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11 Breathtakingly Beautiful Photos That Represent the Best of Your America

Check out these exceptional photos submitted by readers in our water-themed photo contest.

1 / 11
Courtesy Robin Phillips

Christmas Meadows Trail, Utah

We asked readers for their best images of the waterways and shorelines that link us into one. Our favorite won a place on the cover of our July/August Issue (and $500!). The winner, Robin Phillips, submitted a breathtaking photo of Christmas Meadows Trail. But we received—yes—a flood of great entries. Here are the three runners-up and seven more we loved.

“There had just been a spring storm so I knew Ostler Peak would be covered in snow that day. My grandfather and father took me here to fly-fish off Christmas Meadows trail when I was a boy. I had to wait until I turned 12—it was a rite-of-passage thing. Since then, I’ve taken my sons here, and this summer, I will take my grandson. Time is a river, with eddies and currents that draw our family together and bind us fast.”

Robin Phillips 

2 / 11
Courtesy Nathan Gonzales

Assateague Island, Maryland

“As a full-time nurse, I value tranquil moments when I can decompress. This beach has given me many. I pitch a tent, camp overnight, and wake up early to watch the sunrise.”

Nathan Gonzales, 42

3 / 11
Courtesy Thomas Rousseau

Abiqua Falls, Oregon

“My family and I took a day-trip to these secluded falls. We stumbled upon a fire someone else had left behind, which is why my sister is only pretending to roast a marshmallow.”

Thomas Rousseau

4 / 11
Courtesy Joe Lowrey

Clarion River, Pennsylvania

“I took this photo from an abandoned railroad trestle I used to visit a lot during college. My friends and I would bring our guitars and make a day of it. Now I usually go with my brother.”

Joe Lowrey, 25

5 / 11
jul-aug-photo-contest-courtesy-tracy-mainesCourtesy Tracy Maines

Oquaga Lake, New York

“My husband and I have spent our summers here every year since we were married. Before that, he’d been going with his family since he was three. The lake has a way of getting into people’s blood.”

Tracy Maines, 57

6 / 11
jul-aug-photo-contest-courtesy-Christian-peayCourtesy Christian Peay

Utah Lake, Utah

“Because a steel mill sat on its shores for more than half a century, Utah Lake has a reputation for being a dirty eyesore. I’ve always disagreed, and I love taking photos here to show people how beautiful it is.”

Christian Peay, 50

7 / 11
Courtesy Ale Burrows

South Padre Island, Texas

“As my wife and I were leaving a waterfront restaurant, we must’ve startled this flock of pelicans. They flew off the pier and into the water. Luckily, I had my camera ready.”

Alex Burrows, 47

8 / 11
Courtesy Patrick Trepp

Cape Elizabeth, Maine

“This historic lighthouse was first lit in 1791 and is named the Portland Head Light. I knew I wanted to photograph it at sunrise. The crashing waves were a welcome addition.”

Patrick Trepp, 59

9 / 11
Courtesy Dina Basarab

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

“I was 12 the first time I visited this peaceful cove. My dad took my siblings and me on a hike and let us think we had found it on our own. It’s a magical spot.”

Dina Basarab, 24

10 / 11
Courtesy Margaret Dotson

Blue Mountain Beach, Florida

“I’m the editor of my high school yearbook, and I love taking photos. I snapped this one of my two best friends on vacation. I had to lie down in the wet sand to get it.”

Margaret Dotson, 16

11 / 11
jul-aug-photo-contest-courtesy-kathleen-keevinsCourtesy Kathleen Keevins

Buffalo, New York

“I took this photo of a koi pond at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens this April. The outdoor grounds weren’t quite in bloom, but the indoor aquatic garden was gorgeous.”

Kathleen Keevins

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest