The 20 Biggest Lakes in the United States

Lakes are some of the most stunning natural features on Earth, offering serene views, recreational activities, and diverse ecosystems. In the United States, there are countless lakes, ranging from vast freshwater bodies to saltwater lakes with unique characteristics. In this blog, we will explore the 20 biggest lakes in the country, each with its distinct features and attractions.

20. Rainy Lake

Rainy Lake

Located on the border of the United States and Canada, Rainy Lake is a spectacular water body that spans an impressive surface area of over 360 square miles.

It is part of the Great Lakes Basin, making it an important water body in North America. With a maximum depth of approximately 80 feet, Rainy Lake is home to a diverse range of fish species, including yellow perch, making it a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts.

Additionally, the lake offers recreational activities such as boating, swimming, and camping, attracting tourists and nature enthusiasts alike.

19. The Salton Sea

The Salton Sea

Nestled in the heart of the Colorado Desert, the Salton Sea is the largest lake in California. This vast, shallow, saline lake holds a unique ecosystem of its own. The Salton Sea is known for its high salt levels, making it one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water.

Despite the high salinity, the lake is a crucial habitat for over 400 species of birds, making it a haven for birdwatchers. However, the lake’s water levels have been impacted by climate change, affecting the delicate balance of the marine life in the area.

18. Fort Peck Lake

Fort Peck Lake

Fort Peck Lake, located in Montana, is the largest lake in the state. Created by the Fort Peck Dam on the Missouri River, the lake serves multiple purposes, including power generation, flood control, and irrigation.

With over 1,520 miles of shoreline, Fort Peck Lake offers a plethora of recreational activities, such as fishing, boating, and camping.

Anglers flock to the lake for its diverse fish population, including lake trout, making it a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts. The vast waters of Fort Peck Lake are also home to numerous species of waterfowl, adding to the area’s scenic beauty.

17. Selawik Lake

Selawik Lake

Located in western Alaska, Selawik Lake is one of the largest lakes in the state, covering a total area of approximately 896 square miles. This vast lake is part of the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, offering abundant wildlife and stunning natural beauty.

Selawik Lake boasts a diverse fish population, including dolly varden, arctic grayling, and whitefish, making it a favored spot for fishing enthusiasts. The lake’s shoreline provides ample opportunities for hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing, while the surrounding tundra and mountains create a picturesque backdrop.

16. Lake of the Woods

Lake of the Woods

Located in Minnesota, Lake of the Woods boasts stunning scenery and ample recreational opportunities across its vast 65,000 miles of shoreline. Anglers are drawn from afar to this diverse fish habitat, while enthusiasts revel in boating, water sports, and birdwatching.

The lake’s tranquil islands and bays provide a serene backdrop for outdoor adventures, making it a sought-after destination for nature lovers and vacationers seeking respite in the heart of nature’s splendor.

17. Lake St. Clair

Lake St. Clair

Situated between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair is an essential part of the Great Lakes system. With a surface area of approximately 430 square miles, the lake provides ample recreational opportunities for boating, fishing, and water sports.

Lake St. Clair’s water levels are regulated by the International Joint Commission, ensuring the environmental balance of the lake.

The lake supports a diverse fish community, including yellow perch, smallmouth bass, and muskellunge, making it a prime destination for anglers. Its extensive shoreline provides opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife observation, adding to the lake’s natural allure.

14. Becharof Lake

Becharof Lake

Becharof Lake, located in the Aleutian Range of Alaska, is the second-largest lake in the state. Spanning over 1,156 square miles, the lake is nestled in a remote, untouched wilderness, offering visitors a unique and unforgettable experience.

Becharof Lake is known for its excellent fishing opportunities, with species like salmon, rainbow trout, and arctic char thriving in its pristine waters.

The vast expanse and scenic beauty of the lake attract outdoor enthusiasts, photographers, and nature lovers, making it a haven for those seeking solitude and a deep connection with the natural world.

13. Lake Sakakawea

Lake Sakakawea

Lake Sakakawea, located in North Dakota, is the third-largest synthetic reservoir in the United States. Formed by the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River, the lake covers a total area of approximately 368,000 acres.

