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6 Most Leech-Infested Lakes In The US

Sucking leech. Image by GlebK, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that there are around 480 different types of leeches that live in freshwater areas and approximately 100 species that can be found in the ocean?


Leech Image via Pexels

Interestingly, there are several lakes in the United States that are home to a significant number of these leeches.

With over 250 lakes in the country, knowing which ones have leeches before swimming might be helpful. To help you with the leech-infested lakes in the United States. So, if you’re planning a swim in one of these lakes soon, it’s worth checking out our guide first.

After reading this article, we hope you will have more “Suck-cess” when traveling to the great lakes of the united states!

Key Points

Sucking leech. Image by GlebK, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
LakeLocationNotable Features
Lake GastonNorth Carolina/VirginiaCrystal-clear waters, game fish
Lake LanierGeorgiaImpressive surface area, recreation
Lake MichiganMultiple statesOne of the great lakes, diverse marine life
Lake ErieMultiple statesStagnant water, impact on fisheries
Lake GeorgeFloridaShallow, brackish waters, leech bites reported
Lake TahoeCalifornia/NevadaBeautiful scenery, diverse activities
New Hampshire LakesNew HampshireNumerous lakes, leech presence in shallow waters

Leech Teemed Lakes

leeches in lakes
Not all leeches are harmful or carry diseases. Image via Pixabay

Leeches, like earthworms, can be found in various environments, including tropical areas. However, they are particularly common in lakes, which tend to reside in shallow waters and along the shorelines. It’s important to note that not all leeches are bloodsuckers, as there are different types with diverse feeding habits.

Unfortunately for most of us, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to lakes with a leech population! These slimy creatures have made themselves at home in numerous lakes. So, if you were hoping for a short list of leech-free lakes, that won’t happen anytime soon.

But fear not, intrepid swimmers! With some research and caution, you can still find plenty of lakes where leeches haven’t thrown a big party. So check out the local conditions, and choose your swimming spot wisely. You can read our posts about The Best Lakes to Camp in The United States and even our article on The Most Beautiful Lakes In The United States to really make the best out of any trip! After all, you deserve to enjoy a dip without becoming a leech’s favorite snack!

The 6 Most Leech-Infested Lakes In The United States

Commonly leeches are called segmented worms. Image via Pixabay

If you plan a refreshing swim in the United States, you might want to steer clear of the leech-infested lakes. Trust me, it’s like rolling out the red carpet for those blood-sucking leeches! They’ll see you as a delicious snack and won’t hesitate to feast on your precious blood.

So, unless you’re hosting a leech buffet, avoiding these lakes is probably best. Keep your blood where it belongs and choose a leech-free swimming spot instead. Your unharmed blood supply will thank you!

So without further adieu, here are some of the Leech-infested lakes in the United States;

  • New Hampshire Lakes
  • Lake Lanier
  • Lake Erie
  • Lake Michigan
  • Lake Tahoe
  • Lake George

#1 Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier, Georgia, USA
Perhaps stay inside your boat when you visit Lake Lanier, Georgia, USA. Via Unsplash

Let’s dive into Lake Lanier, a widely known lake in Georgia boasting an impressive surface area of 37,000 acres and a depth of 156 feet. I have some news for you—this lake is a hotspot for our little leech friends. Yep, they’ve made themselves quite at home here.

While Lake Lanier is a popular destination for recreation, it’s not exactly the top choice for those who fear these squirming creatures. Scoleciphobic folks tend to avoid this place like the plague because, let’s face it, leeches can be a bit unsettling. Not all leech species in the lake are dangerous, but some can cause a bit of a disturbance. So, it’s no wonder why people tend to steer clear of swimming in these waters.

However, despite their presence, most people still plunge into Lake Lanier. After all, the leeches are considered official residents here and don’t bother everyone. But hey, if you’re not a fan of these tiny creepy crawlers latching onto your body, it’s wise to take some precautions and keep yourself leech-free.

#2 Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan shoreline near Indiana Dunes National Park
Lake Michigan shoreline near Indiana Dunes National Park. Image via Unsplash

Let’s talk about the marvelous Lake Michigan, one of the fantastic five great lakes in the United States. It holds a special place among its counterparts, being the second largest by volume and the third largest in surface area. With such impressive stats, it’s no wonder people consider it a top-notch destination for their trips.

