Virginia features some spectacular landscapes, from the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains to the gently undulating hills of the Piedmont Valley. Scattered across this beautiful countryside are a plethora of lakes and reservoirs that not only provide flood control, hydroelectric power, and drinking water but also offer a wealth of outdoor recreational activities. Visitors can find a tranquil body of water almost anywhere in the state to enjoy boating, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, pontooning, swimming, and relaxing on a sandy beach. Landlubbers can hike, mountain bike, horseback ride, or watch birds and wildlife along the shorelines and in the pristine woodlands and terrain around the lakes and reservoirs. So, pack a picnic and head to some of Virginia’s best bodies of water.
1.Briery Creek Lake
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Located just south of Farmville in Prince Edward County, Virginia, Briery Creek Lake is a fantastic fishing and recreation destination in Central Virginia. Created by the impoundment of Briery Creek and Little Briery Creek, the reservoir was completed in 1986 with the timber and brush left in place to create the incredible fish habitat that the lake provides today. Anglers can catch a large variety of fish, from channel catfish, crappie, and bluegill to monster-sized largemouth bass and redear sunfish. Set within the Briery Creek Wildlife Management Area, Briery Creek Reservoir is surrounded by the rolling hills of Piedmont and is very accessible, making it a favorite spot for enjoying water-based sports and picnics on warm summer days.
Briery Creek Wildlife Management Area, Farmville, Prince Edward County, Central Virginia
2.Carvins Cove Lake
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Nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains, Carvins Cove Lake is the primary water source for the city of Roanoke and a popular destination for both land and water-based recreational activities. One of Virginia’s most precious natural treasures, the reservoir is located in Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, which is the second largest city park in the United States. Created by the damming of Carvin's Creek, Carvins Cove Reservoir offers a variety of outdoor activities ranging from hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and picnicking to boating, fishing, kayaking, and waterskiing. The surrounding park is also home to an abundance of birds and wildlife, which makes for excellent viewing.
Carvins Cove Natural Reserve: Carvins Cove Rd, Salem, VA 24153, Phone: 540-853-2236
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Fed by the fertile waters of the Chickahominy River, Chickahominy Lake is a beautiful tree-lined reservoir with fish-filled waters that lure birdwatchers, photographers, and fishers throughout the year to enjoy its bounty. The beautiful scenery of both the Chickahominy River and the lake, which was created in 1943 and for decades has drawn visitors who come to soak up the spectacular natural landscapes and enjoy all that the lake has to offer. Located in the Tidewater and Hampton Roads area of Virginia, Chickahominy Lake was initially built to provide water for military bases during wartime but today provides the water supply for the Newport News Waterworks. It has an excellent fishery and is a favorite recreation spot.
Chickahominy River, Tidewater and Hampton Roads area of Virginia
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Set within the southwestern Virginia's Blue Ridge Highlands region, Claytor Lake is a 4,475-acre impoundment of the New River that stretches over 21 miles in Pulaski County. Created in 1939 by the Appalachian Power Company for hydroelectric power, flood control, and recreation, Claytor Lake was named after former mayor of Roanoke, W. Graham Claytor. Today, the lake boasts a convenient location close to Interstate 81 and shares its shores with peaceful 475-acre Claytor Lake State Park, offering a beautiful spot for all types of recreational activities, from hiking and mountain biking to boating, fishing, and kayaking. The park’s landscapes are well maintained with an abundance of fauna and flora and offer excellent bird and wildlife watching.
Claytor Lake State Park: Ben H. Bolen Drive, Dublin, VA 24084, Phone: 540-643-2500
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Surrounded by the beautiful Allegheny Mountains in Virginia's 4,545-acre Douthat State Park, Douthat Lake (pronounced “DOW-thut”) is a 50-acre reservoir that is accessible year-round with a variety of recreational pursuits, from camping and cabin rentals to hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The lake offers excellent boating, fishing, and other water-based sports such as water-biking and water skiing, and a large swimming beach provides protected swimming, a great spot for sunbathing, and boat rentals. Douthat State Park also offers bat ramps for non-motorized boats and two fishing piers for catching a variety of trout, including brook, brown and rainbow trout as well as other species such as black crappie, channel catfish, and prized chain pickerel.
