INSPIRATION • March 2020
It’s no secret that the USA is blessed with some beautiful bodies of water, but when there are around 30,000 to choose from, picking your lakeside break can be tricky. Travel writer Alex Allen tracks down the five to float your boat
A collapsed volcano crater filled to the brim with rainwater and snow melt, Crater Lake is the deepest in the USA, plunging to an eerily lightless 6.5km. Stunning as it is, it has a spooky sci-fi film aura. Even the names of its two islands – Phantom Ship, a jagged cluster of rock pillars, and Wizard Island, a tree-covered volcanic cinder cone (whose own crater carries the nickname of Witches Cauldron) – suggest that even the ‘Father of Crater Lake’ himself, William Gladstone Steel, was unnerved by its supernatural beauty. In the late 1800s he campaigned relentlessly for it to be granted National Park status – all the more reason to savour it today.
Where to stay: With its wooden floors, stone walls and roaring fireplaces, Crater Lake Lodge is old-school comfortable, with great views to Wizard Island.
How to get there: Crater Lake is a four-hour drive from Portland.
It’s the Cadillac, the Ritz, the 1,000-carat cushion-cut sapphire of lakes. Glittering high in the Sierra Nevada mountains, on the border between California and Nevada, Tahoe has been a fresh-air getaway for big city folk since the early 1900s, attracting plenty of starry residents along the way (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and Liza Minnelli all bought property on its sought-after shores). Today it serves as a jumping-off point for all kinds of break – whether that’s carving up the slopes of its 14 ski resorts, stand-up paddle-boarding its Bombay Sapphire-blue waters or rolling the dice in its Nevada-side casinos.
Where to stay: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, on the north-east Nevada shore, has elegant, wood-accented rooms and is within a free shuttle ride of the Diamond Peak ski resort.
How to get there: Lake Tahoe is a four-hour drive from San Francisco.
Okay, so this lake was man-made – in 1979, when the Wallace Dam was created to impound the waters of the Oconee and Apalachee Rivers to supply the state with hydroelectric power. But that doesn’t stop it being a knockout: sheltered inlets shaded by woods of southern sugar maple, dogwood and wild cherry, and jade waters seething with fish. In fact, the lake is considered by keen anglers as one of the hottest fishing spots east of the Mississippi, with trout, catfish and largemouth bass proliferating in the calm, clean waters.
Where to stay: Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee – five-star swagger right on the lake’s edge, with a well-groomed golf course and gorgeous indoor pool.
How to get there: Lake Oconee is an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Atlanta.
Of the numerous lakes found within New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, Squam is by no means the biggest, deepest or most well-stocked with fish (although you will entice plenty of rainbow trout, landlocked salmon and white perch should you dangle a hook for long enough). It’s the abundance of islands that gives this lake, named after the Abenake word for water, its romantic, slightly wistful appeal. Names like Potato, Utopia and Moon Island read like something from a children’s book of adventures – with all the campfire stories, melting s’mores and star-sprayed night skies that come with it.
Where to stay: The kind of hotel you might imagine Martha Stewart to bunk down in on a lowkey weekend away, The Manor on Golden Pond does New England chintz with just the right amount of restraint.
How to get there: Squam Lake is a two-hour drive from Boston.
It’s an iconic bayou aquascape: the flared trunks of bald cypress trees; the tell-tale islets of an alligator’s nostrils; the cacophony of a million frogs, charming each other in the mist-cloaked moonlight. Caddo Lake, which borders Louisiana to the east and Texas to the west, is an internationally protected wetland and contains one of the largest flooded cypress forests in North America. But that’s not why you’ll want to visit. It’s also the home of Texas’ Bigfoot, with hundreds of sightings of the mythical creature reported in the vicinity since 1965, according to the North American Wood Ape Conservancy. Keep your snacks tightly secured.
Where to stay: Hodge Podge Cottages, run by Daphne Teske, has a collection of charming self-catering cottages in Uncertain, Texas – right on the lake’s edge.
How to get there: Caddo Lake is a three-hour drive from Dallas.
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