Bankhead Lake, Alabama, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Bankhead Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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Looking for Bankhead Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Bankhead Lake

Much more like the river it began as than the lake it is now, Bankhead Lake winds it way through the Metropolitan region of Alabama. With twists and turns rimmed by fingers and coves, the lake stretches 65 miles and flows through parts of Walker, Jefferson, and Tuscaloosa Counties. For almost a hundred years people have been coming to the fishing camps that line Bankhead Lake’s 400-mile shoreline, fleeing the hectic pace of nearby Birmingham. Instead, they’ve opted to rock in chairs on porches, swing their legs off docks, and fall asleep to the music of frogs and crickets all as the water of the Black Warrior River moves on.

Also known as Bankhead Reservoir, the lake is an impoundment of the Black Warrior River. It was created in 1916 with the completion of the John Hollis Bankhead Lock and Dam. The 457-mile long Black Warrior-Tombigbee waterway includes Holt, Warrior, Oliver, Coffeeville, Demopolis and Bankhead, with Bankhead the northernmost lake in the system. The waterway is a US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) project created for commercial navigation, hydroelectric power, and recreation. Some sections, including Bankhead Reservoir were created and managed by the Alabama Power Company.

There are no public access points on Bankhead Lake, but there is significant residential and commercial development, including marinas with boat launches, rentals and supplies. The lake is popular with all kinds of boaters. The shoreline is best explored by canoe or kayak, but the deep water and long stretches make power boating very popular. In fact, using the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, boats can travel from Bankhead Lake down to the Gulf of Mexico.

The original development around Bankhead Lake was primarily fish camps, and many of the 1920’s-era cabins still dot the shore. The lake is popular with anglers. In fact, it holds the current state record and former world record for a 25-pound 15-ounce hybrid striped bass caught in 1996. There are healthy populations of large mouth and spotted bass to challenge anglers and some very large, if not plentiful, crappie. The headwaters of Bankhead Reservoir are really the tail waters of Smith Lake, and they are a great place to fish for rainbow trout, catfish, and sunfish. Seasonally, the skipjack herring fishery is exceptional.

Today, planned waterfront communities are springing up beside the old fishing camps, and there is real estate for sale around Bankhead Lake, including both lots and waterfront homes. Vacation rentals include waterfront cabins and cottages. The lake is less than 45 minutes from Birmingham, providing visitors easy access to all the amenities of a big city and making it the perfect place for a second home or weekend getaway. Some properties on Bankhead Lake are partially bordered by the Mulberry Fork Wildlife Management Area. The 35,000-acre area allows hunting for large and small game and helps Bankhead Lake feel farther from Birmingham’s urban center than it actually is.

As it has been doing for almost a century, the water of the Black Warrior River flowing through Bankhead Lake calls the weary to pause as the water does on its way to other places. Offering respite and harkening back to a simpler time, Bankhead Lake lures both fishing poles and bare feet into its clean, clear water.

Things to Do at Bankhead Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish Species Found at Bankhead Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Spotted Bass
  • Striped Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout

Find Places to Stay at Bankhead Lake

If you’re considering a Bankhead Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Bankhead Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Bankhead Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Bankhead Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 9,245 acres

Shoreline Length: 400 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 257 feet

Average Depth: 32 feet

Maximum Depth: 74 feet

Water Volume: 269,215 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1916

Drainage Area: 3,969 sq. miles

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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