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  • Lakes to visit

    I live in south central Ohio surrounded by many average to below average lakes. My parents own a place in hot springs village Arkansas where the water is crystal clear, low traffic, and very deep allowing for smooth waters, not to mention hills/mountains to break up weather. My favorite lake we boat in is lake Ouchita just outside of hot springs. Puts lake Cumberland to shame. Top 2 cleanest lakes in America. I’m looking for input for lake vacation destinations to visit, non-commercialized low traffic hidden gems within 5 or 6(ish) hours from the Buckeye state. I’m not looking for the cumberlands and Norris’. I would like to hear some great spots to visit where you surf/wakeboard/ski on smooth waters, drink adult beverages on the water without looking over your shoulder constantly, good for kids, and available lake houses to rent. Let me know some Great Lake secrets so we can book some vacations when the seniority based vacation list is due at the firehouse. Thanks in advance. If you have never been to lake Ouchita do yourself a favor and go visit. It will not disappoint.

  • #2
    Man I feel like this is a tough question because all bodies of water unique and everyone values different categories when critiquing their favorite lakes. Everyone who frequents a specific lake is going to have their reasons why they prefer that lake over another. From where you're at you can visit the lakes up in Michigan and Wisconsin which are beautiful but are going to be smaller, more private, and colder water temps. I'll skip the Dale Hallow, Cumberland, Laurel, Norris category since it sounds like you're already familiar, although I have a high appreciation for those lakes. I'm on Cumberland +/-20 weekends a year, and while I enjoy visiting other lakes I'm never disappointed at Cumberland. I have got to where I prefer calmer weekends and just manage to get through the holidays and large crowd times though. We are also there enough that we know where to disappear at but yes it can get crowded and choppy at times and the water patrol is thick. If you're looking to stay within 5-6 hours of Ohio then you're not going to get much farther than Tennessee and the northern lakes in Georgia/Alabama. You might want to narrow down your preferences as far as whether you prefer deeper lakes, or river type waterways like the Tennessee River chain of lakes. Also do you like the privacy of core ran lakes or the convenience of public lakes with houses right on the water.

    Tennessee is full of options, and there will be plenty of people that comment with more first hand experience than me. We visit Centerhill 1-2 times a year and love it but honestly is a baby version of Cumberland. Telico, Watts Bar, Wheeler, Chic, and Guntersville are all Tennessee River lakes that are great but different, it seems like the farther south you go on that list of lakes the more shallower they are and more of fishing lakes than recreation. There's also lots of love for Alatoona, Lewis Smith, and Tim's Ford on here too.

    I'm very familiar with the Virginia/Carolina lakes but I'm sure they have some great spots to offer that are on the edge of your traveling distance also. Maybe consider week day visits also, any lake you choose is going to be calmer and less crowded during the week.

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    • #3
      Dmbeck thanks for the reply. Make no mistake I truly enjoy Cumberland and dale hollow. I have yet to go to Norris though I hear great reviews. These are not lakes I avoid just trying to find some hidden gems with calm water, low key, non congested lake house on the water type lakes. The lakes you don’t really hear about or places you don’t hear about because those commercialized lakes take all the hype. I also understand if we book a house during July 4th weekend it will be crowded no matter what same with weekdays over weekends. Just looking to start conversation and see what people have to say. Never know, maybe a few MC team talk families end up at the same lake during the same week.

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      • #4
        Very interested in other's opinions here. Went to Norris for the first time in over 20 years, won't go back, ever, just too many houses, boat traffic, and people. Went to Torch Lake couple summers ago, was quiet for a mid week trip, don't think it's that way on the weekend. Water was chilly! Been to Raystown a couple times, like a mini Cumberland, and traffic too.

        I have always wanted to make better use of the Ohio River, but not many people do. Wonder why?

        Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie islands for me.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Dd24skater View Post
          I have always wanted to make better use of the Ohio River, but not many people do. Wonder why?
          Because it's horrible! [emoji16]

          In all seriousness, the Ohio River is susceptible to condition changes (rise and resulting debris, wind direction, current...which you have to account for when doing water sports, recreational AND commercial traffic, etc.). With that said, the conditions can be exceptional on any day of the week.

          Pics are our riding spot, which we just happen to live along.

