12 Best Lakes in Tennessee:

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12 best lakes in Tennessee
Image by pladicon2012acacias from Pixabay copyright 2020

No matter what time of year you visit Tennessee, you can find a lake to satisfy your vacation needs, whether they involve relaxing on a sandy beach, renting a pontoon boat, or exploring lakeside trails through dense woodland. Tennessee has several lakes, but the 12 best lakes in Tennessee are as follows:

  • Norris Lake
  • Percy Priest Lake
  • Center Hill Lake
  • Chickamauga Lake
  • Old Hickory Lake
  • Douglas Lake
  • Watauga Lake
  • Watts Bar Lake
  • Reelfoot Lake
  • Nickajack Lake
  • Boone Lake
  • Tims Ford Lake

1. Norris Lake:

Norris Lake typically experiences temperatures between 55 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit in the spring, 56.5 degrees in the fall, and 36 degrees in the winter. Its region experiences about 4.6 inches of rain each month on average. Depending on the lake’s depth variation, the lake level is around 1,000 feet above sea level, with an average input level of 1,500 to 2,500 feet and an average exit level of 1,000 to 1,500 feet. Additionally, there is a daily average water fluctuation of around 46 feet.

The Clearest Lake, out of all the lakes in Tennessee, Norris Lake, is almost too beautiful to be real.

The Great Valley of East Tennessee has Norris Lake, a shoreline extending approximately 375 square miles around its 52.9 square mile reservoir. Over 56 different fish species may be found in Norris Lake, which is renowned for its striper fishing. Numerous additional activities, including golfing, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and camping, can be enjoyed along the 809 miles of beachfront.

The Norris Lake Dam, where the Clinch and Powell Rivers converge, filters out impurities to maintain the lake’s crystal-clear waters. Consequently, it is green. The beautiful rolling hills frame the completely calm, astonishingly transparent, turquoise-green deep waters. For those seeking its stunning magnificence, Lake Norris is definitely a unique and valued discovery.

2. Percy Priest Lake:

A reservoir called J. Percy Priest Lake is located in north central Tennessee. It is regarded as one of the best lakes in Tennessee for largemouth bass. J. Percy Priest Dam, situated on the Stones River between miles six and seven, creates it. The dam, which impounds a lake 42 miles long, is situated about 10 miles east of the center of Nashville. Percy Priest is the name of the lake and the dam.

The lake has a surface area of 14,200 acres (5,700 hectares) of water, with a summer pool elevation of 490 feet (150 m) above mean sea level, and is located in parts of the counties of Davidson, Rutherford, and Wilson. 18,854 acres (7,630 ha) Numerous public lands surround the water; 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) are used to control wildlife. The reservoir flooded the location of the former town of Old Jefferson, which was destroyed in the early 1960s to make way for the construction of the dam.

Percy Priest Lake has an average depth of 29 feet, although its deepest area is in the main river channel, about half a mile upstream from the dam, at a depth of roughly 100′. The lake’s height fluctuates from 483 feet above mean sea level in the winter to 490 feet above mean sea level throughout the summer.

The lake has bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, striped, white, and smallmouth bass. Tips are available for individuals who want to increase their chances of landing a great fish. Several fishing charter services also assist the more daring anglers on their fishing adventures.

3. Center Hill Lake:

Midst Tennessee, about in the middle of Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, is where Center Hill Lake is situated. In the quiet county of DeKalb, Baxter, Smithville, Silver Point, Sparta, Rock Island, and other small towns are nearby. This is one of the best lakes in Tennessee.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a dam in 1948 that resulted in the creation of Center Hill Lake, which now spans 64 miles and encompasses 18,220 primarily undeveloped acres. With its nearly 415 miles of shoreline and gently sloping hilltops, Center Hill Lake is renowned as a tranquil and well-preserved refuge. Water can be stored in Center Hill Lake for 762,000-acre-feet (940,000,000 m3). The lake’s longest point is 190 feet deep, and its shoreline totals about 415 miles (668 km) (58 m).

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The lake’s principal tributaries are the Caney Fork River and the Falling Water River. A portion of the lake’s shoreline can be found at Edgar Evins State Park, Burgess Falls State Park, and Rock Island State Park. Peaceful streams reach the waterfalls at Burgess Falls, Rock Island, and Fancher Falls. Other waterfalls, hiking routes, and picturesque vantage points are near the lake.

4. Chickamauga Lake:

When the Chickamauga Dam, a component of the Tennessee Valley Authority, was finished in 1940, it produced Chickamauga Lake, a reservoir in the United States along the Tennessee River. The lake is 58.9 miles (94.8 km) long and runs from Watts Bar Dam at mile 529.9 (853 km) to Chickamauga Dam at mile 471.0 (758 km).

It has 810 miles (1,303 km) of shoreline along its borders with Rhea, Meigs, and Hamilton counties, and two bridges at State Highway 60 and Highway 30 traverse it. The densely populated area around the lake is frequently used for outdoor recreation, especially at its southern end.