Now, while Lake Michigan is teeming with all sorts of marine life, including a few leech species, the leech population here is relatively modest compared to other lakes in the country. When scientists examine the fish in this lake, they find that only a small number have those pesky barnacles attached to them.

However, in areas where the fish population is less abundant, the leeches seem to thrive a bit more. So, if you find yourself in those particular spots, you might want to watch for these bloodsuckers.

But hey, let’s not get carried away with leech-induced panic. While a few residents have voiced their concerns about leeches attaching themselves to their feet, the Department of Conservation hasn’t reported any widespread harm or infections caused by these critters. So, it seems like Lake Michigan’s leeches are behaving themselves, at least for now.

If you want to explore more than just this great lake, check out our article on the Animals in Michigan to have a more “in Depth” experience.

#3 Lake Erie

lakes with leeches
I bet these rocks are perfect spaces for leeches to live in! Image via Unsplash

Lake Erie, known for its stagnant water, has seen an increase in the presence of certain leech species. What makes these leeches unique is their inability to swim, which means they prefer to live in the muddy areas of the lake. Unfortunately, this poses a problem for anglers who frequent the lake.

When the water is shallow, and the fish are closer to the bottom, the leech problem becomes a real nuisance. These leeches latch onto walleye, seeking a blood meal to sustain themselves. But don’t worry; they don’t harm the walleye. So, if you happen to catch a walleye that had a leech attached to it, consuming that fish won’t lead to any diseases in humans.

The specific species of leeches in Lake Erie have yet to be confirmed, but it’s important to note that these segmented worms can potentially contribute to disease transmission within the Lake Erie watershed. So, it’s wise to be aware of leeches and take necessary precautions when enjoying activities in and around the lake.

#4 Lake George

A few cases of leech bites have been reported at this lake. Image via Pixabay

Lake George, also known as Lake Welaka, is a renowned destination in Florida, United States. This expansive lake covers a surface area of 46,000 acres and is known for its shallow, brackish waters.

Among the diverse marine life that calls Lake George home, leeches have made their presence known. These leech species thrive in the freshwater environment of the lake, often found hiding under rocks or at the bottom of Lake George.

It’s worth noting that there have been reports of leech bites in the area, which can be alarming. Some individuals have experienced allergic reactions or shock from these bites, while others could remove the leeches themselves without requiring medical attention.

When visiting Lake George, it’s important to keep an eye out for snakes that are present in the lake’s surroundings. Alongside leeches, you might also encounter various aquatic worms, pouch snails, and midge flies as part of the lake’s diverse ecosystem.

You would think that with a population of roughly 2,322 gators, leeches would be the least of people’s worries. But despite the presence of these critters, small and large alike, Lake George remains a popular destination for fishing, boating, and hiking activities. So, if you’re planning a visit, be prepared for an adventure filled with nature’s wonders, and keep an eye out for the lake’s fascinating inhabitants.

If you want more of a thrill, you can Meet Florida’s Alligator Population with another one of our articles!

#5 Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, United States
Lake Tahoe, United States, is so gorgeous I would swim there even if there are leeches! Image via Pixabay

Lake Tahoe is one of the giant freshwater lakes in the Sierra Nevada hills.

In Lake Tahoe, you’ll find yourself in a paradise of ski resorts and gorgeous beaches. This place is a dream come true for swimming, fishing, boating, and even scuba diving enthusiasts.

Now, here’s the scoop: like the other lakes on this list Lake Tahoe is home to many leech species. So, if you’re thinking about taking a swim, it’s not exactly the top pick. But fear not, my friend! These leeches may be pesky, but they won’t cause serious harm. No need to cancel your beach plans just yet!

Just keep in mind that Lake Tahoe also has a few slithery residents in the form of snakes. So, while enjoying your fishing or swimming adventures, it’s wise to take some safety precautions and be aware of your surroundings.

Ultimately, Lake Tahoe offers so much beauty and fun that a few leeches and snakes won’t spoil the party. Embrace the adventure, dive into the crystal-clear waters, and make unforgettable memories in this magnificent lake!

#6 New Hampshire Lakes

A glimpse of Conway Lake, New Hampshire, USA
A glimpse of Conway Lake, New Hampshire, USA. Image via Unsplash

Regarding lakes, New Hampshire takes the cake with around 1,000 of them! These lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams, dot the landscape of this beautiful state. Here’s a fun fact: in winter, most of these lakes freeze over, turning them into a frozen wonderland.

