The word Connecticut developed from the many spellings of “long tidal river” in the Algonquin language, after which the state is named. The river cuts through its center and forms the Connecticut Valley. It’s the third-smallest state in the United States, although its geography ranges from rolling mountains to sea-level beaches.
Although Connecticut doesn’t technically lie along the ocean, its entire southern border lies in Long Island Sound. In addition to its rivers, valleys and mountains, the state has many lakes to enjoy. Here’s a list of the 15 best lakes in Connecticut.
1. Squantz Pond; Fairfield County
Although called a pond, this recreational lake is located in Squantz Pond State Park. The lake has a beach surrounded by mountains, making it a picturesque place to spend the day.
Squantz Pond is located in the town of New Fairfield in the western tip of New York State. It’s open year-round, but is most popular during the summer, offering boating, fishing and even scuba diving.
Squantz Pond State Park is a photographer’s paradise for its stunning setting. It’s also a favorite spot for outdoor enthusiasts looking to hike along one of its many trails.
2. Candlewood Lake; Fairfield and Litchfield Counties
Next to Squantz Pond is Connecticut’s largest lake; Candlewood Lake. The man-made lake borders five towns, making it a popular summer retreat for locals in the area.
This is arguably the most popular lake in the state due to its excellent recreational activities. These include swimming, boating, fishing and boarding.
Many tourists go to the lake to dive and explore the underwater buildings and roads of the 18th century. Some people also dived from the 7.6-meter-high Chicken Rock.
3. Bantam Lake; Litchfield County
Bantam Lake is the largest natural lake in the state at 383 hectares. The lake is also in the western half of Connecticut, between the towns of Morris and Litchfield.
The northern end of the lake is a protected area due to the wide variety of birds. This makes it a paradise for bird lovers around the world.
The oldest water ski club in the United States can be found along the coastline, as well as numerous campgrounds and boat launches. It is also home to the Litchfield Hills Rowing Club and two public beaches.
4. Zor Lake; Fairfield and New Haven Counties
The 368-hectare reservoir is located along the Housatonic River and borders four towns. It was built by Stevenson Dam in 1919.
There are four boats on Zor Lake, one in each town. The 10.5km Zoar trail surrounds the lake and offers spectacular views.
The lake is stocked with bass, bass, catfish, carp, and trout, making fishing very popular. Water skiing and jet skiing are also popular.
5. Liliana Lake; Fairfield and New Haven Counties
Connecticut’s second largest lake was formed in 1955 by the construction of the Shepaug Dam. The lake is located along the Housatonic River near the confluence of the Shepaug River and is surrounded by six towns.
The 72km coastline of Lake Lillinonah is a beautiful wooded area, making it a very peaceful lake. Woods are home to bald eagles, especially in winter.
The lake happens to be one of the state’s premier fishing destinations, with plenty of bass and northern pike. It’s also home to two state parks that offer great hiking, biking, and camping.
6. Lake Waramog; Litchfield County
Named for Waramaug, chief of the Potatuck Native American tribe, this natural lake covers 265 hectares. The lake is fed by Sucker Creek, which flows into the East Aspetak River.
There are houses, villas and houseboats built on the shoreline of Lake Waramog. There are also some commercial properties surrounding the lake, and Lake Waramog State Park is located on the northwest corner of the lake.
The state park provides the only public access to the lake. It’s also a great spot for swimming, picnicking, fishing and camping.
7. Hayward Lake; Middlesex County
This natural spring lake is located in the town of East Haddam in the eastern half of the state. This 70-hectare lake is named after businessman and inventor Nathaniel Hayward; founder of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
The lake has four beaches, but they are all privately run. No powered engines are allowed on the lake, making it a quiet, peaceful place to spend some time.
There are many private homes and cottages on the lake shore, as well as a shop, a public boat launch pad and a parking lot.
8. Crystal Lake; Tolan County
Crystal Lake is located in the town of the same name in northern Connecticut; east of the Connecticut River. Known for its sandy beaches, the lake is a popular summer destination.
