United States don’t live within a few minutes of the seashore. Instead, we have to make due with absolutely gorgeous lakes. From the steamy, swampy charm of the southern lakes, to the crystalline beauty of northern waters, this nation is rich in natural and man-made lakes of striking beauty and drama. Check out this collection of some of the most magnificent lakes in America. You’ll be a freshwater fan before you know it.
1. Maroon Lake in Gunnison County, Colorado.
Maroon Lake occupies a basin that was sculpted by Ice-Age glaciers and later dammed by landslide and rockfall debris from the steep slopes above the valley floor. It’s one of the most photographed natural sites in Colorado.
2. This unnamed lake at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
Who needs a name when you’ve got undeniable good looks? This gorgeous freshwater lake is 32 acres across and laps gently at the jewel-green shores of the surrounding botanical garden. Its sheltered location keeps the lake’s waters clean, clear and teeming with life.
3. Lake Drummond in Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia.
That’s not a typo: this lake is actually located in a place called the “Great Dismal Swamp”. Far from dismal, Lake Drummond is a hauntingly beautiful natural landmark and one of only two natural lakes in Virginia. Though the lake is protected as part of a national wildlife refuge area, special fishing and boating opportunities are available in this carefully preserved habitat.
4. Lake Mead in Mohave County, Arizona
Lake Mead is Arizona’s largest reservoir and essential to the well-being the people, plants, and critters of this arid state. The lake is also a popular boating and fishing spot. If you’re lucky and determined, you can also catch a glimpse of the ruins of St. Thomas, a town drowned by the reservoir’s construction.
5. Crater Lake on Mount Katmai, Alaska.
Though it may look ancient and mystical, this breathtaking lake actually formed quite recently. In 1912, the Novarupta eruption of Mount Katmai caused the caldera of the volcano to collapse into what is now known as Crater Lake. This lake remains isolated and pristine, due to its extreme elevation and the danger of scaling the volcano.
6. Cochituate Lake in Cochituate State Park, Massachusetts.
This spot is absolutely stunning on a sunny day. The clear blue of the sky is mirrored in the calm waters of the lake.
7. Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada, Nevada.
Lake Tahoe is located along the border between California and Nevada, west of Carson City. It’s the largest alpine lake in North America and an extremely popular tourist destination. With those glimmering waters, it’s easy to see how the lake rose to national stardom.
8. Crater Lake in Klamath County, Oregon.
This is a caldera lake, which means that it’s actually the collapsed peak of a volcano. Crater Lake is famous for its striking blue color and astounding depth; measuring 1,943 feet down, it is the deepest lake in the United States and either the seventh or ninth deepest in the world (depending on whether one is measuring average or maximum depth). This spot is also famous for the “Old Man of the Lake”, a full-sized tree that has been bobbing vertically in the lake for over a century.
9. Heart Lake on Mount Jo, New York.
Seen here from the summit of Mount Jo, this serene lake is nestled in the heart of some of the most popular campgrounds in the state. The warm autumn foliage contrasts beautifully with the cool blue of the lake.
10. Lake Waiau on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
Located at 13,000 feet above sea level on the “Big Island” of Hawaii, Lake Waiau is arguably one of the highest lakes in all of the United States. Though it may be nestled amongst the clouds, this lake is actually only about 100 meters across.
11. Lake Blanche in the Twin Peaks Wilderness Area, Utah.
Utah is full of gorgeous lakes, but this one is definitely earns top marks for looks. Lake Blanche is a popular destination for hikers and photographers alike. Its rugged beauty and dramatic setting make it one of the most striking natural formations in the state.
12. Lake Monroe in Sanford, Florida.
This stunning lake actually extends into DeBary and Deltona along its northern shore, as well as Sanford along the southern shore. If you’re looking to boat on the lake, your best bet is to visit beautiful Lake Monroe Park; they offer free entrance and it’s only $2 to launch your boat from this site. You can also camp along the lake’s shores at several locations.
13. Blue Springs Lake in Jackson County, Missouri.
This lake is a perfect spot to picnic or camp. Enjoy sandy beaches, certified lifeguards on duty, showers, and an abundance of natural beauty.
14. Lake Powell in Coconino County, Arizona.
Arizona actually shares this lake with Utah. Its waters serve as a reservoir for both states. Lake Powell has been the filming site for multiple movies, including the dramatic science fiction blockbuster, “Gravity”. The lake is also the inspiration behind “Desert Solitaire”, a popular novel by Edward Abbey.
15. Lake Ahquabi in Indianola, Indiana.
An ideal locale for hopping in your canoe or kayak and watching the sun set over the rippling waters.
16. Mirror Lake in the Uinta Mountains, Utah
Gaze across the placid waters and silvery sheen of this lake for long enough, and you’ll start wondering where the water ends and the clear Utah sky begins. Mirror Lake is a popular fishing and recreation spot and is home to three distinct species of trout: rainbow, brook, and tiger.
17. Reflection Lake at Mt. Rainer National Park, Washington.
This lake has some pretty impressive scenery to contend with, but it holds its own. The waters are a deep, dramatic blue that complements the rugged landscape at the foot Mt. Rainier. A perfect spot for those who believe a day at the lake calls for flannel, not a bikini.
18. Cowpen Lake in Jupiter, Florida.
This beautiful lake lives up to its otherworldly address. Located in the scenic Riverbed Park, Cowpen Lake is something of a hidden treasure and a perfect spot to fish, picnic, or just watch the clouds roll by. The best way to explore these waters is by canoe, so be sure to set aside some time to paddle around.
19. Lake Clark in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska
The original Dena'ina Athabascan name for this lake is “Qizjeh Vena”, which means “place where people gather”. Its mesmerizing blue hue is the result of the unique mineral makeup and extreme clarity of the water.
With so many to choose from, we understand if you can’t pick a favorite. What lake did we miss that you think belongs on this list?