The word Connecticut was developed from numerous spellings of the Algonquian word for ‘long tidal river’, with the state being named after the Connecticut River. The river cuts through the centre of it, creating the Connecticut River Valley. It is the USA’s third smallest state, though it has a diverse range of geography ranging from rolling mountains to sea level beaches.
Although technically Connecticut does not lie along the ocean, its entire south border sits on the Long Island Sound. In addition to being home to rivers, valleys and mountains, the state also has numerous lakes to enjoy. Here is a list of the 15 best lakes in Connecticut.
1. Squantz Pond; Fairfield County
Although called a pond, this recreational lake sits in the Squantz Pond State Park. The lake features a beach surrounded by a mountain like setting, making it a picturesque place to spend a day.
Squantz Pond is located in the town of New Fairfield at the west end of the state near New York. It is open year round, though it is most popular in the summer months, offering boating, fishing and even scuba diving.
Squantz Pond State Park is a haven for photographers thanks to its stunning setting. It is also a favourite place for outdoor lovers that wish to go hiking along one of its many trails.
2. Candlewood Lake; Fairfield & Litchfield Counties
Just next to Squantz Pond is Connecticut’s largest lake; Candlewood Lake. This manmade lake is bordered by five towns, making it a popular summer destination for locals of the area.
This is arguably the most popular lake in the state thanks to its excellent recreational activities. These include swimming, boating, fishing and boarding.
Many tourists visit the lake to go scuba diving and explore the underwater buildings and roads from the 18th century. Some also come to dive into the water off of the 7.6 metres high Chicken Rock.
3. Bantam Lake; Litchfield County
Bantam Lake is the largest natural lake in the state at 383 hectare. The lake is also located in the western half of Connecticut between the towns of Morris and Litchfield.
The north end of the lake is a protected area thanks to its large array of bird species. This makes it a haven for bird lovers from all across the globe.
The USA’s oldest ever water ski club can be found along its shoreline, as can numerous camping grounds and boat launches. It is also home to the Litchfield Hills Rowing Club and two public beaches.
4. Lake Zoar; Fairfield & New Haven Counties
This 368 hectare reservoir sits along the Housatonic River and is bordered by four towns. It was formed by the Stevenson Dam in 1919.
Lake Zoar is home to four boat launches, with one being situated in each town. The 10.5 kilometre Zoar Trail encircles the lake, providing spectacular views of it.
The lake is stocked with bass, perch, catfish carp and trout, making fishing very popular. Water skiing and jet skiing are also very popular.
5. Lake Lillinonah; Fairfield & New Haven Counties
Connecticut’s second largest lake was formed in 1955 through the creation of the Shepaug Dam. The lake sits along the Housatonic River near the confluence of the Shepaug River, and is surrounded by six towns.
Lake Lillinonah’s 72 kilometre shoreline is a beautiful wooded area, making it a very tranquil lake. The woods are a popular place for bald eagles to call home, especially in the winter.
The lake happens to be one of the state’s premier fishing destinations, home to a plethora of bass and Northern pike. It is also home to two state parks that offer excellent hiking, biking and camping.
6. Lake Waramaug; Litchfield County
Named after Chief Waramaug of the Potatuck Native American tribe, this natural lake has a total surface area of 265 hectare. The lake is fed by the Sucker Brook and flows into the East Aspetuck River.
Lake Waramaug’s shoreline is developed with houses, cottages and boathouses. There are also some commercial properties around the lake, while the Lake Waramaug State Park sits at the very northwest corner of it.
The state park offers the only public access to the lake. It is also a great spot to go swimming, picnicking, fishing and camping.
7. Lake Hayward; Middlesex County
This natural spring-fed lake is located in the town of East Haddam on the eastern half of the state. The 70 hectare lake was named after businessman and inventor Nathaniel Hayward; a founder of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
The lake boasts four beaches, though all are privately run. No powered engines are allowed on the lake, making it a quiet, serene place to spend some time on.
There are numerous private homes and cottages along the lake’s shoreline, as well as a store, a public boat launch and a car park.
8. Crystal Lake; Tolland County
Crystal Lake sits in the town of the same name in the north part of Connecticut; east of the Connecticut River. The lake is best known for Sandy Beach, which is a popular summer destination.