Douthat State Park: 14239 Douthat State Park Rd, Millboro, VA 24460, Phone: 540-862-8100
6.Fairy Stone Lake
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Named for the rare staurolite diamond-shaped crystals known as “fairy stones” that are found in the lake, Virginia's Fairy Stone Lake is a 168-acre lake set within the 4,741-acre Fairy Stone State Park. Created by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Fairy Stone Lake Dam spills over into Philpott Lake and offers a wealth of land and water-based activities, from dozens of hiking and mountain biking trails, picnic areas, and swimming beaches to group camping areas, equestrian camping, and ranger-led programs for all ages. Fairy Stone Lake is a popular fishing destination with an abundance of bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass, and redear sunfish. Fairy Stone Lake is situated near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Patrick County and is close to the towns of Floyd, Meadows of Dan, Rocky Mount, and Stuart.
967 Fairystone Lake Drive, Stuart, VA 24171, Phone: 276-930-2424
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Tucked away in the gentle hills and woodlands of C. M. Crockett Park, Germantown Lake is a 109-acre lake in Fauquier County that provides an array of watersports from dawn to dusk. Created in 1985 by damming Licking Run to help control flooding, the reservoir is renowned for its large populations of fish, which attract anglers who come to catch channel catfish, bluegill, crappie, and largemouth bass. Only electric motor boats are allowed on the lake, and there are both shore access points and boat ramps for launching craft. Germantown Lake is located about seven miles from the Washington, D.C. suburb of Warrenton in Midland, and while there are no vacation rentals around the lake, overnight visitors can stay in Warrenton.
C. M. Crockett Park: 10066 Rogues Rd, Midland, VA 22728, Phone: 540-422-8870
8.Hungry Mother Lake
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Set within the beautiful 2,180-acre Hungry Mother State Park in Smyth County, Hungry Mother Lake is a beautiful 108-acre lake and popular recreation attraction surrounded by magnificent mountain vistas. Named after an ancient Native American legend, Hungry Mother Lake boasts nearly 20 miles of hiking, biking and walking trails around the lake, and several offering bird-viewing platforms over the lake. The lake itself provides excellent fishing, boating (electric only), swimming, kayaking, and canoeing as well as fantastic picnic spots around the lake. Fishing is a favorite pastime on the lake, which is well stocked with channel catfish, crappies, spotted and smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, sunfish, walleyes, and trophy muskies.
2854 Park Blvd, Marion, VA 24354, Phone: 276-781-7400
9.John W. Flannagan Reservoir
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Located in Dickenson County in Virginia’s Appalachia region, the John W. Flannagan Reservoir is a 1,145-acre lake that was named after Congressman, John Williams Flannagan, Jr. The lake was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1964 and provides drinking water and flood protection and for areas downstream of Pound River and Big Sandy River. Although the lake was built primarily for flood control, it also provides an array of recreational activities, the most popular of which is fishing. The deep calm waters are stocked with a variety of sport fish species, including channel and flathead catfish, bluegill and crappie, carp and musky, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and hybrid striped bass.
Dickenson County, Appalachia Region
10.Kerr Lake / John H. Kerr Reservoir
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Kerr Lake, also known as the John H. Kerr Reservoir, is a 48,900-acre body of water that straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border and offers a recreational wonderland with excellent boating, fishing, camping, sailing, skiing, and swimming. Created by the impoundment of the Roanoke and Dan Rivers in 1952 for flood control and for generation of hydroelectric power, the lake today attracts a wealth of locals and visitors who come to enjoy the beautiful scenic surroundings and cold deep waters. Originally called Buggs Island Lake after an island in the Roanoke River just below the dam, the dam is now named after the U.S. Senator from North Carolina and is located about 110 miles from Richmond.