In recognition of the nearby Chickamauga Cherokee tribe, it was given that name. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and catfish are among the gamefish that may be caught in this lake out of all lakes in Tennessee, which is a well-liked location for fishing. The location consequently organizes well-liked fishing competitions. Largemouth bass, Blue catfish, Redear sunfish, Striped bass, and Channel catfish are some of the fish that may be found here.

The Chickamauga Dam could be viewed as Chattanooga’s big split. Dividing the Chickamauga (shocker) and Nickajack reservoirs, located south of the Chickamauga dam. The lake is 58.9 miles long and runs from Watts Bar Dam at mile 529.9 to Chickamauga Dam at mile 471.0.

Bassmaster Magazine ranked Lake Chickamauga as the second-best bass fishing lake in the United States, dubbed “The Land of the Giants” for largemouth bass.

5. Old Hickory Lake:

Northcentral Tennessee contains the reservoir known as Old Hickory Lake, one of the best lakes in Tennessee. It is created by the Old Hickory Lock and Dam, which is situated about 25 miles (40 km) upstream of Nashville at latitude 36°17′48′′N and longitude 86°39′20′′W, on the Cumberland River at mile 216.2 between Sumner and Davidson counties.

22,500 acres and 97.3 river miles make up Old Hickory Lake. The elevation of the lake is 445 feet above sea level. The pool’s lowest elevation is 442 feet. On the lake are many public amenities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers runs two campgrounds, four marinas, and 41 boat access locations.

One of Tennessee’s most well-liked lakes for pleasure is Old Hickory Lake. Popular activities at Old Hickory Lake include boating, camping, and fishing. Numerous beautiful parks surround the lake. Additionally, there are many full-service marinas all around the lake. At Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee, there are enjoyable activities for all outdoor interests.

On Old Hickory Lake are the largest wading bird breeding colonies in the Central Basin. Additionally, breeding Ospreys, migratory and wintering waterfowl, including loons, grebes, gulls, terns, and swallows, are present.

12 best lakes in Tennessee
Image by bertvthul from Pixabay copyright 2015

Old Hickory Lake is home to the following fish species: Spotted bass, Largemouth bass, Smallmouth bass, Flathead catfish, Channel catfish, and Flathead catfish.

6. Douglas Lake:

A reservoir known as Douglas Lake, also known as Douglas Reservoir, is one of the best lakes in Tennessee, formed by damming the French Broad River. The Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are only a few miles away from this lake.  More than 30,400 acres and 550 miles of shoreline make up Douglas Lake, which has a 140-foot depth.

You can discover one of the manmade wonders of the Smoky Mountains, located just a few miles northeast of Sevierville, Tennessee.

Douglas Lake, surrounded by mountains and undulating hills, provides a range of year-round activities like boating, fishing, camping, and swimming. One of the best birding places in East Tennessee is the area around Rankins Bottom.

Sevierville, Dandridge, Newport, and White Pine are the principal cities close to the lake. A short drive from the lake will take you to the main tourist destinations of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg over less travelled picturesque roads.

One of the top five crappie fishing lakes in the country, Douglas Lake has emerged as the top crappie lake in East Tennessee. It also has some of the best largemouth bass fishing in the country and organizes many prestigious competitions in the spring and fall. Three rivers feed the lake, two of which, the French Broad River and Nolichucky River, are excellent for fly fishing. Visitors to this lake region are also drawn by hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

Among the fish species are sauger, white crappie, white bass, largemouth bass, and bluegill. Twelve of the world’s 19 families of early blooming plants, including the mosses, ferns, and cycads, among the planet’s first flowering plants, are found in this region.

A few of the numerous flora in the Douglas ecosystem may be found in the Fan Palm, Ribbonwood Tree, Back Scratcher Ginger, Daintree Cheese Tree, Wax Flower, and Maple Silkwood.

12 best lakes in Tennessee
Image by Ralph from Pixabay copyright 2019

One-third of Australia’s 315 mammal species, including some of the rarest animals in the country, are found in this region.

7. Watauga Lake:

The Watauga Reservoir was built by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) with the construction of the TVA Watauga Dam in 1948. It is located east of Elizabethton, Tennessee, and is known locally as Watauga Lake. Watauga Lake surrounds a portion of Carter and Johnson Counties.

Watauga Lake has a length of about 16.3 miles (26.2 kilometres) and a shoreline of 104.9 miles (168.8 kilometres). Watauga Lake’s surface area is 6,430 acres (26 km2) at the TVA summertime water level of “full pool,” and its estimated depth at the dam is 265 feet (81 m). Watauga is the TVA lake with the highest elevation at full pool, 1,959 feet (597 m) above sea level, out of all lakes in Tennessee.

In typical years, the TVA Watauga Reservoirs’ water levels vary by around 9 feet (2.7 m) to accommodate seasonal flood storage and water flow augmentation during dry seasons. Watauga can store 152,829 acre-feet of floodwater (188,512,000 m3).

