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Holt Lake is a 3,300-acre reservoir located about five miles northeast of the City of Tuscaloosa in west-central Alabama. Holt Lake is one of six lakes that comprise the 457-mile Black Warrior and Tombigbee Waterway (BL &W), a series of locks and dams constructed to improve navigation. The Waterway was an important transportation route for settlers and traders and played a major role in industrializing the region.
In addition to Holt Lake, the other reservoirs that comprise the Black Warrior and Tombigbee Waterway include Bankhead, Oliver, Warrior, Demopolis, and Coffeeville Lakes. Although the Waterway plays a major role in commercial transportation, the lakes also provide hydroelectric power, flood control, and diverse recreational opportunities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed construction of the Holt Lake Lock and Dam in 1966, creating the narrow, winding lake that stretches for 18 miles along the Black Warrior River.
Holt Lake is best known for its boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, and camping opportunities. Anglers reel in abundant catches of largemouth bass up to 18 inches and spotted bass up to 15 inches. There is a 9-inch minimum length limitation on crappie catches to protect young crappie. Drum, catfish, buffalo, hybrid striped bass, largemouth bass, and spotted bass are common in the headwaters of Holt Reservoir below Bankhead Dam.
For off-water fun, the Army Corps of Engineers operates a Visitors Center and several day use parks at Holt Lake: Burchfield, Blue Creek, Deerlick Creek, and Rocky Branch Parks. The parks offer boat ramps, swimming beaches, picnic areas, bank fishing, playgrounds, hiking trails, and campsites ranging from primitive camping to full electric and water hookups. Campers should make reservations in advance.
The walking trails at the Holt Lake parks are a big attraction. The scenic trails vary in difficulty from gently sloping hills to steep grades. They are a good place to spot bald eagles that visit the lake from November to February.
The Rocky Branch Trail is one of the longest (3.5 miles round trip) and more difficult trails with some steep grades. The Gobbler Ridge Hiking and Bicycle trail is a half-mile paved loop trail. This trail is an easy jaunt with benches to take in beautiful views of the river and gorges. Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy the food plots that attract animals and tree identification markers. The Beech Tree Hollow Trail is a mile loop located within the Deerlick Creek Campground. The trail starts and ends at the head of the Gobbler Ridge Trail with moderate to difficult terrain on the lower half leading to the gorge.
Holt Lake's climate is mild in winter months, rarely dipping below 40 degrees. Spring brings warmer temperatures and precipitation that beget beautiful spring blooms. Temperatures during summer can reach above 100 degrees with afternoon thunderstorms.
The wilderness feel of Holt Lake belies its proximity to Tuscaloosa, a city of about 90,000 residents. This population balloons when school is in session, and Crimson Tide football takes center stage. Vacation rentals are available in the Tuscaloosa area, but be sure to book ahead if there is a home game. The University is also home to two museums, the Alabama Museum of Natural History and the Paul W. "Bear" Bryant Museum, named after the school's legendary football coach. The Murphy African-American Museum and The Hands-on Children's Museum of Tuscaloosa are located downtown. The Westervelt Warner Museum of American Art is located on the grounds of North River Yacht Club in northern Tuscaloosa.
The Holt Lake area offers fun for the entire family with a mix of back-to-nature activities and urban culture.
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