Wilson Lake, Alabama, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Alabama - Mountains -

Also known as:  Wilson Reservoir

Once known as the “Smallmouth Capital of the World,” outdoor enthusiasts enjoy Wilson Lake for its fishing, boating, hiking, and exploring the natural beauty of the area. Wilson Lake is located in northern Alabama’s Mountain Region near the town of Florence. Named for President Woodrow Wilson, Wilson Dam was the first dam built on the Tennessee River. Construction on the dam under the control of the United States Army Corps of Engineers was started in 1918, a year after the United States entered World War I.

The USA built two nitrate plants at Muscle Shoals to make explosives, and the dam was intended to supply those nitrate plants with power. World War I ended before the dam was completed, leaving questions about its future.

In 1921 Henry Ford and Thomas Edison visited Wilson Lake. Ford talked about bringing new manufacturing to the area and offered to buy Wilson Dam for $5 million, a fraction of what had been spent on its construction. Refusing to accept Henry Ford’s offer, Congress formed the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), but talk of Ford’s plans led to an economic boost for the area.

Construction of Wilson Dam was completed in 1924. Wilson Dam remained under the control of the United States Army Corps of Engineers until 1933, when it was acquired by the TVA.

There is debate as to how Muscle Shoals got its name, but until the construction of the dams and reservoirs, it blocked navigation on the Tennessee River. Today locks and reservoirs allow cargo barges and boats to move freely, and together they opened the river to “Great Loop Cruising,” recreational travel of Eastern North America by water. Wilson Lock, named a national historic landmark in 1966, is the highest single lift lock east of the Rockies and one of the highest in the world. It has a maximum lift of 100 feet.

Cars can drive across the dam that provides hydroelectric power for Muscle Shoals and other areas in the South. The overlook on Wilson Dam is worth a stop. There is also a new fishing pier that is ADA accessible.

The deep channel carved by the Tennessee River and the flooded fields of the man-made Wilson Reservoir combine to make excellent fish habitat. There are good populations of black and largemouth bass and channel catfish. Smallmouth bass fishing is exceptional. Wilson Lake once held the record for a 10 pound 8 ounce smallmouth brown bass caught in 1950. The tail waters of Wheeler Dam are an especially good place to fish either from the bank or by boat, and there are several feeder creeks with good fishing and beautiful scenery.

There are several marinas and boat ramps on 15-mile long Wilson Lake and plenty of ways to enjoy the water by boat, jet ski or water skis. There are over ten miles of trails for hiking, biking, and bird watching along the lake, and there is camping nearby. The area provides an ideal habitat for ferns, and visitors can see “walking ferns” considered rare for the region.

Old First Quarters is a wildlife area set aside to preserve Civilian Conservation Corps structures, wildflowers, and bird habitat. It was named for the complex that housed engineers during the construction of the dam.

From Wilson Lake it is an easy drive to tour Helen Keller’s Birthplace and see the place where Annie Sullivan taught Helen to sign “water.” The Tennessee Valley Art Center has the Martin Petroglyph Exhibit, a collection of prehistoric Native American stone carvings. It’s also a quick trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum House, the only structure by Frank Lloyd Wright that now exists in Alabama.

Things to do at Wilson Lake AL

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Wilson Lake AL

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brown Bass
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Smallmouth Bass

Wilson Lake AL Photo Gallery

Wilson Lake AL Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Tennesee Valley Authority

Surface Area: 15,500 acres

Shoreline Length: 166 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 508 feet

Water Volume: 586,600 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1924

Lake Area-Population: 35,852

Drainage Area: 30,750 sq. miles

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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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