The Best Lakes In Alabama

Sunset Over Lake in Alabama
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Kiera Coffee

Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but Alabama’s wonderful waterways may give the midwestern state a run for its money. In the South, we live for a lake weekend. All year long, we dream about those hot summer days when we can spend hours of uninterrupted time on the water—fishing off the dock, swimming in the cool lake, and zipping around on jet skis. And the piece de resistance of the ideal lake weekend? A sunset pontoon boat cruise. Bonus points if it involves a bottle of wine, some pimiento cheese, and your music turned up just loud enough. If you score a weekend invite to a friend’s lake house, or are lucky enough to own your own, then pack your overnight bag and hit the road! If not, no sweat. There are plenty of waterfront inns and houses for rent where you can set up your next lake vacation. Ready to dive in? Here are eight of our favorite lakes in Alabama. 

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Lewis Smith Lake

Lewis Smith Lake, Alabama

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Better known as Smith Lake, this 21,000-acre stunner on the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River is known for being one of Alabama’s cleanest and clearest lakes. So for the skeptical swimmers, this is the perfect place to take the plunge. One of the best places to do that is at Indian Head Rock, a large rock jut-out that’s popular for folks looking to take a dive. To stay in the thick of the action, check out Smith Lake Park, a massive park with pools, campgrounds, a beach, and events all year long.

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Lake Martin

Lake Martin, Alabama
Photo: Michael Hanson

One of America’s largest manmade lakes, Lake Martin is a popular second-home spot for many Alabamians seeking a waterfront escape. Located in and around Alexander City, the 44,000-acre lake is surrounded by wooded shoreline, making it a great place to spot birds and other native wildlife. If you go, do as the locals do and have a meal at lakefront casual dining spot Kowaliga or treat yourself to Southern fine dining at SpringHouse.

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Logan Martin Lake

Logan Martin Lake, Alabama

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The 280-mile-long Coosa River cuts across the eastern half of Alabama and spawns lakes in every direction. One of its most popular offshoots is Logan Martin Lake, located 30 miles east of Birmingham. Logan Martin Lake is a hub for recreational water activity due to its depth of more than 100 feet in many places. The lake is especially popular for bass fishermen, who love to explore the lake’s abundance of coves and tributaries.

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Guntersville Lake

Lake Guntersville State Park
Lake Guntersville State Park.

Lake Guntersville State Park /Facebook

Alabama’s largest lake, Guntersville Lake clocks in at around 69,000 acres. Located in northeast Alabama, the lake is best visited at Lake Guntersville State Park, where you can do everything from fish and boat to waterski, kayak, and hike. The park is located right down the road from charming downtown Guntersville, where you might want to spend an afternoon shopping and checking out the local dining scene. 

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Pickwick Lake

Pickwick Lake

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Located in three states, Pickwick Lake makes its Yellowhammer State appearance in Florence. The 50-mile-long lake is known for its excellent smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass fishing, with the hub of activity happening in the Shoals section of the lake, located directly downstream of Wilson Dam to the end of Seven-Mile Island.

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Lay Lake

Lay Lake

Tara Massouleh McCay

This 12,000-acre reservoir is smaller than many of Alabama’s other lakes, but it’s every bit as beautiful. Located just 35 minutes south of Birmingham, the lake is a popular spot for day trippers and weekend visitors alike. With seven public access areas, five of which have docks for boats, there’s plenty of room to get out and explore the well-stocked lake.

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Weiss Lake

Weiss Lake

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Often referred to as the “Crappie Capital of the World,” Weiss Lake is one of the best places in the country to fish for crappie and largemouth bass. The 30,000-acre lake is formed by the Chattanooga River, Coosa River, and Little River. Its banks are dotted with campgrounds, motels, and rental cabins, so you’ll have plenty of options for places to make home base. 

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Lake Tuscaloosa

Lake Tuscaloosa

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The damning of the North River in west-central Alabama created this lake in 1970. Since then, it’s become a popular destination for all types of water recreation. From fishing and boating to swimming and tubing, the 5,800-acre lake offers plenty of room to roam. Famed Alabama football coach Nick Saban owns a home on the lake, so don’t be surprised if you see him cruising by in the off season!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the largest natural lake in Alabama?

    Lake Guntersville is the largest natural lake in Alabama, 75 miles long and 69,100 acres large. The lake is in northern Alabama between Bridgeport and Guntersville.

  • What is the oldest artificial lake in Alabama?

    Lay Lake is 12,000 acres large and stretches about 300 miles long. The largest artificial lake in Alabama, Lay Lake, is south of Birmingham and is known for hydroelectric generation and recreation including fishing and boating.

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