The waterways of East Tennessee have been made what they are today thanks to the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Where the great rivers of East Tennessee flow - from the waters of the Tennessee River itself, on to the Clinch, Holston, French Broad, etc. - the TVA has created an incredible series of hydroelectric dams, which halted the free-flowing waters and created behind them massive reservoirs. A great array of waterborne recreation can be found on these rivers and lakes, from Chattanooga to Bristol and everywhere in between.
One man who knows a thing or two about water recreation in the mountainous portion of the Volunteer State is professional angler and fellow TripTales blogger Bill Dance, who you may find fishing for bass at Chickamauga Lake near Chattanooga or "big stripers" on the Clinch River near Oak Ridge. And that's just the start of it.
Through July, large blue catfish are known to bite at night at Fort Loudon, while on the Little Pigeon River on to Douglas Lake, smallmouths abound. Lake trout are typically plentiful at Watauga Lake through August; and during September, head up to the cool, clear waters of the Nolichucky for another chance at smallmouth bass.
Now, if you're into making a bigger splash than a lure does breaking the tranquil surface of a lake, you can go to where the whole world went in the summer of '96: the Ocoee River, site of the Summer Olympics whitewater slalom event. Here, you can barrel through rapids with names like Broken Nose, Slice-n-Dice, Tablesaw and Cat's Pajamas. There are multiple options for rentals and guided adventures through these wild waters, and a whole range of difficulty levels to choose from. Anyone from first-timer to experienced kayaker will be able to find an Ocoee River adventure that's balanced with thrill and skill.
And finally, if you're looking to make a splash that doesn't involve hooking aquatic critters or careening from rapid to rapid - let's say, by doing a cannonball from the top of a pontoon boat instead - all you have to do is pick a lake. There are boat rental facilities at just about every body of water in this part of the state, with reasonable rates and fine craft to choose from. Just get a boat, ice down some drinks and enjoy the sun.