The 10 Best College Football Towns for Boating

Cue the Sports Center music and set aside the AP and USA Today Coaches Polls—these are the power rankings that really matter. We’re breaking down our Top 10 list of the best college football towns for boating. These are the schools where you can pack up, get going, and start your weekend party on the boat before heading to the parking lots for tailgating. With friendly competition and historic rivalries in mind, what better way to see where the chips fall than grouping schools by conference? It’s ACC vs. SEC, Big 10 vs. Big 12, and don’t forget about the Pac 12. Which conference will win out? What region of the good ole’ US of A hosts the most boaters with a love for college football? Let’s find out.

The SEC (Southeastern Conference) – Three

When you’re talking about boats, beer, and college football, you’re talking about the South. It seems that these SEC schools aren’t just leaders on the field, they’re also leaders on the water. With the most teams from a single conference to make the Top 25 (six), the SEC also has the most teams on our Top 10 list for college football towns for boating.

Look at all that Orange and White—the Vols sure do know how to pack Neyland Stadium.

1. University of Tennessee – Tennessee River & Fort Loudon Lake – Knoxville, TN

Coming into this season ranked in the Top 10 in the AP and Coaches polls, the University of Tennessee Volunteers, or “Vols,” are a force to be reckoned with in the SEC. Not only is Neyland Stadium situated right on the banks of the Tennessee River, but the Vols are just minutes away from Fort Loudon Lake, which stretches more than 55 miles long, covering more than 14,600 acres and accounting for 360 miles of shoreline. Between Volunteer Landing and Volunteer Cove, Tennessee boaters have plenty of areas for on-the-water fun. Find out more at The Marinas on Lake Loudon.

2. University of South Carolina – Lake Murray – Columbia, SC 

Unlike the Vols, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks did not make the Top 25 heading into this year’s season—but what they lack on the field, they make up for with their boating. Located in Columbia, just 18 miles away from the university, Lake Murray is known as the “Jewel of South Carolina.” With over 50,000 acres of land and 650 miles of shoreline, the 41-mile-long and 14-mile-wide lake is a fisherman and boater’s playground. Want to find out more about how the Gamecocks go boating? Visit Lake Murray Country.

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It’s not a true Lake Martin boat party until someone waves the Auburn flag.

3. Auburn University – Lake Martin – Auburn, AL 

The Auburn University Tigers might not be considered the best college football team in the country—unlike their rivals, the Alabama Crimson Tide—but when it comes to boating, the Tigers rule the State. Less than an hour’s drive from campus you’ll find Lake Martin, which covers over 41,150 acres and 880 miles of shoreline. According to many Auburn fans, there’s nothing better than a weekend on the lake paired with a little Auburn football—War Eagle! To learn more, visit Lake Martin.

The ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) – Two

If you thought the SEC was the only conference made up of winning teams and gorgeous waterways, think again. The ACC is host to two Florida schools that enjoy year-round sunshine and a plethora of lakes, rivers, and coastlines—not to mention a number of other schools that were lucky enough to make their way onto our “Honorable Mentions” list.

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Florida residents are blessed to have ideal boating conditions during all four seasons.

4. University of Miami – Biscayne Bay – Coral Gables, FL 

There’s no way we could get through our Top 10 list without including a couple of our favorite schools from the “Sunshine State.” Let’s start with the University of Miami, better known as “The U.” While the Hurricanes were left out of the Top 25, they were predicted to win the ACC Coastal Division—and when it comes to boating, they’re also at the top of our coastal line-up. Hurricane boaters enjoy spending their time on Biscayne Bay, which is located along a 35-mile stretch of Atlantic coastline in South Florida. Visit Biscayne Bay to find out more.

5. Florida State University – Apalachee Bay – Tallahassee, FL 

Almost 500 miles north of Miami, you’ll find the Hurricanes’ in-state rivals located in Tallahassee: the Florida State University Seminoles. The Seminoles head into the 2016-2017 season ranked number four in the country and have high hopes for an ACC and National Championship. As the highest ranked team to find their way onto our list, Seminole boaters can usually be found doing the tomahawk chop in the Apalachee Bay. With more than 300 square miles of surface water, the Apalachee Bay is not only a boater’s paradise but it’s also one of the country’s most productive natural systems. To learn more, visit the Boating and Angling Guide to Apalachee Bay.

The Big 10 – Two

As we move out of the South, we switch conferences and head north towards the Great Lakes. With over 95,160 square miles covered by just the Great Lakes alone, the Big 10 Conference is a host to a number of schools with great water access and ideal boating conditions.  While it’s sometimes been nicknamed the “Weak 10,” there’s nothing weak about it when it comes to boating or football.

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Wisconsin students have the privilege of enjoying a beautiful campus that literally rests on the edge of Lake Mentoda.

