A survey of lakes in mountainous areas of the Western United States was conducted in fall 1985 by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in cooperation with the USDA - Forest Service. Of the 719 probability sample lakes, only one was acidic; 99% of the lakes were estimated to have pH>6.0. However, acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) was < or = 50 microeq L-1 for an estimated 16.8% of the lakes in the study area. Of the five subregions in the West, California had the highest proportion of lakes with ANC < or = 50 microeq L-1 (36.7%) and the Southern Rocky Mountains had the lowest proportion (4.6%). The lakes in the West were post-stratified into geomorphic units corresponding to major mountain ranges. Watershed factors, including watershed area, lake area, watershed area: lake area ratio, lake depth, watershed slope, percent exposed bedrock, elevation, and hydraulic residence time, were examined within six geomorphic units in order to evaluate their relationship to lake ANC. These watershed variables had poor predictive capability with respect to ANC. The results suggest that higher-resolution information for factors such as mineralogy and hydrology are required for prediction of lake ANC within a given geomorphic unit.