Watts Bar Lake, Tennessee, USA
Also known as: Watts Bar Reservoir
Midway between Knoxville and Chattanooga, Watts Bar Lake has been called “King of the Southern Great Lakes.” Watts Bar Lake is an impoundment of the Tennessee River created by Watts Bar Dam. Construction on the dam started in 1939 and was finished in 1942 three weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. It was built for flood control, navigation, and to generate hydroelectric power for the war…
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Welcome to the ultimate guide to Watts Bar Lake! Article topics include:
- All About Watts Bar Lake
- Where to Stay
- Vacation Planning Tools
- Things to Do
- Known Fish Species
- Watts Bar Lake Map
- Statistics / Weather / Helpful Links
- Watts Bar Lake Gifts
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All About Watts Bar Lake, TN
Midway between Knoxville and Chattanooga, Watts Bar Lake has been called “King of the Southern Great Lakes.”
Watts Bar Lake is an impoundment of the Tennessee River created by Watts Bar Dam. Construction on the dam started in 1939 and was finished in 1942 three weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. It was built for flood control, navigation, and to generate hydroelectric power for the war effort. Watts Bar Lake is one of nine reservoirs on the Tennessee River managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Together the reservoirs provide a continuous navigable channel from the headwaters of the Tennessee River to Paducah, Kentucky. Over a million tons of cargo a year moves through Watts Bar Lock which lifts and lowers boats and barges 70 feet between reservoirs. Because it is a main waterway, water levels only fluctuate about six feet from summer to winter.
Watts Bar Lake stretches 72.4 miles from Watts Bar Dam to Fort Loudoun Dam. Millions of people visit the lake every year, but with miles of beautiful shore and lots of secluded coves, locals say Watts Bar Lake is too big to get crowded. There are plenty of marinas with boat rentals, including houseboats, and lots of room for sailboats. The lake’s sport fishing ratings are near the top of the TVA system, and anglers will find large populations of largemouth, smallmouth and black bass to challenge them. There are also catfish, striper, white bass and good crappie and night fishing.
After a morning of fishing, visitors can cool off with a dip in Watts Bar Lake. There are sandy shores around the lake for sunbathing and swimming. The birds love the lake too, and bird watchers will see lots of great blue herons, osprey and even bald eagles. Mt. Roosevelt Wildlife Management Area is a great place to see wildlife, hike, or hunt. There are also several places to camp in the area.
To enjoy Watts Bar Lake and surrounding area by car, start at the overlook on the dam and then take the scenic highway to the Cherokee National Forest. At over 640,000 acres, Cherokee National Forest is the largest tract of public land in Tennessee and the heart of the Southern Appalachians. Great fishing and boating, abundant wildlife, plenty of room, and all the metropolitan convenience of Knoxville make Watts Bar Lake truly one of the South’s Great Lakes.
Things to Do at Watts Bar Lake
These are some activities in the Watts Bar Lake, TN area visitors can enjoy:
- Vacation Rentals
- Wildlife Viewing
- National Forest
What Kind of Fish Are in Watts Bar Lake?
Watts Bar Lake has been known to have the following fish species:
- Black Bass
- White Bass
Find Places to Stay at Watts Bar Lake
If you’re considering a Watts Bar Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.
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More Sites to Book a Watts Bar Lake Vacation
Our interactive Watts Bar Lake lodging map above is an easy tool for comparing VRBO rental homes and nearby hotels with Booking.com, but there could be times when you need to expand your search for different types of accommodations. Here are some other lake lodging partners we recommend:
Watts Bar Lake Statistics & Helpful Links
Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed
Water Level Control: Tennessee Valley Authority
Surface Area: 39,090 acres
Shoreline Length: 722 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 741 feet
Maximum Depth: 70 feet
Completion Year: 1942
Water Residence Time: 17 days
Lake Area-Population: 5,553
Drainage Area: 17,310 sq. miles
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