If you plan a swim in any of the New Hampshire lakes when they aren’t frozen, watch out for our little leech buddies. These nocturnal creatures prefer to do their “leech” business under darkness so you won’t spot them during the day. However, they might decide to hitch a ride on your body when you take a refreshing dip.

Don’t let that deter you from enjoying the pure and clean waters of New Hampshire lakes. But it’s important to be aware that these lakes face some threats, such as invasive species, runoff, pollution, and the impact of climate change. So, let’s do our part to protect these natural wonders while we soak in their beauty.

Among the leeches in New Hampshire lakes, the northern bloodsucker takes the crown for being the most common. These leeches have a hankering for warm-blooded animals, including humans. So, if you find one of these bloodsuckers on you, remember they’re in search of a little meal, and they mean no harm.

Many visitors flock to the New Hampshire lakes every year to enjoy their splendor. So, grab your swimsuit, prepare for some leech encounters, and explore the wildlife of New Hampshire.

Bloodsuckers Other Than Leeches In United States Great Lakes

By David Adamec – Own work, Public Domain,

Aside from leeches, the great lakes of the United States also have other bloodsuckers such as lampreys. Although lampreys are dangerous, they mostly prefer cold blood and feed on fish. But sometimes, they can attach to the swimmers as well.

They caused great destruction to various fisheries in the great lakes. Lampreys reduced the cisco population in lake trout because they used to feed on them.

These bloodsuckers, the lampreys, actually belong in the ocean. They are invasive to the great lakes and cause harm to the ecosystem and local habitat.

Lampreys In Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain, United States. Image via Unsplash

The leeches are not only organisms that suck blood from the animal’s body. There are various other bloodsuckers as well, like lampreys. 

Lake Champlain, known for being home to the oldest fossil reefs worldwide, is a freshwater lake in North America within the United States border. Lake Champlain has abundant lampreys, which are vampires-like leeches that suck blood. 

Lampreys are a fish species that have suckers within which teeth are present. These teeth help them in attachment to the host body. They lack jaws and should not be confused with eels. They came to Lake Champlain in the 1800s through the Hudson Canal.

Lamprey’s bite is considered dangerous because it causes pain. Once someone becomes their prey, there is a considerable risk of developing certain infections that leeches do not drive.

Many ecologists suggest that these jawless vertebrates should be kept away from inland lakes by not building canals from great lakes toward inland lakes.

Role Of Leeches In Lake

Leeches might be irritating or scary, but they are important for the ecosystem to function. Image via Pixabay

Believe it or not, leeches have their role to play in the grand food chain of life! Just like any other living organism, they have their spot in the natural order of things. In many lakes, these bloodsuckers are an integral part of the food web. They serve as parasites, vectors, prey, and even predators for various other parasites.

But here’s the thing: these leeches in lakes aren’t like their tropical cousins that might give you the “heebie-jeebies”. They are not harmful to humans. In fact, they are quite important for the lakes’ natural environment. As native inhabitants, they contribute to the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Some people may find them troublesome, especially in popular swimming areas. But here’s a mind-boggling fact: if leeches were to disappear from lakes suddenly, the whole food chain would be thrown into disarray. Their absence could seriously mess things up for the other organisms that rely on them for survival.

So, let’s give a little credit to these slimy creatures and appreciate their important role in maintaining the harmony of the lakes’ ecosystem.

Ideal Place for Leeches in Lakes

Image via Pixabay

When we talk about leeches in lakes, it’s important to note that they don’t occupy the entire lake. Instead, these slippery creatures tend to stick to specific areas like shallow waters, rocks, and shorelines. You won’t find them venturing into the deep waters, as they have their preferences.

But that’s not all—leeches have a knack for hiding and attaching themselves to various spots within the lake. You’ll often find them in areas where weeds, submerged branches, and other organic debris provide ideal hiding places or attachment surfaces.

Now, while leeches are mostly known for their love of freshwater habitats, it doesn’t mean they can’t handle a bit of saltwater action. Some leech species can thrive in saltwater environments as well. So, these flatworms are more adaptable than we might think!

In summary, leeches are preferred within lakes, favoring shallow waters, rocks, shorelines, and spots with hiding or attachment opportunities. And while most prefer fresh water, don’t be surprised if you come across a leech that’s perfectly at home in saltwater too!

How To Avoid Leeches In Lakes?

YouTube video

There are specific ways and methods by which you can avoid leeches in the lakes. As already explained, leeches like to live in shallow water; therefore, swimming in shallow water is like inviting the freeloaders to suck their blood. 

