Spring Houseboating Fever?

Five early-season getaways to cure it

February 2011 Feature By Shannon Stockwell

Does anyone who loves houseboating really wait until the weather warms to get excited about getting back on the water? You don't if you're a true houseboating aficionado. You're ready to get going long before the weather changes. So what are your plans for this year? Will you moor in the same lake as always? Maybe you have the perfect spot already, but if you don't, here are some places you might want to investigate.


Lake Shasta

Looking to relax in California? Try Lake Shasta, which is actually formed by several rivers. Travel down one of the three "arms" named after the rivers that flow into it-the Sacramento, McCloud, Squaw or Pit Rivers, and you'll end up at this beautiful lake with plenty to do. This lake is held by the Shasta Dam, which is actually the second largest in the United States following Grand Coulee Dam. You can even take advantage of the daily tours of the dam. This lake is 35 miles long with nearly 370 miles of shoreline and holds enough water at full status for about 5,000 gallons for every person in the country. It's convenient to get to via the waterways or also an easy drive in from Sacramento, San Francisco or even Portland.

More about the three arms of the lake:

The McCloud Arm has beautiful grey rocks towering above the waterway that were actually formed from ocean sediments. If you go this route, you may want to stop at the Holiday Harbor Marina and take some time to tour the Shasta Caverns. You can take a catamaran ride and a bus ride up the mountain before arriving at this underground wonderland.

The most developed arm, and likely the busiest, would be the Sacramento Arm. It ends at Riverview, which is a great old resort site where you will find the lake's only sandy beach. If you cruise upstream, you'll enjoy the beautiful view of Mount Lassen.

The Pit Arm is the longest arm at nearly 30 miles long, but probably not the first choice for boating because of the standing snags of dead trees. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities for fishing, swimming and cruising in the other arms of the lake. You can get a fishing license at most of the lakeside resorts and catch your fill of bass, bluegill, salmon, crappie, catfish and sturgeon.

You can find houseboat rentals at Shasta Lake if you are looking to get away and don't have your own boat. This is a great way to relax and spend some quality vacation time on this lake. You can also enjoy dinner cruises that run from the gift shop at Lake Shasta Caverns on Saturdays from Memorial Day through Labor Day, except on holiday weekends.


Lake Texoma

Ready to try a "Lone Star" getaway? Lake Texoma could fit the bill. If you're looking for great fishing, wonderful marinas and resorts, plenty of natural beauty during the day and entertainment at night, this could be your next destination. It spans the Texas/Oklahoma border about 75 miles north of Dallas and 121 miles south of Oklahoma City. It is one of the most popular destinations in the Southwest.

It promises an interesting time with a string of islands and sandy beaches. In addition to this you'll enjoy the view of wildlife such as bald eagles, which is a popular activity later in the season. There are charter companies here that provide special tours for bald eagle watching in autumn.

It also has to wildlife refuges, two state parks, 54 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed parks as well as 26 resorts and hundreds of campgrounds. Not to mention the golf course, Chickasaw Pointe, at the ready.

This lake is ready and waiting for your enjoyment in the early season. From power sailing to houseboating, there is plenty of room for all with the serpentine shape of the lake. You'll enjoy one of the many sheltered coves when you're ready to slow down a bit and relax. It offers houseboat rentals as well as party barges and personal watercrafts.

It's of course a great place to fish, and "striper" may be the word of the day if you test the waters here. It offers professional fishing guide services for everyone from the beginner to the more advanced angler.

This is a great lake with plenty of anchoring points and a vast area for cruising in a houseboat, and there are plenty of marinas available with houseboat rentals.


Lake Lanier

Have you ventured to Lake Lanier, Georgia yet? You may have to add it to your list of rental destinations if you haven't already been there. It boasts 692 beautiful miles of shoreline with parks, picnic areas and campgrounds. It has been called the Crown Jewel of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes. It's a popular destination for weekend getaways, day trips and especially extended vacations.

There are many private marinas on the lake, and it's noted for fine black bass fishing. The striped bass, spotted and largemouth bass are popular here too with plenty of trophy fish available for the taking in this deep, highland reservoir.

