Top Ten Water Spots

August 6, 2009, 2:01 pm

Deciding which water spot throughout the country to visit is no easy feat, especially if you consider that the U.S. has over 12,000 miles of coastline. We met this task head on and came up with our top ten favorite water spots, ranging from beaches and lakes to seashores and rivers. Each individual location has something different to offer, whether it is history, wildlife, landmarks or scenery. Take a look at the ones we chose and see which one is best suited for you!

1. Lake Mead, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, NV

Relief from the world’s most rugged terrain is provided by none other than the largest reservoir in the United States. The beauty of Lake Mead, set within the Mojave Desert, is truly a sight to behold. Lake Mead provides 30 miles to explore, with a never-ending list of things to do. From kayaking to water skiing, spending the day at Lake Mead ensures that you will have a blast. It is also rumored that the best fish can be found at Lake Mead. Of course, there is only one way to find out.

If it’s not the thought of blue waters stretching out for as far as the eye can see that will convince you to visit Lake Mead, maybe the history behind it will draw you in. Within the 1.5 million acres that make up Lake Mead National Recreation Area there is archaeological evidence suggesting that several Native American cultures lived in the area up to 10,000 years ago. Visit and learn the history of the Lake Mead’s people and places.

2. Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, ME

What Sand Beach lacks in size, it makes up for with what is thought to be the best sunset ever. Stretching 290 yards, Sand Beach lies on the east of Mount Desert between granite mountains and rocky shores. Perfect for leisurely strolls, Sand Beach is made up of eroded rocks and the skeletons of crabs, mussels and sea urchins. Despite its beauty, strolling on the pristine sand may be as close as you want to come to the water–the temperature rarely rises above 55° F.  However, there will always the brave few who throw caution to wind as they wade into the chilled water. Will you be among the few?

3. Two Medicine Lake, Glacier National Park, MT

Tucked in the southeast section of Glacier National Park, Two Medicine Lake should be on everyone “to visit” list. The shoreline is made of gravel and small rocks making it ideal for walks. The lake provides entryways to many trails that lead into the heart of Glacier. Among those trails are Dawson-Pitamakin Loop Trail, Upper Medicine Lake Trail, Cobalt Lake Trail and Scenic Point Trail. Your trip to Two Medicine Lake will allow you to see waterfalls and sculpted peaks.

The history of the Two Medicine area may be more enchanting than its scenery. The Blackfeet Indians consider the area to be the “Backbone of the World.” At the southwest tip of Two Medicine Lake rises the breathtaking Sinopah Mountain, where the Blackfeet Indians traveled to on their vision quests. The name "Sinopah" comes from the words Sinopa, meaning kit fox, and Sinopaki, meaning Fox Woman. Sinopah was the wife of Rising Wolf, and daughter of Lone Walker, a powerful Blackfeet chief.

4. Sandy Hook, Gateway National Recreation Area, NJ

The history of Sandy Hook dates back more than 400 years, to when it was first discovered by Henry Hudson. With pristine forests and 300 species of birds, Sandy Hook is the ultimate Jersey shore getaway. This 1,665-acre peninsula has a magnificent 7-mile stretch of ocean and beaches perfect for swimming, running, surfing and relaxing.

Overlooking Sandy Hook is the historical Highlands. After your day on the beach, Highlands offers restaurants, outdoor activities, nightlife and lodging accommodations. Sandy Hook is also, most notably, home to Gunnison Beach, the largest clothing-optional beach on the East Coast. So, if you’re looking soak up the sun without worrying about tan lines, Sandy Hook may be just the place for you.

5. Fire Island National Seashore, NY

Established in 1964, Fire Island offers it all. From historic landmarks to marine forests, Fire Island allows for many things to be explored and experienced. Quench your thirst for history by visiting the William Floyd Estate. Named for the man who signed the Declaration of Independence and fought in the American Revolutionary War, this estate preserves 250 years of history.

Once you’ve had your fill of the vast history that Fire Island has to offer, be sure to take in it natural beauty. Visit Sailor’s Haven and take the 1.5-mile boardwalk trail through Sunken Forest or enjoy the solitude and wildlife in Otis Pike Fire Dune Wilderness on the east end of the island. If sunbathing and swimming is the plan, then lie out or take a dip at the beaches in Sailor’s Haven or Watch Hill.

6. St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, MN-WI

Running between Minnesota and Wisconsin, St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is truly a sight to behold. The river offers 252 miles of sparkling clean water. On both sides of the racing blue waters are dense green scenery. Wherever you look nature is abound. St. Croix River is home to an incredible amount of wildlife. If you're lucky you may get to see otters, chipmunks, great blue herons and turtles. Before you go make sure to check out the park's wildlife website.

The river is great for canoeing, and as you’re traveling through the water you may catch glimpses of deer and raccoons through the foliage. End your day with camping at the sites available along the river.

7. Cape Cod National Seashore, MA

Cape Cod is the place to be this summer. This peninsula, extending 60 miles into the Atlantic, has a startling 43,604-acre shoreline. Cape Cod, making it possible to never want to leave, offers several swimming beaches, historic structures and scenic overlooks. Although this seashore may be 18,000 years-old, the 6 million people who visit every year prove that the cape is still in very high demand.

Cape Cod has a diverse range of wildlife. From the spadefoot toad and the piping plover to the red fox and hognose snake, you can expect to see a bunch of animals. 

8. Dry Tortugas National Park, FL

Have no doubt that the boat or plane ride will be well worth the visit to Fort Jefferson. Ponce De Leon discovered the 64,700 acres of Dry Tortugas in 1513. Fort Jefferson, 70 miles west of Key West, is the central feature of Dry Tortugas National Park. While visiting this majestic fort plan to enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, saltwater sport fishing, birdwatching and wildlife watching. While swimming in the sparkling water, look out for the colorful corals, tropical fish, starfish and queen conchs.

9. New River Gorge National River, WV

This 63,000-acre white water river is one of the oldest rivers on the continent and an absolute must-see. Whitewater rafting and fishing are just some of the things you can enjoy on your visit to New River. But if water is not your thing, test your luck at climbing some of the 1,400 rocks climbs that are available throughout the areas. There are also several trails of different varieties that you can enjoy.  

10. Padre Island National Seashore, TX

Sea turtle nesting season just ended at Padre Island National Seashore, one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the United States. However, Padre Island allows for even more activities than watching the release of hatchlings. Go beachcombing for the beautiful shells peppered along the shore. Beach driving is allowed so feel free to cruise along the sand. With over 330 species of birds, which is an astounding 42 percent of all bird species, Padre Island is the perfect retreat for bird enthusiasts. With 130,454 acres, if you desire solitude and relaxation, you’ll certainly find it at Padre Island National Seashore.