But leeches are absent in deeper water, so swimming in deep water will keep you safe from these parasites.

  • Avoiding the shorelines also helps prevent the leech species from getting attached to the body.
  • Leeches are considered harmless because they have not caused severe issues to swimmers until now. Therefore no strict actions are taken by the lake management in the United States.
  • Bait trapping is also helpful to stop the leeches from getting stuck on the body.
  • On shorelines of lakes, the leeches appear most commonly under the stones, sticks, and other debris. Cleaning the shoreline by removing the organic debris will play a key role in reducing the number of leeches in the area.

What To Do If You Get A Leech?

7 Most Leech-Infested Lakes In The United States
Familiarise yourself with these 7 Most Leech-Infested Lakes In The United States – otherwise you might end up jumping into a lake with unexpected friends! Image via Unsplash

If you encounter a leech while swimming or in any water body, there’s no need to panic. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to safely remove it:

  1. Take a close look at the leech and locate its thinner end, which is where its mouth is located.
  2. Instead of pulling the leech straight off your skin, place your finger near the leech’s mouth.
  3. Using your fingernail, gently slide it towards the leech’s mouth and push it sideways.
  4. By pushing the mouth sideways, you’ll ensure that the leech detaches without its mouth parts getting stuck in your skin.
  5. Once you successfully remove the leech, make sure to disinfect the area of your skin where it was attached.
  6. Covering up the bite with a clean bandage or dressing is also a good idea for added protection.

Remember, staying calm and following these steps will help you safely remove the leech without any harm or discomfort.

Final Thoughts on Leech-Infested Lakes In The United States

Glacier lake
Glacier two medicine lake in the USA. Image via NPS Photo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Now that you’ve become quite the expert on leech-infested lakes in the United States, it’s time to address the leech situation with a lighter touch.

Let’s face it, leeches may have a role in the aquatic food web, but most of us find them pretty creepy when they latch onto our bodies during a swim.

But it is important to remember that not all leeches are bloodsuckers, and not all of them will leave you with an unwanted souvenir. These leeches have a soft spot for shallow water and the cozy shorelines of freshwater lakes, so you’ll often find them hanging out there, attaching themselves to anything they can find like branches or weeds.

Now, I get it if the thought of having leeches stuck to your feet or legs and slurping away at your blood gives you goosebumps. If you have a phobia of these wriggly worms (who can blame you?), it might be best to skip these leech-infested lakes altogether. And if you do find yourself there, it’s probably a good idea to steer clear of swimming and shoreline activities to avoid any close encounters with leeches of any kind.

Enjoy your next leech-free trip and have fun on your adventures without those bloodthirsty little critters tagging along!

Not all animals in lakes are scary like leeches, take a look at our article on 10 Animals that Live in Lakes.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Q: Do leeches have teeth?
A: Yes, leeches have teeth-like structures called “jaw blades” or “jaw teeth.” These structures are used to make incisions in the skin of their hosts.

Q: Do leeches live in rivers?
A: Yes, many species of leeches can be found in freshwater habitats, including rivers. They are often found in slow-moving or stagnant water bodies such as ponds, lakes, and marshes as well.

Q: Do leeches have 32 brains?
A: No, leeches do not have 32 brains. This is a common misconception. Leeches have a relatively simple nervous system, consisting of a main nerve cord that runs along the length of their bodies with several ganglia (clusters of nerve cells). They do not possess multiple brains.

Q: Why do leeches hate salt?
A: Leeches do not “hate” salt, but they are negatively affected by it. Salt can be harmful and even toxic to leeches. When exposed to saltwater or high concentrations of salt, leeches can become dehydrated and may die. Additionally, salt can interfere with their ability to feed and survive.

Q: Why do leeches have green blood?
A: Some species of leeches have green blood due to the presence of a pigment called chlorocruorin. Chlorocruorin contains iron and is responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood. It gives the blood a green color when oxygenated.

Q: When do leeches come out of hibernation?
A: The timing of leech hibernation can vary depending on the species and the local climate. In colder regions, leeches may hibernate during the winter months when temperatures drop. They typically become less active and seek shelter in soil, mud, or other protected areas.

Q: When do leeches sleep?
A: Leeches do not have a defined sleep cycle like mammals or birds. They are primarily nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active during the night. However, leeches can also be active during the day, especially in low-light conditions or when seeking a host for feeding.

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