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Spanning 13,000 acres of Virginia's Northern and Central tourism regions, Lake Anna is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the state. Created by damming the North Anna River in 1971, Lake Anna provides cooling water to the North Anna Nuclear Generating Station and is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and swimming. The lake shares the surrounding land with Lake Anna State Park, which was formerly known as “Gold Hill” as it housed the Goodwin Gold Mine. Today, Lake Anna State Park offers many activities, ranging from camping, scenic lakefront picnic areas, excellent hiking trails, and a modern visitor's center with plenty of information about the park, the lake, and its surroundings.
Lake Anna State Park: 6800 Lawyers Rd, Spotsylvania Courthouse, VA 22551, Phone: 540-854-5503
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Situated only 10 minutes from Colonial Heights and Petersburg and 30 minutes from metropolitan Richmond, Lake Chesdin offers some of the best freshwater sports fishing and outdoor recreation in Virginia. Also known as the Chesdin Reservoir, Lake Chesdin was created by the impoundment of the Appomattox River as a drinking water supply reservoir in 1968 and is currently controlled by the Appomattox River Water Authority. Resting on the Chesterfield and Dinwiddie County lines in east-central Virginia, the lake is easily accessed and offers an array of outdoor activities such as boating, exceptional fishing, kayaking and swimming as well as hiking, mountain biking, camping, and golf.
Chesterfield and Dinwiddie Counties, East-Central Virginia
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One of a chain of three lakes created by dams on the Roanoke River, Lake Gaston covers 20,300 acres across two Virginia counties and three North Carolina counties. Established in 1963 to generate hydroelectric power, the Lake Gaston is the middle lake in a chain of three, the other two of which are Kerr Lake and the Roanoke Rapids Lake. Boasting relatively constant water levels with an average depth of 40 feet and more than 350 miles of shoreline to explore, Lake Gaston attracts many visitors to its sparkling blue waters, which offer a wealth of land and water-based activities and a relaxed lake lifestyle. Water-lovers can enjoy leisurely cruising the lake on pontoons or zipping around on jet skis or water skis as well as exceptional fishing, sailing, and kayaking.
Roanoke River, Virginia and North Carolina
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Set in scenic Sparta in Caroline County, Lake Holly is a small private lake of only 20 acres that provides excellent water skiing. Owned by the Lake Holly Ski Club (LHSC), the lake was built by a major league baseball player in 1968 and was once home to Edmund Pendleton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. In addition to being a famous waterskiing lake, the land around the lake features several attractions worth visiting, including the 43,000-acre Fort A.P. Hill Military Reservation that is home to an abundance of birds and wildlife and offers wildlife watching and hunting.
Sparta, Caroline County
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Tucked away amongst the rolling hills of Prince William County in Northern Virginia, Lake Manassas is an 800-acre lake that was created by the impoundment of Broad Run River in 1969 to provide municipal drinking water. Today, recreational activities on the lake are restricted, though the shoreline of the lake is dotted with gated communities and permanent residencies, and there are plenty of land-based activities to enjoy such as hiking, mountain biking, nature trails, and basketball. There is also a swimming center and tennis courts as well as three well-stocked fishing ponds with an abundance of channel catfish, black and white crappie, large and smallmouth bass, and walleye.
Prince William County, Northern Virginia
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Surrounded by the rolling hills of Central Virginia and within easy distance of Charlottesville and Richmond, Lake Monticello is a beautiful 350-acre lake that forms part of a private community. Created by a dam on a short tributary of the Rivanna River, Lake Monticello boasts a marina with docks, a launching area, and five lovely beaches with safe swimming and picnic areas. The lake is well known for its water-based activities such as boating, kayaking, sailing, swimming, and fishing, with stocks of black and white crappie, large and smallmouth bass, and walleye. The lake also has a smaller pond known as Tufton Lake that is only used for fishing.
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Lake Moomaw is a magnificent lake spanning over 2,500 acres that offers a year-round outdoor wonderland with a variety of recreational opportunities. Nestled in the Allegheny Highlands just north of Covington in the Shenandoah Valley region in western Virginia, the lake is surrounded by the George Washington National Forest and is a scenic outdoor paradise. Boasting 43 miles of undeveloped forested shoreline, the lake offers a wealth of land and water-based activities, from hiking, mountain biking, nature trails, and wildlife watching to boating, fishing, swimming, and kayaking. Visitors can enjoy a plethora of natural sites around the lake such as the Gathright Wildlife Management Area, Douthat State Park, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, and the Humpback Bridge – the only arched single-span covered bridge in the country.