          EDIT: In our neck of the woods (Cincy area) the Ohio River primarily falls under Kentucky laws, which means driver and mirror are only requirements when pulling a rider.

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          • #6
            I don’t know much of anything back there- so take it with a grain of salt- I’m from
            The northwest, but my brother lives south of Indianapolis- I went to visit him this spring and we rented a pontoon boat on lake Manroe (towards Bloomington?). I was pretty impressed- zero boat traffic- not many houses, water was super clean and crazy warm for how early it was in the year. I was about going crazy on a pontoon boat with all that nice water.

            I only went that one day- and I don’t even know how close that is to Ohio...


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            • #7
              Lake Jocassee SC/NC. Barely developed, mountains. Boat up waterfalls that you can dunk the bow under. Deep green water. Cabins need to be booked a year+ in advance but they also have RV pads with water and electric that are easy to book. We do the RV pads and tent camp.

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              • #8
                Well if you traveled to Quachita you skipped Greers Ferry which is also very clean(not unusual for us to be able to see the blue ink on PVC poles on slalom course 6'under the water). You can stay at VRBO places, Red Apple Inn, the few hotels around or out on the Little Red River and trout fish after boating.

                Be aware, we are still backwards in the sense that we live in a Dry County so BYOB for your stay. If you stay at Red Apple Inn, guest are "immediate" members for the restaurant and bar there.

                During the week lake traffic is minimal. Slalom course is in the cove with Sandy Beach and Heber Springs marina. 43,000+ of great water, however this might be over your 6hr requirement for travel.
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dd24skater View Post
                  Very interested in other's opinions here. Went to Norris for the first time in over 20 years, won't go back, ever, just too many houses, boat traffic, and people.
                  We went to norris for the first time this year. We hardly saw any people and barely any traffic. We stayed on the dam end of the lake and would do it again in an instant.

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                  • #10
                    Tons of northern Michigan lakes would meet your requirements but depending on the time of year they'll all be colder. The bigger the lake the better opportunity for deeper waters for surfing and less traffic density. That however also means it'll be more susceptible to wind and rougher water. That also means that there are going to be trade offs with every lake. If you camp you could plan to do 2 or 3 lakes in a week in northern Michigan with ease or if you hit one like Mullet you can use the waterway between several of them to try your luck on a couple of them without leaving your boat.

                    Larger Lakes that I've personally visited that I would recommend would be.....

                    Higgins
                    Houghton
                    Torch
                    Bellaire
                    Elk
                    Mullett
                    St. Helen
                    Burt
                    Black
                    Walloon

                    Each offer a slightly different experience but are all good choices. South Central Michigan has it's share of nice lakes as well but they're typically shallower and smaller in nature. Due to their proximity to Ann Arbor and the western suburbs of Detroit they also tend to be much more crowded especially on the weekends. As such if you're looking for something special I'd keep going north.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by bturner2 View Post
                      Tons of northern Michigan lakes would meet your requirements but depending on the time of year they'll all be colder. The bigger the lake the better opportunity for deeper waters for surfing and less traffic density. That however also means it'll be more susceptible to wind and rougher water. That also means that there are going to be trade offs with every lake. If you camp you could plan to do 2 or 3 lakes in a week in northern Michigan with ease or if you hit one like Mullet you can use the waterway between several of them to try your luck on a couple of them without leaving your boat.

                      Larger Lakes that I've personally visited that I would recommend would be.....

                      Higgins
                      Houghton
                      Torch
                      Bellaire
                      Elk
                      Mullett
                      St. Helen
                      Burt
                      Black
                      Walloon

                      Each offer a slightly different experience but are all good choices. South Central Michigan has it's share of nice lakes as well but they're typically shallower and smaller in nature. Due to their proximity to Ann Arbor and the western suburbs of Detroit they also tend to be much more crowded especially on the weekends. As such if you're looking for something special I'd keep going north.
                      You mean northern lower Michigan....

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                      • #12
                        Most people (other than yupper's) in Michigan consider anything above Bay City northern Michigan. Anything across the bridge is considered the UP (pronounced U P ). If you have to ask what bridge you need to visit the state some time......

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                        • #13
                          Houghton Lake is really nice, but shallow.

                          20k acres, avg depth is 7.5' foot, max depth is 22'.

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