If there is one thing most people know about the United States of America, it’s that it is big.

The USA is in fact the third-largest country in the world, and this reflects in the way everything appears to first-time visitors: everything is big, bigger and biggest. And this includes its nature. When visiting the USA, most people stick to the major cities such as New York, Los Angeles or Las Vegas, but the country has much more to offer outside its cities. People who stay in the cities will miss out on America’s unspoilt nature, such as its beautiful grand lakes.

The Great Lakes

America’s northern neighbour Canada, has more lakes than all the other countries in the world combined. The largest of these, the Great Lakes, are located on the border of Canada and the United States. Together, they form one of the largest freshwater reserves in the world. The five lakes are Lake Superio, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Of these, Lake Michigan is located entirely in the United States. All five of the lakes are massive. To put it into perspective, in America alone they cross 8 different states. 

Lake Huron's Turnip Rock, near Port Austin Michigan
Lake Huron’s Turnip Rock, Near Port Austin Michigan

There are approximately 250 freshwater lakes in the United States, of which nearly 100 are located in Alaska, Michigan, New York and Maine. Apart from these freshwater lakes, America also has a giant saltwater lake, known (perhaps unsurprisingly) as the Great Salt Lake. This lake is located in the state of Utah. Here, you will also find the Bonneville Salt Flats, the largest of the salt flats west of Great Salt Lake.

Listing all of America’s lakes would span several pages, but several of them stand out for their sheer beauty. Firstly, Crater Lake in Oregon. It is one of the most famous crater lakes in the world, formed some 7,700 years ago during a volcanic eruption of Mount Mazoma. The lake is located in the national park of the same name, which is also blessed with beautiful scenery. Most people therefore combine a visit to Crater Lake with a tour of the national park.

Lake Superior Coastline Rocks Waves Fall Forest Aerial
Lake Superior Coastline Rocks Waves Fall Forest Aerial

Another famous lake is Lake Tahoe, a large freshwater lake located in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Lake Tahoe borders the states of Nevada and California, and is the largest mountain lake in the United States. Lake Tahoe is surrounded by dense woodland. Not too far away you can find Yosemite National Park, famous for its impressive giant sequoia trees. 

Lake Powell likewise deserves a special mention. Unlike the other two lakes, Lake Powell is a reservoir, meaning it was not formed naturally. The fact that it is an artificial lake does not make it any less stunning however. The blue hue of the lake contrasts beautifully with the surrounding red sandstone walls, and the lake is immensely popular with tourists: around two million people visit the lake each year.

Mandatory travel authorisation: ESTA

Lost Eden Canyon Lake Powell
Lost Eden Canyon Lake Powell

A visit to the USA to tour its mighty lakes requires a mandatory travel authorisation, known as the ESTA. While many people believe that a visa is the only way to enter the United States as a foreigner, the ESTA is both cheaper and easier to get. All you need to check is whether your country is included in America’s Visa Waiver Program.

For instance, the United Kingdom is included in it, meaning British travellers can travel to the USA without a visa. To apply for an ESTA no visit to the embassy needs to be made; everything can be done online. The form is easy to fill in, and if you meet all the basic requirements, your ESTA will likely be approved the same day. It is not a paper document, but an electronic authorisation. This means that nothing needs to be printed. All you need to show at the airport is your passport.