Boating, fishing, water skiing, and camping are all recreational activities. Boats operating on the lake are not subject to any restrictions regarding horsepower or speed. On the reservoir’s Hampton side, several public and private boat launch ramps are available for a fee.

8. Watts Bar Lake:

Watts Bar Dam, a Tennessee Valley Authority system component, created Watts Bar Lake, a reservoir on the Tennessee River. With a surface area of 39,000 acres, it is one of the largest lakes in the South. It stretches for 72.4 miles between Watts Bar Dam and Ft. Loudon Dam, reaching a maximum depth of about 70 feet close to the dams. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which built the lake in 1942, is in charge of its management (TVA). The Tennessee River and Clinch River are the main tributaries, and the Emory River empties directly into the Clinch River.

For crappie, black crappie, largemouth bass, and spotted bass, Watts Bar has some of the highest sport fishing rankings in the TVA system out of all the lakes in Tennessee. With a huge population of great blue herons, over 120 nesting pairs of osprey, and a few bald eagles residing on or close to the lake, the location also offers many birdwatching opportunities. The lake is home to several parks and camps, including the John Knox Center and Camp Buck Toms for Boy Scouts.

12 best lakes in Tennessee
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9. Reelfoot Lake:

In the counties of Lake and Obion northwest of the U.S. state of Tennessee, Reelfoot Lake is a small, undeveloped natural lake. A considerable portion resembles a swamp, and bayou-like ditches—some natural, some man-made—connect additional open water bodies known as basins, the largest of which is Blue Basin. Bald eagle nesting pairs and bald cypress trees can be found around Reelfoot Lake.

Ospreys, golden eagles, bald eagles, and other raptors are among the frequently seen fauna. Reelfoot Lake is situated along a significant flyway for migratory birds, providing opportunity to see a wide range of ducks, shorebirds, herons, and songbirds. There are many turtles and snakes there as well. Reelfoot Lake State Park’s 15,000 acres of water now draws tourists from throughout the nation to explore its numerous basins, all of which are surrounded by a dense canopy of bald cypress trees.

Since the lake and surrounding region were purchased by the state of Tennessee in the early 20th century and designated as Reelfoot Lake State Park, public access has been safeguarded. A similar, smaller lake to the south called Lake Isom has been made a part of the National Wildlife Refuge. The National Park Service recognized Reelfoot Lake as a national natural site in 1966. It is Tennessee’s only natural lake.

10. Nickajack Lake:

The reservoir built by the Nickajack Dam for the Tennessee Valley Authority is called Nickajack Lake. It is one of the famous lakes in Tennessee. The lake passes through Chattanooga as it travels from Nickajack Dam to Chickamauga Dam. Nickajack Lake includes the Tennessee River Gorge, widely known as the “Grand Canyon of Tennessee.”

In contrast to Chickamauga Lake, which lies close by, Nickajack Lakes’ full pool is a constant 633.5 feet (193.1 m) above sea level throughout the year.

Benny Hull caught the freshwater drum that holds the world record, weighing 54 pounds 8 ounces, from Nickajack Lake in 1972. (24.7 kg).

In 2011 the capture of a lake sturgeon was seen at Nickajack Lake. Since they left the region in the 1960s, this was the first time one had been seen in the lake.

12 best lakes in Tennessee
Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay copyright

11. Boone Lake:

Northeastern Tennessee’s Sullivan and Washington counties contain the reservoir known as Boone Lake, one of the lakes in Tennessee which was created by holding back the South Fork Holston River and Watauga River behind Boone Dam.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is in charge of maintaining and running the dam and reservoir. The lake’s surface area is roughly 4,400 acres (18 km2), and its capacity for flood storage is 75,829 acre-feet (93,534,000 m3). Over the course of a year, the reservoirs’ water levels can vary by as much as 20 feet (6 meters).

Boone Lake is a well-liked spot for boating, fishing, and other water-based activities. It has a swimming area above the dam, a boat ramp, and a courtesy pier.

12. Tims Ford Lake:

Tims Ford Lake is a rural lake with a surface area of 10,700 acres and 265 kilometres of shoreline. One of the purest and deepest lakes in the mid-South is Tims Ford out of all the lakes in Tennessee. Kayakers, boaters, and anglers enjoy Tims Ford’s expansive arms of water. It has developed into a true lake lover’s paradise due to its close proximity to Huntsville, Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, and Nashville (all roughly 1.5 hours away).

Tims’s Ford Dam construction started in 1966 and was finished in 1970. The Dam spans the Elk River at the height of 175 feet and a length of 1580 feet. In a typical year, the water level in Tims Ford Reservoir changes by roughly 15 feet. On the lake, there are four marinas.

Tims Ford State Park, Bear Trace Golf Course, Old Town Winchester, Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Beechcraft Heritage Aviation Museum, and the University of the South are some of the nearby attractions.


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