Swimming and sunbathing are arguably the most popular activities on the beach. Note that there is an entrance fee to enter the beach, although it is nominal.
The rest of the coastline consists entirely of residential properties. There is a public boat ramp on the west side of the lake, but other than that and the beach, there are few public amenities, so be sure to be prepared.
9. Saugatuck Reservoir; Fairfield County
This is one of the most popular fishing spots in Connecticut, especially for trout. The Saugatuck Reservoir also stocks bluegill, pike, crappie, bass and walleye.
The 335-hectare lake was built by the Samuel P. Senior Dam to provide water to its surrounding towns. It’s also a scenic lake, with Trout Creek Valley State Park Preserve at its southern end.
The park is a great place to enjoy hiking and get some fresh air. There are six proving grounds throughout the park, as well as areas where hunting is permitted.
10. Gardner Lake; New London County
Lake Gardner is a small lake located between Salem, Montville, and the towns of Bozra. It was named after a family that owned most of the land around the lake, although the lake was enlarged during the construction of the dam.
The 214-hectare lake is a natural lake surrounded by a marina, four campsites and several private residences. It is also home to Lake Gardner State Park and Hopemead State Park.
Inside the lake is Minnie Island State Park, which is known as the smallest state park in Connecticut. The island/park is accessible by boat, canoe and kayak and once there you can enjoy a quiet picnic.
11. Lake Marshabog; Tolan County
Surrounded by two state parks, Lake Mashapaug is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Fishing is offered year-round, and in summer visitors can swim.
This 120-hectare lake is located in the northeastern part of the state near the town of Union, Massachusetts. It is very popular with locals in both states, although tourists also like to spend their time here.
Two state parks (Bigelow Hollow State Park and Nipmuck State Forest) allow visitors to the lake for hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and camping. The lake also features a public boat launch and picnic area.
12. Mansfield Hollow Lake; Windham and Toland counties
This 180-hectare lake is located in Mansfield Hollow State Park and was created by the Mansfield Hollow Dam. Boating and other water sports are popular activities on the lake, as is fishing.
Visitors who don’t want to get their feet wet can enjoy hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing. There are also some beautiful places along the lake shore to stop for a picnic.
There is a public boat launch pad near the entrance to the state park, open from 8 a.m. to sunset. It is the only boat access point on Mansfield Hollow Lake.
13. Salton Stoll Lake; New Haven County
Salton Stoll Lake is located in the southeast of New Haven and is a narrow lake in the Salton Stoll Mountains. The lake is almost completely surrounded by mountains, making for some spectacular views.
There is a trail around the lake for hiking, cycling and cross-country skiing. On the trails, you may catch glimpses of several species of birds and other wildlife.
Swimming is not allowed on Saltonstall Lake, but fishing is allowed. Note beforehand that you need a license to fish here.
14. Hexi Lake; New Haven County
Spanning three communities, Hop Brook Lake is a recreational lake with a beach. The 4,200-hectare lake is also a great spot for kayaking, canoeing and sailing.
The lake is stocked with brooks, brown trout and rainbow trout, making it a popular fishing destination. Only non-motorized boats are allowed on the lake, so most fish come from rowboats or canoes.
Hop Brook Lake is surrounded by forest and is home to abundant wildlife. If you go hiking, you may be lucky enough to spot white-tailed beavers or beavers among ash, maple, pine and oak trees.
15. West Thompson Lake; Windham County
This 80-hectare lake is located in the northeastern corner of Connecticut. It was built during the damming of the Quinebaug River and is today a popular recreational area.
The West Thompson Lake Campground is located on the east side of the lake and offers visitors a place to not only sleep but also enjoy hiking. There are three main trail systems in the area, including a six-kilometer shoreline trail that wraps around the lake.
Fishing, kayaking and boating are available on the lake, and a public boat ramp is accessible. There is also an 18-hole disc golf course on the lake shore.
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