Large Bodies of Water in the Western USA

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Emerald Bay is just one part of Lake Tahoe.
Emerald Bay is just one part of Lake Tahoe. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The western half of the United States is home to various bodies of water, from small tributaries to rushing rivers. The largest bodies of water, like the massive Great Salt Lake, are vital to local economies, providing visitors with a host of recreation options. Others, like the cold waters of the north, support thriving fishing operations. Protecting these majestic bodies of water is important for the environment, local populations and the economy at large.

Lake Tahoe

Washing over the borders of Nevada and California, Lake Tahoe is surrounded by rugged, mountainous terrain. The basin of Lake Tahoe was founded 2 to 3 million years ago, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and the waters of the lake are renowned for their clarity and depth. For centuries, the lake was home to the Washoe Indian tribe, though it is now a major tourist attraction, offering visitors everything from water skiing to casinos.

Lake Tahoe offers visitors skiing, water sports and even casinos.
Lake Tahoe offers visitors skiing, water sports and even casinos. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Lake Washington

Situated in King County, Lake Washington is the second largest body of water in Washington state. Highly developed, Lake Washington is surrounded by the greater Seattle metro area and has experienced various environmental problems over the years, thanks in part to its use as a collection point for urban sewage and waste water. Created by the Vashon ice sheet, a glacier that moved through the Pacific Northwest, the lake is also connected to Puget Sound, and Mount Ranier can be seen from its shores.

In the past, Lake Washington has experienced severe algae outbreaks.
In the past, Lake Washington has experienced severe algae outbreaks. (Image: Karl Weatherly/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Gulf of Alaska

Extending from the Alexander Archipelago to the island-dotted coastline of Southeast Alaska, the Gulf of Alaska is dominated by snowstorms and heavy rainfall. The cold waters of the of Gulf of Alaska are subject to frigid arctic air and strong currents and effect weather as far south as Oregon and Washington. The area is home to a major commercial fishing presence, and various small towns rest along the gulf, as well as the famed Glacier Bay National Park.

Juneau, Alaska's capital, is located along the Gulf of Alaska.
Juneau, Alaska's capital, is located along the Gulf of Alaska. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Great Salt Lake

Filled with opportunities for recreation, the Great Salt Lake is America's largest natural lake west of the Mississippi. Roughly 75 miles long and 35 miles wide, according to the Utah travel industry, the Great Salt Lake is the remnant of Lake Bonneville, a massive lake from the Ice Age that formed 30,000 years ago. Fish and many forms of sea life can't survive in the salty waters of the lake, though it is one of Utah's top tourist attractions.

Salt Lake City is named after the Great Salt Lake.
Salt Lake City is named after the Great Salt Lake. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

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