Swimming and sunbathing are arguably the most popular things to do at the beach. Note that there is an admission fee to enter the beach, though it is nominal.
The rest of the shoreline is made up entirely of residential properties. There is a public boat ramp on the west side of the lake, but apart from that and the beach there are very few public facilities, so be sure to come prepared.
9. Saugatuck Reservoir; Fairfield County
This is one of the most popular places to go fishing in all of Connecticut, particularly for trout. Saugatuck Reservoir is also well stocked with bluegill, pickerel, crappie, bass and walleye.
The 335 hectare lake was created by the Samuel P. Senior dam, providing water for its surrounding towns. It is also quite a scenic lake, with the Trout Brook Valley State Park Reserve sitting at the south end of it.
The park is a fantastic place to enjoy hiking and to breathe in the fresh air. There are six trials throughout the park, as well as areas where hunting is permitted.
10. Gardner Lake; New London County
Gardner Lake is a small lake that sits between the towns of Salem, Montville and Bozrah. It was named after a family that owned a large portion of the land surrounding the lake, though the lake was expanded during the construction of a dam.
The 214 hectare lake is a natural lake that is surrounded by a marina, four campgrounds and several private homes. It is also home to the Gardner Lake State Park and the Hopemead State Park.
Within the lake is the Minnie Island State Park, which is known to be Connecticut’s smallest state park. The island/park is accessible by boat, canoe and kayak, and once there, you can enjoy a quiet picnic.
11. Mashapaug Lake; Tolland County
Surrounded by two state parks, Mashapaug Lake is a haven for outdoor lovers. Fishing is offered year round, while in the summer visitors can enjoy a swim.
The 120 hectare lake sits in the town of Union in the northeast part of the state close to Massachusetts. It is very popular amongst locals from both states, though visitors also like spending time here.
The two state parks (Bigelow Hollow State Park and Nipmuck State Forest) allow lake visitors to go hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and camping. The lake also features public boat launches and picnic areas.
12. Mansfield Hollow Lake; Windham & Tolland Counties
Sitting within the Mansfield Hollow State Park, this 180 hectare lake was created by the Mansfield Hollow Dam. Boating and other water sports are popular activities enjoyed on the lake, as is fishing.
Visitors that 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’s shoreline to stop and have a picnic.
There is a public boat launch near the entrance of the state park that is open from 8am to sunset. It is the only boat access point for the Mansfield Hollow Lake.
13. Lake Saltonstall; New Haven County
Located just southeast of the city of New Haven, Lake Saltonstall is a long narrow lake within the Saltonstall Mountain. The lake is almost completely enclosed by the mountain, resulting in some spectacular scenery.
There is a trail surrounding the lake that allows hiking, cycling and cross-country skiing. While on the trail, you may be able to catch a glimpse of a few species of birds and other wildlife.
Swimming is not allowed at Lake Saltonstall, but fishing is. Be aware beforehand that you need a permit to fish here.
14. Hop Brook Lake; New Haven County
Stretching across three communities, Hop Brook Lake is a recreational lake complete with a beach. The 4,200 hectare lake is also a great place to go kayaking, canoeing and sailing.
The lake is stocked with brook, brown and rainbow trout, making it a popular fishing destination. Only non-motorised boats are permitted on the lake, so most fish from a rowboat or a canoe.
Hop Brook Lake is surrounded by forest, which is home to an abundance of wildlife. If you go hiking you may be lucky enough to spot a white-tailed deal or a beaver amongst the ash, maple, pine and oak trees.
15. West Thompson Lake; Windham County
This 80 hectare lake sits in the northeast corner of Connecticut. It was constructing during the damming of the Quinebaug River and today is a popular recreational area.
The West Thompson Lake Campground sits along the east side of the lake, offering visitors a place not only to sleep, but also to enjoy hiking. There are three main trail systems within the area, including the six kilometre Shoreline Trail that loops around the lake.
Fishing, kayaking and boating can be enjoyed on the lake itself, with public boat ramps offering guests access to it. There is also an 18-hole disc golf course on the lake’s shoreline.