10 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Huntsville, AL

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Centrally located in northern Alabama, Huntsville is the perfect starting point for lakes and fishing destinations. 

Most lakes here are vast man-made reservoirs with a wide selection of access areas and incredible recreational opportunities.

Together, these lakes hold eight state fishing records, including buffalo, drum, walleye, and smallmouth bass. Guntersville Reservoir holds the most – four.

Whether you’re into fishing, kayaking, camping, or wakeboarding, there are plenty of options.

Check out what Huntsville has to offer!

Lakes near Huntsville:

  1. Wheeler Lake
  2. Guntersville Lake
  3. Tims Ford Lake
  4. Madison County Lake
  5. Lewis Smith Lake
  6. Cedar Creek Reservoir
  7. Weiss Lake
  8. Laurel Hill Lake
  9. David Crockett Lake
  10. Wilson Lake
Lakes near Huntsville Alabama Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Wheeler Lake

Wheeler Lake Alabama
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Wheeler Lake
  • Distance from Huntsville: 31 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Sailing

Located between Wheeler and Guntersville dams, Wheeler Lake is the second largest in Alabama. This 60-mile stretch of the Tennessee River includes a mix of parklands, wildlife management areas, and private marinas.

A popular bass fishing destination, anglers in northern Alabama often debate whether to fish in the 68,300-acre Wheeler Lake or Lake Guntersville, southeast of Huntsville. Bluegill, bream, black and white crappie, and numerous species of bass and catfish are regularly caught. 

Headquartered in nearby Decatur, the 35,000-acre Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge offers many areas for fishing, wildlife viewing, and birding. The Swan Creek and Mallard-Fox Creek Wildlife Management Areas are state-managed woodlands that sit on opposite sides of Lake Wheeler. 

Located less than 50 miles west of downtown, Joe Wheeler State Park is one of the top resort parks in the Alabama system. 

The park’s marina accommodates up to 250 vessels. A lodge, cabins, lakeside cottages, and campsites are available for overnight visits to this 2,550-acre park. 

2. Guntersville Lake

Guntersville Lake
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Guntersville Lake
  • Distance from Huntsville: 26 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Sailing

Covering a distance of almost 75 miles, Guntersville Lake is the name of 69,000 acres of the Tennessee River that stretches from the Nickajack Dam at New Hope to the Guntersville Dam, southwest of Huntsville. 

Alabama’s largest lake, the majority of this body, follows a northeast-to-southwest trajectory from the Alabama-Tennessee state line to the city of Guntersville. 

The terrain along the southern shore of this lake has more hills due to a large plateau known as Sand Mountain. 

Numerous tributaries such as Town Creek, South Sauty Creek, and Raccoon Creek offer great fishing opportunities. This is one of the top fishing destinations in northern Alabama, having the most fishing state records.

Although largemouth bass is the top fish harvested from the lake, catfish, bream, and sauger are also popular catches. 

Parks and public access sites are available on both sides of the lake. One near Scottsboro – Jackson County Park – offers cabins and campsites, as well as a boat launch. 

The top recreation destination in the region is Lake Guntersville State Park. For impressive views of the lake, visit the lodge atop the bluff. Anglers spend much of their time at the boat ramps near the campground or Short Creek. The park hosts many fishing tournaments.

3. Tims Ford Lake

Tims Ford Lake near Chattanooga Tennessee
Source: wikimedia/CC BY 3.0
  • Website: Tims Ford Lake
  • Distance from Huntsville: 48 miles (1h 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Sailing

Located 48 miles northeast of downtown Huntsville, Tims Ford Lake traces its origins as a reservoir created by the TVA. As lower lands flooded, fishing became a popular pastime at this reservoir.

Bass make up approximately three-quarters of the fish caught in Tims Ford Lake. Other fishing favorites include black and white crappie, as well as walleye. 

Tims Ford State Park, a park in the Tennessee state system, is an ideal sport to get on the lake to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass. 

Its Lake View Marina offers pontoon rentals for those who wish to explore the lake. Boat launches allow anglers to bring their own vessels. Cabins and campground sites are available. 

4. Madison County Lake

Madison County Lake
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Madison County Lake
  • Distance from Huntsville: 16 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics

Madison County Lake offers the ideal destination for anglers who prefer a traditional “fishing hole” rather than a larger lake where they have to compete with swimmers, jet skiers, and leisure boaters. 

This 105-acre lake is fishing simplicity. Located 16 miles northeast of downtown Huntsville and accessible after a drive along a narrow, two-lane county road, this fishing destination has everything one needs to experience the best of north Alabama fishing. 

Visitors will find a concessions office with bait and tackle where they can also obtain licenses and day permits. The ADA-compliant pier allows lakefront access. Basic picnic facilities are available, too. 

Those who prefer a traditional day on the lake can rent an old aluminum flat-bottom boat. For a little extra, they can add an electric trolling motor as they cast their line for catfish, bluegill, largemouth bass, and crappie. 

Rainbow trout are found here during colder months. Unlike larger lakes with full-service facilities that are year-round, hours of operation vary. Creel limits are in effect.

Alabamans – especially in rural areas – continue the tradition of “take your kid hunting” days. Fishing at Madison County Lake offers a year-round “take your kid fishing” location to connect them with nature in a similar way. 

