Great Places: Rural Waters in Lake Anna, Virginia

Lake Anna’s waters may run hot and cold, but when it comes to getting away from it all, they're just right.

Sunset at Lake Anna, VA | Photo: Kate Elim

Most towns rely on an a la carte menu of offerings to draw visitors—theater, restaurants, galleries. . .you know the drill. Not Lake Anna. With just one waterfront restaurant (aptly named The Lakeview) and the closest grocery store a 13-mile drive, this manmade 13,000-acre freshwater lake in the middle of Virginia has its own natural appeal: secluded coves that reach out from the 17-mile-long shoreline, wooded vistas from homes residing on streets with names like Valentine, and country roads that wind through green pastures where cattle and horses graze.

“It’s quite rural out here,” says Kate Elim, a realtor with RE/MAX Lake & Country, who started coming to Lake Anna 19 years ago and is now a full-time resident. And the fact that it’s one of the only inland lakes in a state without much shoreline—and that it’s located just 90 minutes from the nation’s capitol, an hour from Richmond and a short drive to some of Virginia’s most historic cities (where you can get your cultural fix)—makes Lake Anna’s relative obscurity seem like an enormous coup. “It floors me that more people don’t know about it,” says Steve Mudre, former owner of Anna Point Marina and webmaster at lakeannaonline.com.

Lake Anna was built more than 35 years ago to provide fresh water to cool the state’s nuclear power plant. The “cold” public side of the lake supplies the water, while the “hot” private side gets the warm-water runoff. Not exactly the most ideal-sounding start to a natural aquatic playground, but that’s exactly what it is for those in the know. (And that warmer water is a luxury for fishermen, who get an extended season.) Julie Hawkins has been enjoying the slower pace of the lake since the very beginning, when her parents built a house in the early ‘80s. “We were one of three families there. It was very quiet, very peaceful, very natural.”

This quiet charm still feeds the culture that’s anchored by marinas instead of towns, a state park right in the middle of the lake, and a tight-knit community that doesn’t worry about locking their doors. Over the last few years, though, word has gotten out, and the lake has been growing. Homes have popped up, new boathouses bob alongside old wooden docks, and there’s a plan in the making to build a waterfront golf course. During the summer, the waterways brim with sailboats dallying under the sun, fisherman patiently waiting out walleye and bass, jet skiers darting through waves and people sauntering in from the shoreline. But as busy as the lake can be June through August, “You can go on Lake Anna on a Saturday in September, and it’s still a back-to-nature experience,” Steve says. “Lake Anna is just a place where you can put the day behind you.”  

Resources for Lake Anna, VA: LakeAnnaOnline.com LakeAnnaCountry.com