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    America's Most Beautiful Lakes

    By By Deb Hopewell
    May 23, 2014, 9:23:14 AM EDT

    Diving off a dock. Casting a fishing line from a boat. Sitting on a warm rock with your toes dangling in the cool water. This is the stuff that summer memories are made of—and it all happens at the lake.

    With thousands scattered across the country, chances are good that you’re no farther than a tankful of gas away from a great lake. But not all are created equal: some lakes won Mother Nature’s lottery when it comes to natural good looks.

    Take, for example, the impossibly blue, deep water of Oregon’s Crater Lake, encircled by an extinct volcano, or clear, cold Lake Superior, as it laps against dramatic sandstone cliffs. Even Mark Twain was so moved by the scene at Lake Tahoe that he put aside his typical dry wit, declaring it “the fairest picture the whole earth affords.”

    Man has also played a part in creating some pretty spectacular lakes. When Glen Canyon was dammed to provide electricity downstream, the Colorado River rose to form Lake Powell, which snakes its way through red slickrock canyons on the Utah-Arizona border. In California, meanwhile, the striking limestone formations of Mono Lake are visible now because its water sources were diverted, and the lake shrank.

    But don’t just take our word for it: hit the road to seek out these beautiful watery wonders.

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    Lake Powell, UT/AZIt’s not often that humans can accidentally create something of such extraordinary natural beauty. Initially, this man-made lake stirred loud outcries when Glen Canyon was dammed, and the Colorado River rose to create the second-largest reservoir in the U.S. But there’s no denying the mystical allure of this long, sinewy lake, as its warm blue waters wind through sheer red-sandstone cliffs, filling more than 90 side canyons. However, nature made her mark on the shore of one such canyon with the sandstone Rainbow Bridge, regarded as the world’s longest natural arch.


    Lake George, NY

    The so-called Queen of American Lakes was a playground for Gilded Age robber barons, many of whose original waterfront stone mansions still line a 10-mile stretch known as Millionaire’s Row—and where the grand Victorian-era Sagamore Resort welcomes guests to its own island. At The Narrows, the southern Adirondacks squeeze the spring-fed lake into a five-mile stretch dotted with hundreds of islands of all sizes, described by Thomas Jefferson as “the most beautiful water I ever saw.”


    Lake Santeetlah, NC

    Deep within the Nantahala National Forest and surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains, Lake Santeetlah’s forested 76-mile shoreline is almost completely protected from development. The result is an oasis of quietude for fishing, paddling a canoe or kayak, or just relaxing on the beach at Cheoah Point. This 3,000-acre man-made lake, formed when the Cheoah River was dammed in 1928, remains remarkably pristine. Keep an eye out for otters, beavers, bald eagles, and hawks.

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