Lake Martin, Alabama

Lake Martin, one of the biggest artificial lakes in the United States, is a popular recreation destination for swimming, camping, golfing, boating, water skiing, fishing, and several other outdoor activities. Situated in the Elmore, Tallapoosa, and Coosa counties of the US State of Alabama, Lake Martin is the state's third-largest lake. The Alexander City Jazz Festival, which takes place every June in the center of Alexander City and at the Lake Martin Amphitheater, is one of the many events that Lake Martin hosts throughout the year. The lake, with its parks, marinas, and various landmarks, attracts thousands of tourists yearly.

Geography Of Lake Martin

Scenic view of a rock outcropping on Lake Martin on an early spring day.
Scenic view of a rock outcropping on Lake Martin on an early spring day.

Situated in Alabama's east-central portion, Lake Martin covers an area of 178 sq. km and has a maximum length of 50 km. With more than 1,196 km of wooded shoreline, the lake reaches a maximum depth of 46 m. The Tallapoosa River, which feeds Lake Martin, is formed by the meeting of the McClendon and Mud Creeks in Georgia's Paulding County. Besides being a popular recreation area, there are also several waterfront neighborhoods and luxury homes in Lake Martin. Some of the major cities located close to the lake include Alexander City, Jacksons Gap, Dadeville, and Eclectic. 

History Of Lake Martin

A historic church located near Lake Martin, Alabama
A historic church located near Lake Martin, Alabama.

The lake was created by the construction of Martin Dam on the Tallapoosa River. The Martin Dam's construction which began in 1923 and ended three years later in 1926, led to the creation of the world's largest man-made body of water at that time. The dam, which was originally called Cherokee Bluffs for the geological feature on which it was built, was renamed in 1936 to honor Thomas Martin, the President of Alabama Power Company. The Lake Martin reservoir, built largely to manage flooding and to provide hydroelectric power to Alabamans, also offers plenty of recreational options for boaters and anglers. The area around the lake has changed over the last 20 years as development has exploded. Alabama Power Company serve as the owner of the majority of the remaining empty lots near the lake. Luxury homes are being built on many vacant power company properties as more and more people are selecting the Lake Martin area as their weekend getaway.

Ecology Of Lake Martin

A yellow-bellied slider turtle on the beach of Lake Martin in Alabama
A yellow-bellied slider turtle on the beach of Lake Martin in Alabama.

Lake Martin supports various fish species including largemouth bass, striped bass, white bass, black crappie, channel catfish, flathead catfish, bluegill, and redear sunfish. Several faunal species are found in the Lake Martin area including bobwhite quail, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, a variety of resident songbirds like the eastern bluebird, downy woodpecker, and a large number of migrating warblers, hummingbird, and other avian species. Although spring and fall are the ideal times to fish the lake, Lake Martin is renowned for having some of the best winter bass fishing in the state. Lake Martin also supports two species of American Trout Lily including Harper's Dogtooth Violet and Harper's Trout Lily. Some of the economically important trees found in the lake area include Virginia pine, longleaf, loblolly, and shortleaf. 

Attractions In Lake Martin

Acapulco Rock in Lake Martin on the Tallapoosa River in Alabama
Acapulco Rock in Lake Martin on the Tallapoosa River in Alabama. Image Credit: Rebecca Hagen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lake Martin is home to several landmarks, including the Kowaliga Bridge, Smith Mountain Fire Tower, and many small popular islands such as Goat Island, Deer Island, Young's Island, Wilmarth's Island, Cemetery Island, etc. Chimney Rock, a sizable rock formation that resembles a chimney, is perhaps the most recognizable feature on the lake. The rock that most people mistakenly refer to as Chimney Rock is Acapulco Rock, and it is several hundred yards away from the real Chimney Rock. Every year, thousands of boaters stop by the location to see people scale a 60-foot high rock and jump out into the lake.

Stone sign marking the trailhead for Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail.
Stone sign marking the trailhead for Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail. Editorial credit: JNix / Shutterstock.com

The Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail was the first route that the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association constructed along the shores of Lake Martin. The trail is a pleasant, meandering walk through a pine and hardwood forest that, from spring to summer, is covered in mountain laurel. Large rock outcroppings and bluffs are encountered along the way. The trek's high point is a stroll along the lake's stunning, clear waters, where you can find several places to rest and meditate while enjoying a pleasant breeze that comes off the water.

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