Watts Bar Lake Information

Watts Bar Lake is in the Tennessee River Valley, 48 miles southwest of Knoxville, Tennessee, and 56 miles northeast of Chattanooga in Meigs, Rhea, and Roane Counties. The Tennessee and Clinch Rivers feed Watts Bar Lake. It covers 39,000 acres and has 771 miles of shoreline with a maximum depth of 108 feet. The towns of Kingston, Harriman, Cardiff, and Rockwood flank Watts Bar Lake’s northern edge, and Spring City is on its southwestern border.

The town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee is the nearest shopping area northeast of Kingston, Tennessee. You can access Watts Bar Lake on the south from SR 68, US 27 on the north, SR 58 on the south, and SR 304 runs along much of the shoreline and land on the south. There are islands numbering in the twenties in Watts Bar Lake with the best known being Thief Neck Island, Sand Island, and Long Island. Some of the islands are wildlife management areas.

Watts Bar lake is a 72-mile long, windy, snake-shaped lake operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) between the Watts Bar Dam and Ft. Loudon Dam. The TVA strives to preserve natural wildlife habitats, protect endangered plant and animal species, and enhance the biodiversity of the Tennessee Valley region. Beautiful sandy beaches on the islands and countless coves plus wide-open water make Watts Bar Lake an exciting Tennessee outdoor adventure. A scenic overlook near the dam gives visitors a panoramic view of Watts Bar Lake and surrounding countryside.

Watts Bar Lake is an amazing body of water that sees over one million visitors every year, but it is so massive that it never feels crowded.

Watts Bar Lake History

Watts Bar Dam construction began in 1939 and was completed three weeks after Pearl Harbor in January 1942. The hydroelectric generators provided needed electricity for the WWII effort. Watts Bar Lake has one 60 by 360-foot lock that lifts and lowers barges as much as 70 feet to Chickamauga Reservoir. The lock moves more than a million tons of cargo per year.

Watt Island, in the Tennessee River, gave its name to Watts Bar Lake, but no one knows how Watt Island got its name. Watts Bar Lake’s northern half sits in Roane County, Tennessee. The Cherokee Tribe inhabited Roane County before European settlement. They established a gathering area where the Clinch, Emory, and Tennessee Rivers flowed together near Kingston today. 

Between 1800 and 1840, life as the Cherokee knew it began changing quickly through broken treaties with the U.S. government. The Cherokee tried to assimilate into the white man’s world. A warrior and the last hereditary chief of the Cherokee, Pathkiller, fought in the War of 1812 for the U.S. He also served as a colonel under Andrew Jackson in the Tennessee Militia during the Creek War from 1813 to 1814. 

The government granted Pathkiller a 640-acre reservation with a ferry service across the Clinch River for his service in the War of 1812. A 30-year court battle ensued over his reservation as more settlers wanted the land. Pathkiller and his family were then evicted off of their land. Pathkiller’s descendants still reside in Tennessee. Eventually, the Cherokees were rounded up and forced on the Trail of Tears around 1838. Some hid in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. 

Watts Bar Lake Cabins and Vacation Homes

Hundreds of cabins and vacation homes are waiting for you to book your Watts Bar Lake vacation. Some of the parks have cabins, but there are many private owners with small cozy cottages and cabins to huge homes with all the amenities to lodges for large parties. Find homes and cabins with private boat and fishing docks, beautiful landscapes, and peaceful surroundings with natural beauty that sleep from one to over 20, and even host corporate parties. 

Find the perfect vacation home on our Watts Bar Lake Cabins page. 

Camping at Watts Bar Lake

Watts Bar Lake offers numerous opportunities to camp primitive, tent camping with electric and water hookups, and RV parks all around the lake. You will find the best shore fishing in Watts Bar Lake campgrounds and RV parks. They provide many creature comforts like showers, laundry facilities, picnic areas, boat slips, boat ramps, stores, restaurants, and bars. 