5. Lewis Smith Lake

  • Website: Lewis Smith Lake
  • Distance from Huntsville: 64 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Sailing

Located 64 miles south of downtown near Cullman, Lewis Smith Lake is a magnet for those who enjoy fishing throughout north and central Alabama. 

Closer to Birmingham than Huntsville, this is the perfect destination to fish for largemouth and spotted bass on the 21,200-acre lake while taking in the hills, forests, and scenery of the region from a boat. 

Alabama Power Company’s 300-foot high dam, erected in 1961, formed Smith Lake by impounding the Black Warrior River’s Sipsey Fork. 

The Bankhead National Forest surrounds much of the western portion of the lake. The best facilities along that section are at the Clear Creek Recreation Area, where visitors can find boat ramps, a swimming beach, picnicking, and camping sites. Fishing near the dam is popular.

Smith Lake has a reputation as a place to get on a boat and enjoy the surrounding landscape while casting a line. The large size of this reservoir ensures plenty of great fishing spots.

6. Cedar Creek Reservoir

Lake in Alabama on a sunny day
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Cedar Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from Huntsville: 87 miles (1h 35min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Sailing

Located 87 miles west-southwest of Huntsville and less than 20 miles from the Mississippi state line, Cedar Creek Reservoir was created in 1979. 

The Tennessee Valley Authority established this flood control reservoir that now extends nine miles upstream, offering a recreation destination with a focus on fishing and camping at five public access areas. 

Similar to Lewis Smith Lake, the impounding of the creek has also created the perfect fishing aesthetic for those who bring their boats and want a day to fish while admiring the landscape around them. 

Anglers casting their lines will find spotted and largemouth bass in abundance, along with carp, bream, and many varieties of catfish. 

Canoeing, kayaking, and other leisure water recreation activities are popular, along with fishing. This location offers a great escape. 

7. Weiss Lake

Weiss Lake
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Weiss Lake
  • Distance from Huntsville: 83 miles (1h 45min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Sailing

83 miles southwest of the city, by traveling through Guntersville and over Sand Mountain past Collinsville, Weiss Lake carries the title of “Crappie Capital of the World.” 

This 30,200-acre lake was created after Alabama Power Company built the Weiss Dam that impounded the Coosa River, as well as Little River and the Chattooga River. 

A variety of shoreline fishing locations near coves and shallow flats are found near Centre, Leesburg, and Cedar Bluff. 

The Weiss Boat Ramp along Alabama State Road 9 is a popular starting point. Visitors unfamiliar with the area should be aware of many shallow areas where boats may get stuck. 

In addition to crappie, the lake is abundant with various species of catfish, bass, and sunfish, as well as walleye and rainbow trout. 

While in the area, visitors should stop at Little River Canyon National Preserve. Although motorized boats are prohibited, fly fishing is great near Canyon Mouth Park. The rim drive beginning near Canyon Falls Park offers incredible views, including a few additional seasonal waterfalls. 

8. Laurel Hill Lake

Lake in Tennessee on a sunny day
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Laurel Hill Lake
  • Distance from Huntsville: 82 miles (1h 50min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking

Located 82 miles northwest of Huntsville in Lawrence County, Laurel Hill Lake offers a scenic retreat and unique fishing experiences. 

Except for the southernmost portion of this 325-acre lake, this entire body of water is surrounded by the Laurel Hill Wildlife Management Area, a year-round recreation destination with camping, equestrian trails, and hunting areas. 

Common fish caught at Laurel Hill Lake are blue and channel catfish, redear sunfish, crappie, and bluegill. 

Boat rentals are available, as is a boat launch ramp.

A unique feature at Laurel Hill Lake is the “youth-only” fishing area located near the concessions building. This site offers a great place for kids and teens 16 and under to fish, talk about fish, and share fishing stories away from adults. 

9. David Crockett Lake

Lake in Tennessee during fall
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: David Crockett Lake
  • Distance from Huntsville: 67 miles (1h 35min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking

67 miles northwest of Huntsville and 17 miles away from Laurel Lake, the 40-acre David Crockett Lake – also known as Lake Lindsey – is the focal point of David Crockett State Park

This 1,100-acre park has a great reputation for migrant birdwatching during the fall and spring, as well as enjoyable trails through the oak, pine, and hickory forest.

Named for noted northeast Tennessee native David Crockett, this park includes a variety of exhibits and a water-powered grist mill that illustrate pioneer life in the region. 

Crockett Falls near the Shoal Creek Trail is a popular destination. Cabins have great lakefront views. Rowboats are available for rent throughout the year.

Fishing at this destination allows visitors to unwind and relax. Popular catches include catfish, crappie, bluegill, and bass. 

10. Wilson Lake

Wilson Lake at Wheeler Dam
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Wilson Lake
  • Distance from Huntsville: 53 miles (1h 20min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Sailing

Wilson Lake is a 15,500-acre reservoir between Wilson and Wheeler Dams. Although it offers 166 miles of shoreline, the recreational areas aren’t as many here as at Wheeler Lake nearby.

Still, the nearest public access is the boat ramp on the south side of Wheeler Dam. It has an easy, 2-lane launch and is a popular place to fish as the tailwater provides some of the best angling. In fact, this stretch of water holds a state record for smallmouth bass.

Apart from this ramp, there are a few public parks along the shoreline and a lake’s visitors center at the Wilson Dam.

When it comes to activities, there are hardly any restrictions at this massive reservoir. From swimming and fishing to blasting on jet skis and wakeboarding, everything is possible here.