Covington, Shenandoah Valley and Allegheny Highlands, Western Virginia
18.Lake of the Woods
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Nestled between Fredericksburg and Culpeper in Central Virginia's Orange County, Lake of the Woods is a private residential community consisting of two lakes that were created primarily for recreational use for the residents. Lake of the Woods is made up of the 500-acre Main Lake and 35-acre Keaton's Lake, also known as Fishing Lake, which both provide an array of land and water-based activities. The more substantial Main Lake boasts seven access points, two marinas, and eight lovely swimming and sunbathing beaches, while Keaton's Lake has one public access location and one beach. Popular with anglers, both lakes are well stocked with fish, including largemouth bass, bluegill, yellow perch, channel catfish, and walleye.
Fredericksburg and Culpeper, Virginia
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Stretching along the border of Virginia’s Central and Southern tourism regions near Altavista in Pittsylvania County, the Leesville Lake is a 3000+ acre is one of Virginia's prolific fishing and outdoor recreation reservoirs. Created by damming the Roanoke River after it flows out of the Smith Mountain Lake Dam, the reservoir forms part of the Smith Mountain Lake hydropower generation project and is used for water storage projects. The lake has several well-developed public recreation areas with a wealth of water-based outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, swimming, sailing, birding, and wildlife viewing along with boat ramps for launching craft, picnic areas for relaxing, and marinas for anglers and boaters.
Altavista, Pittsylvania County
20.Little Creek Lake
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Surrounded by the beautiful landscapes of the James City County Parks and Recreation system, the Little Creek Lake is a 996-acre reservoir with 40 miles of shoreline and an average depth of 35 feet. Owned by the City of Newport News, the lake was created to supply water to areas of the Virginia Peninsula and the historic James River and York River areas of Virginia. It is also a favorite spot for a variety of outdoor recreation such as boating, fishing, and swimming. Gas-powered boats are prohibited on the lake, but visitors can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, sailing, electric-powered boating, and fishing for black crappie, channel catfish, chain pickerel, largemouth bass, striped bass, sunfish, yellow perch, and walleye.
James City County Parks and Recreation System
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Perched on Salt Pond Mountain in Giles County in the Blue Ridge Highlands, Mountain Lake is one of only two natural lakes in the state of Virginia and boasts an incredible geological history and recreation background stretching back to before the Civil War. Mountain Lake is unusual in that it was formed more than 6,000 years ago by a rock slide of sandstone boulders. However, it rests over fault lines in the sandstone bottom that provide another outlet for the water, causing the lake to have dried up six times in the past 4,500 years. When the lake is filling up or full, visitors can enjoy water-based activities such as boating, kayaking, swimming, and fishing, and they can also look for fossils and shells along the exposed parts of shoreline that were once submerged.
Salt Pond Mountain, Giles County, Blue Ridge Highlands
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Meaning “at the end of water” in the dialect of the Native American Dogue tribe who occupied Northern Virginia until the mid-1600s, Occoquan Reservoir is a long, meandering 2,100-acre lake that traces the border of Fairfax and Prince William counties. Occoquan Reservoir was formed by the convergence of the Occoquan and Bull Run Rivers and impounded by 1957 by the Alexandria Water Company to provide drinking water. It is also an alluring fishing spot that attracts anglers and fly-fishers who come to catch channel catfish, black and white crappie, bluegill, flathead catfish, largemouth bass, flathead catfish, northern pike, and white perch. Other activities on and around the lake include boating, sailing, kayaking, swimming, hiking, horseback riding, birding, and wildlife watching.