Lake Sakakawea offers a wide range of recreational activities, including boating, fishing, camping, and water sports.

Its vast shoreline, stretching over 1,300 miles, provides picturesque views and ample opportunities for outdoor adventures. The lake is home to various fish species, including walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass, making it a popular destination for anglers.

12. Lake Champlain in Vermont

Lake Champlain in Vermont

Renowned for its stunning beauty, Lake Champlain offers a plethora of recreational activities, including sailing and fishing, making it a popular tourist attraction. Home to over 80 species of fish, it is a haven for diverse marine life, attracting anglers from all over.

Not just a natural wonder, the lake has historical significance, playing a pivotal role in the military history of the United States during the Revolutionary War. Its extensive shoreline provides ample opportunities for birdwatching and nature walks, adding to its allure as a must-visit destination in Vermont.

11. Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana

Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana

Nestled in the heart of Louisiana, Lake Pontchartrain stands as the largest saltwater lake in the United States, renowned for its high salt levels. This unique ecosystem fosters a diverse range of marine life, including fish, shellfish, and migratory birds, making it an attractive destination for boating, fishing, and birdwatching.

Spanning a watershed area that covers four states, Lake Pontchartrain plays a crucial role in the region’s water system and is a focal point for scientific research due to its vast expanse and exceptional ecosystem.

10. Lake Okeechobee in Florida

Lake Okeechobee in Florida

Lake Okeechobee, the largest freshwater lake in Florida with a vast expanse of 730 square miles, serves as a vital water storage, flood control, and irrigation site. Anglers frequent the lake for its abundant largemouth bass and crappie, making it a popular fishing destination.

As part of the Everglades ecosystem, the lake supports diverse wildlife and plays a crucial role in maintaining the fragile balance of the surrounding wetlands and marshes. The lake’s impact extends beyond its shores, influencing the surrounding area’s water resources and ecological stability.

9. Lake Oahe

Lake Oahe

Lake Oahe, located on the Missouri River, boasts the longest shoreline of any reservoir in the United States, stretching over 2,250 miles. Created by the Oahe Dam, the lake offers ample opportunities for fishing, recreational boating, water sports, camping, and wildlife viewing.

Lake Oahe is home to various fish species, including walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and the prized dolly varden trout.

The lake’s vast surface area, combined with its diverse landscapes, attracts visitors from across the country, providing an unforgettable outdoor experience.

8. Lake George in New York

Lake George in New York

Nestled in New York, Lake George, dubbed the “Queen of American Lakes,” captivates with its breathtaking natural allure. Its crystalline waters beckon enthusiasts for swimming, snorkeling, and various water escapades.

Stretching 109 miles, the lake’s shoreline teems with recreational possibilities, while its colonial significance is evinced by nearby historical landmarks.

Embraced by the Adirondack Mountains, the lake offers a postcard-worthy backdrop. Fusing history and scenic beauty, Lake George in New York stands as a prime tourist magnet, alluring visitors year-round.

7. Great Salt Lake in Utah

Great Salt Lake in Utah

The largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, covering over 1,700 square miles, is the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Its high salt concentration allows visitors to effortlessly float on the water’s surface, making it a unique experience.

The lake is a critical habitat for millions of migratory birds, making it a prime birdwatching destination. Moreover, it supports unique microorganisms, contributing to its distinct color and ecosystem, which makes it a subject of scientific study due to its vast expanse and ecological significance.

6. Lake Michigan in Illinois

Lake Michigan in Illinois

Nestled entirely within the United States, Lake Michigan offers awe-inspiring scenic beauty. It is a haven for avid anglers, boasting various fish species and inviting recreational fishing enthusiasts. This vast water body is a lifeline for millions, catering to their crucial water needs.

The picturesque shores of Lake Michigan attract countless visitors, offering an array of water-based activities. With its expansive surface area and profound depths, this lake plays a pivotal role in the region’s ecosystem, showcasing its ecological significance.

5. Red Lake

Red Lake

Red Lake, located in northern Minnesota, is the largest freshwater lake entirely within the state. With a surface area of approximately 288 square miles, the lake is known for its scenic beauty and ample recreational opportunities. Red Lake boasts a thriving walleye fishery, attracting anglers from near and far.

