Wheeler Lake, Alabama, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Alabama - Mountains -

Also known as:  Wheeler Reservoir

Wheeler Lake in northern Alabama’s Mountain Region is the state’s second-largest lake at 67,100 acres. The Tennessee Valley Authority created Wheeler Reservoir by constructing the Wheeler Dam across the Tennessee River between 1933 and 1936.

Wheeler Lake is one of nine reservoirs that create a navigable “stairway” along the Tennessee River. The creation of Wheeler Lake allowed boats to travel over rock formations called the Muscle Shoals that had previously blocked navigation. Although the primary purposes of Wheeler Reservoir are navigation, flood control, and hydropower generation, its recreational opportunities now attract over four million visitors every year.

Wheeler Lake is conveniently located about 25 miles west of Huntsville, Alabama. Wheeler Reservoir stretches out over 60 miles between the Wheeler Dam and Guntersville Dam to the east.

Decatur, known as the “River City”, is the county seat of Morgan County and is the largest city on Wheeler Reservoir. Decatur hosts several festivals every year, including the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic over Memorial Day weekend, the Spirit of America Festival on July 4th, and the Racking Horse World Celebration in September.

The shoreline of Wheeler Lake and the Tennessee River is dotted with upscale residential development.

As one of the few lakes that successfully houses largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, and white bass, Wheeler Lake attracts bass anglers from all over the country. Common catches also include bluegill, catfish, crappie, longear sunfish, redear sunfish, and sauger.

Wheeler Lake’s unique topography greatly contributes its ideal aquatic environment. The steep banks continue under Wheeler Lake’s surface and combine with relatively swift current to create a fish habitat haven.

Because of the superb fishing opportunities, this Alabama lake hosts several major bass tournaments every year. Novice anglers also drop their lines in, often catching fish that deserve a plaque and significant wall space back home. Grab a pole and prepare yourself for some fun-filled fishing hours.

Nature lovers will enjoy the 35,000-acre Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, located a few miles upstream from the dam. Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is named after Major General Joseph Wheeler. It was created to provide a safe haven for wintering and migrating birds in the eastern USA.

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge has supported up to 60,000 geese and 100,000 ducks, 115 species of fish, 47 species of mammals, 74 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 288 species of songbirds.

Visitors to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge usually see squirrels, rabbits, deer, and quail as they hike through the park’s many miles of trails. Walking and hiking paths vary in length from 200 yards to four miles. No matter what your fitness level, you’ll be able to do some nature watching.

Joe Wheeler State Park offers a wide variety of activities: fishing, a marina with boat rentals, an 18-hole champion golf course, tennis, swimming, and hiking. Accommodations range from a resort lodge and convention facilities to cabins, cottages, and camp sites. The campground includes more than 100 sites with full hook-ups plus primitive camping.

Boating and swimming go hand-in-hand here at Wheeler Lake. As you zoom around the lake soaking up the sun, you’ll discover the uncontrollable urge to drop anchor and dive into the watery depths for a quick cool-down session.

A vacation on Wheeler Lake will surely relax your mind and body. You’ll heartily enjoy every minute of your stay here, so come on down to hospitable Alabama and spend a week or two getting to know this special lake and its beautiful scenery.

Things to do at Wheeler Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • State Park

Fish species found at Wheeler Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)
  • Sauger
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Spotted Bass
  • Sunfish
  • White Bass

Wheeler Lake Photo Gallery

Wheeler Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Tennessee Valley Authority

Surface Area: 67,070 acres

Shoreline Length: 1,027 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 556 feet

Average Depth: 16 feet

Maximum Depth: 57 feet

Water Volume: 1,050,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1936

Water Residence Time: 10.6 days

Drainage Area: 29,590 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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