Fairfax and Prince William Counties
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Nestled in southwestern Virginia's Franklin, Henry, and Patrick Counties and surrounded by the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains, Philpott Lake is an irregular-shaped 2,880-acre reservoir that stretches along the border of Virginia's Blue Ridge Highlands and Southern tourism regions. Created by damming the Smith River in 1952, Philpott Lake provides hydroelectric power and flood control, and it offers a wealth of year-round outdoor recreation for visitors. The shoreline of the lake features multiple campgrounds, sandy beaches with protected swimming areas, and boat launches for a variety of craft, including canoes, kayaks, power boats, jet skis, and pontoon boats. Fishing is a favorite pastime on the lake with anglers trying for largemouth and smallmouth bass and walleye.
Franklin, Henry, and Patrick Counties, Blue Ridge Highlands
24.Sandy River Lake
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Nestled in the undulating hills of Piedmont in Central Virginia, Sandy River Lake is a small reservoir that is fed by Little Sandy Creek, Marrowbone Creek, and the Sandy River, and it is a fantastic fishing spot. The reasonably unknown reservoir is a bustling warm-water fishery and home to an abundance of fish ranging from channel catfish, black and white crappie, and bluegill to redear sunfish, chain pickerel, and trophy-sized largemouth bass. Access to the lake is from the 150-foot fishing pier or via a double lane concrete boat ramp, and only electric motor boats are allowed. The lake is surrounded by a 300-acre nature area that is full of birds and wildlife, and the quiet coves, rocky shore, and hidden sandy beaches are best explored by canoe or kayak.
Piedmont, Central Virginia
25.Smith Mountain Lake
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Nicknamed the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge,” Smith Mountain Lake boasts topaz blue waters, emerald green shores, and soaring surrounding mountains and is one of Virginia's most popular recreational lakes. Nestled in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, the 20,800-acre lake has more than 580 miles of coved shoreline. It is fed by the Blackwater and Roanoke Rivers and provides a spectacular location for enjoying the great outdoors. Originally built for flood control and hydroelectric power generation, the lake now offers exceptional recreational opportunities and is dotted with anglers, boaters, canoeists, kayakers, jet skiers, water skiers, and wakeboarders from spring through autumn.
Bedford, Franklin, and Pittsylvania Counties, Blue Ridge Mountains
25 Best Lakes in Virginia
- Briery Creek Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Ljiljana - Fotolia.com
- Carvins Cove Lake, Photo: Courtesy of hepjam - Fotolia.com
- Chickahominy Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Luca - Fotolia.com
- Claytor Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Steve - Fotolia.com
- Douthat Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Elena Dijour - Fotolia.com
- Fairy Stone Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Szymon - Fotolia.com
- Germantown Lake, Photo: Courtesy of R+R - Fotolia.com
- Hungry Mother Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Robert Kneschke - Fotolia.com
- John W. Flannagan Reservoir, Photo: Courtesy of Yuan - Fotolia.com
- Kerr Lake / John H. Kerr Reservoir, Photo: Courtesy of ViDi Studio - Fotolia.com
- Lake Anna, Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Carroll - Fotolia.com
- Lake Chesdin, Photo: Courtesy of Molly - Fotolia.com
- Lake Gaston, Photo: Courtesy of Jo Ann Snover - Fotolia.com
- Lake Holly, Photo: Courtesy of jonbilous - Fotolia.com
- Lake Manassas, Photo: Courtesy of Mark Herreid - Fotolia.com
- Lake Monticello, Photo: Courtesy of demimerzie - Fotolia.com
- Lake Moomaw, Photo: Courtesy of aruizhu - Fotolia.com
- Lake of the Woods, Photo: Courtesy of Grace - Fotolia.com
- Leesville Lake, Photo: Courtesy of javarman - Fotolia.com
- Little Creek Lake, Photo: Courtesy of gabort - Fotolia.com
- Mountain Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Al - Fotolia.com
- Occoquan Reservoir, Photo: Courtesy of davin - Fotolia.com
- Philpott Lake, Photo: Courtesy of fotonaturali - Fotolia.com
- Sandy River Lake, Photo: Courtesy of gpointstudio - Fotolia.com
- Smith Mountain Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Spahr - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of pabrady63 - Fotolia.com