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Thursday, October 5, 2023

Exploring the 13 Best Lakes in Tennessee: A Guide to the Best Places for Swimming, Fishing, and Sightseeing

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A Cook, Software analyst & Blogger.

Discover the best lakes in Tennessee for fishing, boating, swimming, and more. With picturesque landscapes, scenic trails, bustling cities, and serene lakes, the landlocked state of Tennessee is blessed with abundant natural beauty. It offers a plethora of outdoor recreation options, especially on & around its various lakes. 

From fishing, kayaking, and picnicking to swimming and camping, the activities offered by these stunning lakes are endless.

Wondering where to begin?

Join us as we go on exploring the top lakes in Tennessee for an unforgettable vacation. 

Norris Lake #1

Located in East Tennessee, this is one of the clearest & largest lakes in the state, featuring a shoreline of 800 miles. It is easily accessible from Norris Dam State Park sprawled over an area of over 4,000 acres.

From swimming, waterboarding, camping, boating, fishing, or hiking, the activities to enjoy here are endless.

Norris Lake 

The lake is surrounded by exquisite mountains and lush wilderness and is home to several species of fish including bass, crappie, and catfish.

You’ll also find multiple camping sites on its shores for a fun family outing.

Got a furry friend?

Head to the pet-friendly Loyston Point Campground for a memorable time.

Cherokee Lake #2

Named after the Cherokee people who inhabited the area more than two centuries ago, this beautiful lake was created by damming the Holston River. Located in the foothills of the Clinch Mountains, it boasts of sublime natural beauty.

Cherokee lake

Whether you want to swim, picnic, fish, hike or go boating and mountain biking, this is a great spot.

Wish to spend more time in this picturesque place? 

Enjoy camping in Panther Creek State Park or Cherokee Dam Campground which also has a sandy beach nearby. 

Dale Hollow Lake  #3

Float on the calm waters of this lake as you soak in the surrounding natural beauty. Sounds magical, doesn’t it? That’s one of the many experiences that this lake offers.

A quarter of this lake is in Kentucky with the remaining part in Tennessee.

Created by the damming of the Obey River, this lake offers an array of outdoor activities from swimming, jet skiing, waterboarding, and sailing.

Dale hollow lake

The lake holds the world record for the largest smallmouth bass ever being caught. No wonder fishing is a popular activity here. You may catch crappie, species of bass & trout, and saugers amongst many others.

Want to spend more time?

Rent a houseboat or a lakeside cabin for a memorable time.

Percy Priest Lake  #4

This popular lake welcomes around five million visitors annually. Located a short drive away from Nashville, the area features plenty of campgrounds, picnic sites, marinas, and boat ramps.

Percy priest lake

Glide over the waters as you row your boat or enjoy a bit of luxury on a yacht.

You can also go swimming, water skiing, or fishing amongst many other activities for a fun outing. With so many offerings & its convenient location, this is one of the best lakes in Tennessee.

Chickamauga Lake #5

Stretching approximately 60 miles from Watts Bar Dam to Chickamauga Lake, this vast lake is one of the best fishing lakes in Tennessee.

Chickamauga Lake

Known for record-setting largemouth bass, this lake attracts fishing enthusiasts with an abundance of other species including crappie and bluegill. 

Featuring more than 800 miles of shorelines, it offers a host of outdoor recreation activities such as paddle boarding, boating, kayaking, and more.

There’s abundant wildlife along with two wildlife interpretation centers.  You can enjoy lakeside camping at Harrison Bay State Park with plenty of RV sites and a marina.

You can also enjoy hiking, biking, golfing & birding in this beautiful park. With so much to offer, this place ensures a fun-filled vacation. 

Old Hickory Lake #6

Located on the Cumberland River, this lake features 440 miles of shoreline. Multiple parks, marinas, and recreation areas along the shoreline offer a host of outdoor activities to enjoy from swimming to yachting.

Old Hickory Lake

The lake is stocked with fish such as crappie, catfish, and striped bass amongst others. Pick any of the eight public fishing piers and get a great catch.

Wish to spend the night in this picturesque location?

Head to Cedar Creek Campground which features 60 RV and tent campsites to spend some more time amidst nature.

There is even a swimming beach, a playground & laundry, and hot shower facilities here for an enjoyable stay. 