6. The University of Wisconsin – Lake Mendota – Madison, WI

From the top of Camp Randall Stadium, home of the University of Wisconsin Badgers, you’ll see breathtaking views of the surrounding Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. Unfortunately, the Badgers enter into the season just shy of making the Top 25—but that doesn’t slow them down on the water. Wisconsin fans can find an aquatic playground bordering their campus as Lake Mendota covers 9,781 acres in a 15.21-square-mile region. For even more fun on the water, Badger boaters can head just an hour west to the shores of Lake Michigan. For more information, check out Visit Madison.

7. University of Michigan – Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, & Huron River – Ann Arbor, MI 

Ohio State fans won’t be pleased with this one—sorry, Buckeyes. The next school on our list happens to be the University of Michigan Wolverines, or “Big Blue.” Coming into this season, the Big Blue have found their way into the Top 10 in the nation. With their campus located in Ann Arbor along the banks of the Huron River, Wolverines fans are just a short drive away from the shores of Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. If you want to find out more about how Michigan fans spend their time on the water, visit Lakeland Boating: Voice of the Great Lakes.

The Pac 12 (The Pacific 12) – Two

From the East Coast and Midwest we head over to the West Coast—we can’t forget about our friends in the Pac 12. With five schools from the conference falling into the Top 25, the Pac 12 is giving teams from across the country a run for their money both on and off the water.

Photo by: Neil
If you’re ever in town for a Washington football game, be sure to find time to attend some Husky boat-gating parties. Photo by: Neil Rabinowitz.

8. The University of Washington – Union Bay – Seattle, WA

From what we’ve heard, the University of Washington Huskies know how to tailgate, or should we say, “boat-gate.” These fans have plenty to celebrate as they enter into the season ranked 14th in the AP Poll and 18th in the Coaches Poll—but it’s not just during football season that these fans enjoy spending time on the water. With Husky Stadium located along the edge of Union Bay, Husky boaters and Husky students have plenty of waterfront activities to take advantage of. Learn more at the University of Washington Recreational Sports Programs: Waterfront.

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Although located in the middle of the desert, Sun Devil Stadium sits right on the bank of the river.

9. Arizona State University – Salt River, Tempe Town Lake & Lake Pleasant – Tempe, AZ

While not nationally ranked, the Arizona State University Sun Devils fall in the top two in the Pac 12 South Division rankings, only following their in-state rivals, the University of Arizona Wildcats. In a state that’s covered in dust and deserts, you’d be surprised to learn that the Sun Devils are actually surrounded by an array of lakes and rivers. Sun Devil Stadium is located right along the intersection of the Salt River and Tempe Town Lake. The campus is also just a short drive south of Lake Pleasant, which is home to 10,000 acres of water surface and 116 miles of shoreline. Interested in finding out more about these desert waterways? Check out Arizona Leisure.

The Big 12 – One

We finish our Top 10 list with the Big 12. Often underestimated, the Big 12 is a conference made up of 10 different schools spread out between the Midwest and Southwest. Out of the 10 teams in the conference, four have made it into the Top 25 for the 2016-2017 season and one has made it onto our Top 10 list for boating.

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There are only 18 coveted dock slips available for fans in the famous Baylor Basin, all of which must be reserved far in advance of the season.

10. Baylor – Baylor Basin, Lake Brazos, & Brazos River – Waco, TX

You know what they sayeverything is bigger in Texas. So there’s no surprise that Baylor University Bears fans are big about their football and big about their boating. Ranked in the Top 25 nationally, the Bears are also near the top of their conference in the Big 12, only following the University of Oklahoma and in-state rival, TCU (Texas Christian University). As far as boating goes, McLane Stadium sits right on the edge of the Baylor Basin and at the intersection of Lake Brazos and the Brazos River, which is the 11th longest river in the United States. Check out the Brazos River Authority and the Baylor Bears Sailgating to learn more.

Honorable Mentions

  • Boston College (Boston Harbor & Charles River) – ACC
  • Clemson University (Lake Hartwell) – ACC
  • Stanford University (San Francisco Bay South) – Pac 12
  • University of Pittsburgh (Allegheny River) – ACC
  • UCLA (Pacific Ocean – Santa Monica) – Pac 12
  • University of Louisville (Ohio River) – ACC
  • University of Utah (Great Salt Lake) – Pac 12
  • University of Texas (Colorado River & Lake Travis) – Big 12
  • The United States Naval Academy (Chesapeake Bay & Severn River) – American Athletic Conference
  • Virginia Tech (New River & Smith Mountain Lake) – ACC

Now that you’ve heard our Top 10, we want to hear from you. Share your pictures, videos, and opinions on the Boat Trader Facebook page and let us know all about your favorite teams and your favorite college towns for boating. And don’t forget to check out our Boat-Gating for Football Fans article for all the tips on the best on-the-water tailgating locations.


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