Lake Martin is located in Tallapoosa County, Elmore County, and Coosa County in Alabama. It is a 44,000 acre lake with over 750 miles of wooded shoreline. An artificial reservoir, Lake Martin was formed by the construction of Martin Dam on the Tallapoosa River. The Martin Dam powerhouse is used to generate hydroelectric power for the Alabama Power Company. Construction was begun in 1923 and completed in 1926, creating what was then the largest man-made body of water in the world. Originally known as Cherokee Bluffs for the geological formation upon which it was built, the dam was renamed in 1936 in honor of Thomas Martin, the then president of Alabama Power Company. Alabama Power and Russell Lands own the majority of the shoreline.
One of the largest artificial lakes in the United States, Lake Martin is a popular recreation area for swimming, boating, fishing, water skiing, camping and golfing. Many waterfront neighborhoods and luxury homes are located on Lake Martin. The cities of Alexander City and Dadeville are located nearby.
Lake Martin hosts many events throughout the year, including fishing tournaments, Aquapolooza and a giant fireworks show on the Fourth of July to celebrate Independence Day. Also included is the Alexander City Jazz Festival which has hosted such acts as Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Los Lonely Boys, and Amanda Shaw. This yearly event is hosted every June in downtown Alexander City as well as on Lake Martin at the Lake Martin Amphitheatre.
Lake Martin includes many popular attractions, including several small islands. The lake has several landmarks, such as the Kowaliga Bridge, Willow Point Country Club and golf course, and several marinas, but perhaps the most recognized landmark on the lake is Chimney Rock, a large rock formation that resembles a chimney. The actual Chimney Rock is located several hundred yards away, and the name for the rock most people call Chimney Rock is Acapulco Rock. The area was the Tallapoosa River gorge before Martin Dam was built, and the water is more than 150-feet deep. The spot is visited by thousands of boaters yearly, who park in front of "The Rock" to watch people climb up 60-feet and jump off into the water. While many have enjoyed the thrill of jumping from these rock formations, a few jumpers have been seriously injured, paralyzed, or killed after jumping. In July 2006, a teenager died after his jump from the rock.
Lake Martin has become a weekend getaway for many of Birmingham, Montgomery and even Atlanta's elite, especially in the areas of Willow Point, Parker Creek, Trillium, Kowaliga and The Ridge. Many exclusive multi-million dollar residences are located in these areas. One of the most famous being the founder and former Chairman and CEO of HealthSouth Corporation, Richard M. Scrushy's home located in Willow Point. The home was built in 1998 and along with a guest/boathouse that together contains over 15,000 sq.ft. Many other CEOs from Birmingham and Atlanta have homes on the lake.
Islands on Lake Martin
Small islands are popular spots on Lake Martin:
- Chimney Rock Island – Chimney Rock Island has always been a famous landmark on Lake Martin. It got its name from a rock that protrudes from the top of the island that resembles a chimney.
- Acapulco Rock Island – Acapulco Rock Island is right adjacent to Chimney Rock Island at the Tallapoosa River Gorge. It is often mistaken for Chimney Rock. It looks like a chimney, weirdly.
- Doctor's Island – So named because a group of doctors used the island as a base camp to fish. Their camp remains but was destroyed by fire a few years ago.
- Goat Island – Goat Island is nestled north of Martin Dam. It has become the residence for a family of goats.
- Graveyard Island – A small county graveyard from before the Martin Dam is now a tiny island in Lake Martin. Only about 30 by 30 yards (27 m) around. It is in the Bay Pine area.
- Sand Island – Sand Island is a small island located between Willow Point and Kowaliga Marina. Over the years erosion has taken its toll on the island. Boats frequently park on its sandy shallow beach.
- Young's Island – The Young residence (of Young's ferry) was here. Destroyed by fire in the early 1990s. Foundation still remains and graves of the children can be found.
- Weed Hill Island – Weed Hill is a small island almost directly across from the Pleasure Point Marina boat ramp. Although at one time it was much larger, erosion continues to shrink the landmass.
- Wood's Island – Wood's Island is a larger Island that has a land bridge during low water times. It is an excellent island for hiking with several trails. It can be found at the end of Young's Ferry Rd on the West side of the lake.