Summer Fun on East Tennessee’s Lakes
When summer hits, East Tennessee lakes and waterways turn into a playground filled with ski boats, pontoon boats and jet skis.
East Tennessee has always had an abundance of water. The streams of the Appalachian Mountains flow into rivers like the Tennessee, Holston and French Broad. Dam building by The Tennessee Valley Authority started in the 1930s to control flooding and generate electricity. Folks here fell in love with TVA’s reservoirs. Approx. 200,000 acres of East Tennessee are covered with water. That’s plenty of room for fun, especially in the summertime “when the livin’ is easy and the fish are jumping.”
Sailboats catch breezes across Fort Loudoun Lake at Concord. Fly fishermen whip their lines into the cold water of Watauga. Rowers glide on the still surface of Melton Hill Lake and cabin cruisers rip across Douglas Lake.
At the close of the afternoon, lake lovers gather at a place like Bubba Brew’s Grill on Norris Lake to eat catfish and watch the sun go down. Listen to live music on the deck of Calhoun’s restaurant at the marina just above Fort Loudoun Dam, or they take a dinner cruise aboard the Volunteer Princess in Knoxville.
The fishing at Norris Lake attracts pros and amateurs from across the country, particularly for bass and trout. Striped bass regularly reach sizes of 25 pounds and give a good fight.
Of the East Tennessee lakes, Norris has the most marinas with more than 20 as it is the largest reservoir on a tributary of the Tennessee River. It is the “jewel in the crown.” The sapphire blue water qualifies the lake to be one of the cleanest in the country. While taking a pontoon boat ride from Twin Cove Marina in Caryville, I saw secluded coves, sandstone cliffs, and lush woodlands.
Resorts, such as Twin Cove with lakefront condo and cabin rentals, cluster around its shores. The range of guest accommodations along Norris Lake, from large vacation homes to RV and tent camping sites, makes this destination ideal for week-long family vacations, especially with the Smoky Mountains and other major attractions easily accessible via Interstates 75 and 40. At some marinas, visitors can even rent a floating house!
Douglas Lake near Dandridge rates as one of the nation’s top five lakes for crappie fishing. Melton Hill Lake near Oak Ridge and Clinton lays claim to glass-smooth water. It has a nationally-recognized rowing course and serves as a training site for collegiate teams. Fort Loudoun and Tellico lakes – two connecting lakes usually grouped together – are leisure personified. More than two million visitors a year enjoy the good life at marinas and attractions along these lakes. Parks near Tellico Dam and Fort Loudoun Dam offer observation areas with views of the massive structures, as well as picnic pavilions, walking paths, and boat ramps.
Stretching across Roane County, Watts Bar Lake is a great place for bass and crappie fishing. It is huge with 39,000 acres of water and 771 miles of shoreline. I find this lake to be great for birdwatching because lots of great blue herons and osprey live here. Waterfront parks and walking paths in Kingston are popular for picnicking and jogging.
Upper East Tennessee is justifiably proud of Fort Patrick Henry Lake at Warrior’s Path State Park and Watauga Lake near Elizabethton. Around these lakes I enjoy small-town hospitality at marinas, bait shops, and family restaurants. That’s true also when I visit Chickamauga Lake and Nickajack Lake, both in the boonies but within easy reach of Chattanooga’s sights and sounds.
The lakes I’ve mentioned are the biggies, but there are good reasons to visit the small ones. Gently rolling farmlands surround Cherokee Lake near Morristown. The scenery is spectacular around 541-acre Calderwood Lake because it shares borders with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee National Forest. I like Calderwood and Chilhowee Lake because they are quieter. I’m likely to see john boats and canoes. Largemouth and smallmouth bass, trout, walleye, crappie and rock bass are on the fishing menu. Boat ramps along U.S. Highway 129 give easy access to cool water and enjoyment.