Douglas Lake #7

With around 30,000 acres of water, Douglas Lake is one of the largest in the state and was created from the French Broad River.

Soak in the beauty of this serene lake which is surrounded by the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, adding to its sublime beauty.

Douglas Lake

From swimming to waterboarding and jet skiing, there are plenty of options for adrenaline-pumping activities here.

How about launching your boat for an enjoyable ride?

Just cross the bridge from downtown Dandridge and go to the dock.

What’s more?

This place is a popular venue for fishing tournaments so while you’re here, cast a line for a good catch. If you’re visiting between July & October, enjoy the magnificent sights for shorebird migration. 

Boone Lake #8

Stretching across two counties, Boone Lake is another popular lake for recreational activities such as water skiing, swimming, and boating.

There are plenty of boat ramps here and a marina, perfect to enjoy a pleasant ride on the tranquil waters. 

Bonne Lake

If you love to fish, the lake is abundant in largemouth bass, black bass, striped bass, and catfish, amongst other species.

Created from the damming of the South Fork Holston River, the lake offers something for everyone and its scenic location makes it a great spot to spend some quality time amidst nature. 

Watts Bar Lake #9

Love birding? Get your binoculars out & head to this beautiful lake where you can watch a variety of different birds. It is located midway between Chattanooga and Knoxville and is known for sport fishing.

Watts Bar lake

You can catch species such as black crappie, largemouth, and spotted bass among others.

What’s more?

There are numerous parks & camps around this vast lake, offering the perfect opportunity for a relaxing retreat.

There’s also a marina and pontoon, fishing boat, and houseboat rentals available as well. 

Radnor Lake #10

In close proximity to Nashville, Radnor Lake is a great place if you want to truly rejuvenate amidst peaceful natural surroundings. The state park at Radnor Lake is a pristine nature preserve.

Radnor Lake

With swimming, picnicking, and fishing not allowed, the area maintains its quiet & calming vibe.

You can witness birds & spot wildlife from numerous observation points set up along the trail that goes along the lake’s shoreline.

You can also go canoeing, kayaking, or paddling on this serene lake. 

 Watauga Lake  #11

How about gliding through the calm waters of a lake as a cool breeze wafts in from the surrounding mountains?

Head to Watauga Lake for a plethora of such rejuvenating experiences.

Nestled amidst the Appalachian Mountains and Cherokee National Forest, this is known for being the highest-elevation lake in the state.

Watauga Lake

The area abounds in recreational activities where you can enjoy fishing, floating, water-skiing, cruising, kayaking, and many more.

With its 105 miles of shoreline, you can’t complain about a short boat ride here. This is indeed one of the best boating lakes in Tennessee

Reelfoot Lake #12

While most of the lakes in Tennessee are artificial, Reelfoot is a natural creation. Numerous earthquakes in the early 1800s led to the flooding of a forest by the Mississippi river.

Top Lakes in Tennessee
reelfoot lake

Today, this area is Reelfoot Lake. You can see the tops of cypress trees in the lake, leading to a unique ecological setting.

If you love birding, there are around 14 rare species of birds that can be spotted here. This beautiful place lets you enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, kayaking, and canoeing. 

Pickwick Lake #13

Created by the Pickwick Landing Dam, this massive lake is a popular fishing spot. With abundant smallmouth bass and huge catfish among other species, this lake attracts plenty of fishing enthusiasts.

Pickwick Lake

You can also enjoy water skiing, boating & jet skiing. When hunger strikes, head to Pickwick Landing State Park which has a restaurant, a hotel, a marina as well as numerous picnic sites.

Wish to spend the night?

The park has plenty of campsites. There’s also a golf course, perfect for a friendly match. 

So, get your itinerary finalised & head to these splendid lakes for an epic outing.

Follow us for more such tips!

FAQs: Best Lakes in Tennessee

Q. What is the nicest lake in Tennessee? 

Norris Lake, Douglas Lake, and Old Hickory Lake are some of the nicest lakes in Tennessee.

Q. Does Tennessee have clean lakes?

Dale Hollow Lake is considered one of the cleanest lakes in Tennessee. 

Q. Are there alligators in Tennessee?

Although Tennessee is known to not have alligators, there have been some sightings but they are usually limited to West Tennessee.

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