Lake Martin is located in Tallapoosa, Elmore and Coosa counties in Alabama. It is a 44,000-acre (178 km˛) lake with over 750 miles (1,200 km) of wooded shoreline. Lake Martin is a reservoir, 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 on Martin Dam began in 1923 and was completed in 1926, creating what was at that time 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 man made lakes in the United States, Lake Martin is a popular recreation area for swimming, boating, water skiing, camping, and golfing. The Dixie Sailing Club operates on Lake Martin. Many waterfront neighborhoods and luxury homes are located on Lake Martin. The cities ofAlexander City, Dadeville, Jacksons Gap, and Eclectic are nearby.
Lake Martin hosts many events throughout the year, including fishing tournaments, a fireworks show on the Fourth of July, and the Alexander City Jazz Festival, an annual event every June in downtown Alexander City and at the Lake Martin Amphitheatre. Since 2009, the lake hosts the annualAquaPalooza.
Lake Martin includes many popular attractions, including eagles nest, natural sand beaches, restaurants, camping areas and popular islands. The lake has several landmarks, such as the Kowaliga Bridge, and several marinas, but perhaps the most recognized landmark on the lake is Chimney Rock, a large rock formation that resembles a chimney. Chimney Rock is located several hundred yards away; the formation which 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 (46 m) deep. The spot is visited by thousands of boaters yearly, who park in front of "The Rock" to watch people climb up 60 feet (18 m) and jump off into the water. In July 2006, a teenager died after his jump from the rock.
Lake Martin has become a weekend getaway for many families from around the South. Many exclusive multimillion-dollar residences are located on the lake; among the best-known is that ofRichard M. Scrushy, the founder and former chairman and CEO of HealthSouth Corporation located in the Willow Point area of Parker Creek. Built in 1998, together with a guest/boathouse, the residence contains over 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2). HealthSouth bought the home in late 2009 for $7.4 million as part of a $2.8 billion civil judgement against Scrushy for his fraudulent practices at HealthSouth from 1997 until 2003. Many other CEO's from Birmingham and Atlanta have homes on the lake.
Alabama has a lake of a similar name, the Logan Martin Lake on the Coosa River, but Lake Martin and Logan Martin Lake are not part of the same river system.
Small islands are popular spots on Lake Martin:
- Chimney Rock Island - Chimney Rock Island has long been a famous landmark on Lake Martin. Its name came from a tall rock resembling a chimney that protrudes from the top of the island.
- Acapulco Rock Island - Acapulco Rock Island is adjacent to Chimney Rock Island at the Tallapoosa River Gorge. It is often mistaken for Chimney Rock.
- Doctor's Island - So named because a group of doctors used the island as a base camp to fish. Their camp was destroyed by fire a few years ago.
- Goat Island - Goat Island is north of Martin Dam. It has become the residence for a family of goats.
- Graveyard Island - A small county graveyard from before the construction of Martin Dam is located on what is now a tiny island in Lake Martin. About 30 by 30 yards (27 m) around, it is in the Bay Pine area.
- Real Island - Not an island or distinct community, residents named it for "Real Island Road," which runs through it, and a nearby marina.
- 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, but rocks have recently been placed around the island to prevent it from being completed washed away. Boats frequently park on its sandy shallow beach. It is likely the smallest island on the lake.
- Young's Island - The Young residence (of Young's ferry) was here and was destroyed by fire in the early 1990s. The foundation remains and there are historic markers for the graves of the family's children.
- 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 has reduced the landmass.
- Wood's Island - Wood's Island is a larger island, connected to the mainland by a land bridge during low water times. It has several trails for hiking. It can be found at the end of Young's Ferry Rd on the West side of the lake.
- Wilmarth's Island- only inhabited island on the lake.
On April 27, 2011 an EF4 tornado ripped across Lake Martin. Several valuable houses and businesses were completely destroyed along its path. Some vehicles were carried over 100 yards. The tornado resulted in seven deaths across the region. Its path through Elmore, Tallapoosa, and Chambers counties was 44.2 miles (71.1 km) long.
- "Growing Up: Tales of Life on the Lake", by Bailey Jones
- Schafer, Elizabeth D. Lake Martin: Alabama's Crown Jewel (2002). Charleston, SC: Arcadia