Its pristine waters provide the perfect habitat for walleye and other fish species, creating a haven for fishing enthusiasts. The lake’s tranquil surroundings, vast shoreline, and abundant wildlife make it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking for a peaceful retreat.

4. Great Bear Lake

Great Bear Lake

Great Bear Lake, located in the Northwest Territories of Canada, is the largest lake entirely within the country. Spanning over 12,000 square miles, this lake is known for its stunning natural beauty and remote location. Great Bear Lake is the deepest lake in North America, reaching depths of over 1,400 feet.

It offers excellent fishing opportunities, with lake trout, arctic grayling, and whitefish being some of the sought-after species. The vast expanse of the lake, combined with its crystal-clear waters, provides a serene setting for outdoor adventures and a true wilderness experience.

3. Lake Powell

Lake Powell

Lake Powell, the second-largest synthetic reservoir in the United States, is a recreational paradise located along the Colorado River. With a maximum water capacity of over 24 million acre-feet, the lake spans approximately 254 square miles, offering unparalleled opportunities for water-based recreational activities.

Lake Powell is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, providing a stunning backdrop for activities such as boating, fishing, water skiing, and exploring the surrounding red rock canyons. Its vast surface area, combined with the rugged beauty of the area, makes Lake Powell a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts.

2. Teshekpuk Lake

Teshekpuk Lake

Teshekpuk Lake, situated on the western coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, is one of the largest lakes in the state. Spanning an impressive surface area of approximately 234 square miles, the lake provides a critical habitat for migratory birds, making it a haven for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike.

The lake’s vast area and surrounding wetlands support a rich diversity of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other avian species. Teshekpuk Lake is of great ecological significance in the Arctic ecosystem, highlighting the importance of preserving its integrity and protecting the rich Alaskan wildlife that calls it home.

1. Animals Found Near Lakes

Animals Found Near Lakes

Near lakes, a diverse range of animals can be found, including fish, ducks, geese, frogs, turtles, and beavers. Preserving lake habitats is crucial to maintaining a balance between human activity and wildlife preservation.

Pollution and invasive species pose significant dangers to lake ecosystems and the dependent animals, emphasizing the need for conservation efforts.

Responsible recreation near lakes is essential to minimize negative impacts on wildlife, such as refraining from feeding animals and ensuring proper disposal of trash. Preserving these habitats is vital for the well-being of these animals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top five largest lakes in the United States?

The top five largest lakes in the United States include Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. These lakes are not only significant for their size but also play crucial roles in shipping, fishing, recreation, and providing drinking water to millions of people.

Lake Superior holds the distinction of being the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. The Great Lakes, including these five lakes, form the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth.

Are any of these lakes synthetic?

Several lakes on this list, like Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are synthetic. These lakes are created by humans for purposes such as hydroelectric power generation and flood control. However, the majority of the largest lakes in the United States are natural bodies of water formed by natural processes like glaciation or tectonic activity.

What activities can be enjoyed on these lakes?

Activities on these lakes vary based on their location and size. Fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, camping, and water sports like jet skiing and wakeboarding are popular. Some lakes also offer wildlife viewing and guided tours. Research the specific lake you plan to visit for available activities.

Is there a difference between a lake and a reservoir?

Yes, there is a distinction between a lake and a reservoir. Lakes are natural bodies of water, while reservoirs are synthetic. Reservoirs are typically created for purposes like irrigation, drinking water supply, or hydroelectric power generation. Notable natural lakes in the US include Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Tahoe.


In conclusion, the United States is home to some of the largest and most stunning lakes in the world. From the vast expanse of Lake Michigan to the diverse wildlife around Lake Powell, these lakes offer endless opportunities for exploration and enjoyment.

Whether you’re interested in fishing, boating, or simply taking in the breathtaking scenery, there’s something for everyone to appreciate. It’s important to note that while some of these lakes are natural wonders, others have been created or modified by human intervention.

Regardless of their origin, they all contribute to the country’s natural beauty and provide valuable habitats for a variety of plant and animal species. So, next time you’re planning a vacation or looking for a new outdoor adventure, consider visiting one of the United States’ magnificent lakes.


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