This lake is a popular camping place, so if you're looking for a spot you can camp at Chestnut Ridge, Van Pugh, Old Federal and Shady Grove.

Hiking at Laurel Ridge Trail, connecting Buford Dam with the South End camping and day use areas is a beautiful way to spend the afternoon. You can enjoy the picturesque scenery of this 3.8 mile loop trail or hike the Buford Dam Trail when you're ready to get off the houseboat for a while.

Lake Lanier is also known for its golfing opportunity as many of the best golf courses in Georgia are close to the lake shores. Emerald Pointe and Renaissance Pine isle are both on Lake Lanier, so don't forget to pack your clubs.



You may want to try the Intracoastal Waterway through the Sunshine State. You can actually start this scenic journey in Norfolk, Va. However, you can stick to cruising Florida with its 380-mile long passage way along the eastern coastline. There is of course plenty of history to enjoy along the way, along with many marinas, beautiful waterfront homes, and variations of busy boating lanes as well as more quiet sections. All but two bridges along the way have a 65-foot clearance, and the two are just barely under 65 feet at 64.5 feet. So clearance isn't likely a problem for most houseboats.

You'll pass Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach resort area. Going south you'll enter the wide St. Johns River on the way to Jacksonville. The ICW cuts across the often heavily-trafficked river and enters a 23.8-mile land-cu, starting at Pablo Creek. Then you'll find the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, where you can stop and visit this interesting city, which includes the restored part of the downtown area and Castillo de San Marcos.

Then you'll head down to Daytona Beach, a more quiet setting with smaller facilities and attractions. There are several marinas in Daytona Beach, which has evolved from a spring break destination to more of a family resort area year round.

Head south to New Smyrna Beach, about the beginning of central Florida proper and also the Indian River. This river is about four miles across at the upper end and then narrows to about 1 ½ miles at the end of the 120-mile journey. At this point you'll find the only unattended opening bridge, which closes automatically for approaching trains with about an eight-minute warning for approaching boats.

You can also see the towering vehicle-assembly building and maybe a rocket as you pass the John. F. Kennedy Space Center. You'll also see the citrus groves along the river that have made it so famous. There are plenty of stops along the way at Titusville, Cocoa, Melbourne, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, and many others. You'll arrive at the Palm Beaches from here, which are the start of southern Florida. There are many marinas along the way with about any service you can imagine. This is a slower area of the trip with several bridges and quite a bit of traffic.

You'll enjoy the beauty of the Palm Beaches and Boca Raton as well as all of the things Miami has to offer as you pass through the middle of downtown. Key Biscayne is the end of this fascinating trip down the east coast.


Lake Murray

Lake Murray, South Carolina is another great destination for adventures in houseboating. In fact, the Lake Murray Marina and Yacht Club is getting a new houseboat rental fleet for 2008, so you'll want to check it out. This could be the perfect place for relaxation for you.

This 78-square mile lake area was actually inhabited by the Catawba and Cherokee Indians. It was then settled by European immigrants of mostly Dutch and German origin. To create the lake itself, over 5,000 inhabitants were relocated before the Saluda Dam was built. This was once the world's largest earthen dam at 1 ½ miles wide and 208 feet high. The lake now provides power for South Carolina's entire Midlands region and boasts all kinds of recreational opportunity from houseboating to even plenty of festivals and events in the area.

If you're ready to get out and do some fishing, this is a great place to be as the bass are aplenty here, and they have been known to be over nine pounds and even upwards of 10. You'll want to be sure to bring your fishing gear if you decide to take a trip to Lake Murray.

You can also enjoy the Dreher Island State Recreation area, and you may want to take a trip out to Lunch Island to see the Purple Martins return to roost for the evening. These trips are occasionally arranged by the park, and you can check at the park office for more details. There is a great variety of wildlife watching opportunity available whether from your houseboat or on land.



Looking for a Houseboat Rental?


Lake Shasta

Jones Valley Resort



Lake Texoma

Texoma Charters



Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier Islands Resort




Intercoastal Charters of South West Florida



Lake Murray

Lake Murray Marina and Yacht Club



  • Like what you read?

    Want to know when we have important news, updates or interviews?

  • Join our newsletter today!

    Sign Up
You Might Also Be Interested In...

Send to your friends!