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Wish List for Winter Boating

Lake surrounded by mountains

We’re year-round boating enthusiasts over here at BoatLIFE, and chances are that you are, too. In celebration of the start of the new year, we’ve rounded up our top five picks on our wish list for winter boating! Check them out below, and if you have any favorite spots to add to our wish list for winter boating, feel free to drop them in the comments. We’d love to hear from you! As always, check out all of our blog posts for boating tips, tricks, and more travel recommendations. Happy (winter) sails to you!

5. Lake Powell

Nestled at the northernmost tip of Arizona and spanning three counties across the southernmost border of Utah, Lake Powell is a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. It is the second largest reservoir based on capacity in the United States behind that of Lake Mead. Visited by over two million tourists a year, Lake Powell offers year-round activities as the water almost never freezes, with the only exception being at the northernmost point, according to Visit Utah. Winter is a great time for fishing on Lake Powell, with its populations of crappie, striped bass, and walleye. Before venturing out, be sure to check the local forecasts and water levels available at the National Parks Service website as Lake Powell and its surrounding tributaries have been affected by a 20-year megadrought. Although late 2023 saw a rebound in the lake’s water levels, the area is still affected as indicated by NASA Earth Observatory. As always, plan your travels in advance and use caution when on the water.

4. Lake of the Ozarks

Another great winter boating destination is the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri. The reservoir features year-round beautiful scenic boating and fishing options, as well as campgrounds and recreational areas. December is the start of crappie season, so bundle up, grab a guide, and go angling. Be cautious of the drawdown period in early January, as lake levels will be reduced to prevent spring flooding. This is on top of drought-like conditions, so be sure to check water levels and local forecasts before venturing out. Check out the United States Geological Survey’s water levels table for more information.

3. Lake Marion

South Carolina’s largest lake and considered the 35th largest lake in the United States, Lake Marion spans over 315 miles and 110,000 acres. It is centrally located and the northernmost of two bodies of water that comprise the Santee Cooper Reservoir. Lake Moultrie, located seven miles to its southeast, is the other. Created to provide hydroelectric power to the rural areas following the Great Depression, these man-made lakes welcome visitors and locals for their water sports, fishing, and camping. With a maximum depth of approximately 77 feet, Lake Marion provides consistent year-round boating however several underwater hazards like dead trees and stumps exist. Hiring a local guide and staying within the marked channels are always good ideas.

2. Lake Mead

Spanning across the southernmost tip of Nevada and the easternmost edge of Arizona, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir by volume in the United States and second to Lake Powell in terms of surface area. Formed by the Colorado River and the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead comprises a series of four deep basins that follow the Colorado River, boasts over 550 miles of shoreline, and welcomes approximately 8 million visitors annually, according to the National Park Service. A great option for year-round boating, anglers will particularly enjoy Lake Mead in the winter months. Crappies and striped bass are plentiful in the colder waters. According to the Nevada Department of Wildlife, camping by boat is allowed throughout the lake but be sure to check out the following link for up-to-date rules and regulations before boating in Nevada.

1. Lake Tahoe

Many flock to Lake Tahoe in the winter to witness its surreal beauty with its famed crystal clear water surrounded by snowcapped Sierra Nevada peaks. Few know that you can boat on the lake year-round as it never entirely freezes over. The second deepest lake in the United States, Lake Tahoe reaches 1,645 feet at its deepest point. Winter is one of the best times to fish on Lake Tahoe. Species who prefer the colder temperatures, like mackinaw trout, rainbow trout, and kokanee salmon, abound. Before launching in Lake Tahoe, be sure to check the state and local advisories for watercraft as some years prohibit motorized vehicles. You should also familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations in advance of venturing out. Without a doubt, our top pick for winter boating would be an unforgettable voyage on Lake Tahoe.

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