Not only can you find camp and RV sites all over Watts Bar Lake, there are several campgrounds in the surrounding areas off the lake. There are also several resorts and marina resorts to choose from. You’ll see stunning sunrises and sunsets, cook over a fire or grill, and make memories you will never forget camping with family and friends. 

Check out our list of campgrounds and RV parks for your family adventure on our Watts Bar Lake Camping page. 

Watts Bar Lake Fishing

Giant bass, monster crappie, and big stripers are the most popular game fish at Watts Bar Lake. Largemouth and smallmouth bass peak in April through June. The predominant game fish in Watts Bar Lake include. largemouth, rock, smallmouth, spotted, striped and hybrid striped, white, and yellow bass, bluegill, blue and channel catfish, black and white crappie, musky, paddlefish, sauger, redear sunfish, walleye, and warmouth.    

Anglers target the shallows in spring and fall and it pays to look for cover around boat docks, brush and trees. In winter and summer they concentrate on deeper water around creek channels, flats, ledges, humps, and points. It is difficult to find access to fishing from the shore outside of the camps and parks. You may have to do some exploring or hiking. There are plenty of boat ramps scattered around the lake. 

The state of Tennessee advises against eating fish caught in certain areas of the lake due to PCB contamination. PCBs, or poly chlorinated biphenyls, are industrial products or chemicals. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation issues advisories for the fish and posts advisories at boat launch locations. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency provides this information in the annual fishing guide and online at https://www.state.tn.us/twra

These are the recommendations for the Lower Watts Bar Reservoir, Clinch River, and Poplar Creek:

Eating fish is safe as long as people avoid eating striped bass and limit consumption of catfish and sauger to one meal per month. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, women who might become pregnant, and children should not consume catfish and sauger from this body of water. Since the sediments are contaminated, dredging (e.g. for dock installation) requires a permit. 

You will find experienced fishing guides at Watts Bar Lake. The local guides will take you to catch that big one. They will charter you a fishing adventure that will meet your every need. Learn new techniques and try out new fishing gear while you do not hassle with launching a boat or navigating. 

Find experienced local guides on our Watts Bar Lake Fishing Guides page. 

Boating at Watts Bar Lake

Watts Bar Lake has more than enough room for boating, canoeing and kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, jet skiing, tubing, water skiing, knee boarding, swimming, and fishing. There are 30 boat ramps dotted around Watts Bar Lake and scattered through parks, marinas, campgrounds, and near the dam.

Relax in a quiet cove or take off in the open water for skiing or tubing. Boat up to a lakeside restaurant with live music or take a trip to an island. You can even take your boat to the Gulf of Mexico from Watts Bar Lake. There are many options for choosing a boat repair service and boat rental services. If you want to buy a boat, boat dealers are dotted around Watts Bar Lake. Or find a private seller. 

Buy or sell a boat on our Watts Bar Lake Boats for Sale page. 

Watts Bar Lake Marinas

Eight Marinas call Watts Bar Lake their home. They offer different amenities such as camping, RV sites, full-service with boat repair, fuel docks, boat slips, dry storage, boat ramps, boat rentals, ship’s stores, resort style accommodations, lodges, floating cabins, restaurants, nightclubs, and live entertainment with superior views of Watts Bar Lake. You are sure to find your boat’s ideal home and a marina that suits all your needs with all the choices these Watts Bar Lake marinas provide. 

Plan your trip to the lake by finding a marina on our Watts Bar Lake Marinas page. 

Watts Bar Lake Real Estate

If you want to live on Watts Bar Lake, you will find many choices to choose from. The Watts Bar region is the fifth largest real estate market in Tennessee. Homebuyers can find 200 Watts Bar Lake homes for sale and 590 lake lots and land for sale at any given time but the average list price is $373,000. There are other houses at many price points. You can find cabins, cottages, houseboats, and upscale developments. This beautiful body of water sees over one million visitors each year, but with its massive size, it never feels crowded.

The school districts are located on the northern and southern borders of Watts Bar Lake. Rhea County School District and Meigs County School District are on the south and Roane County School District is on the north. There is a Walmart on the north side of Watts Bar Lake in Rockwood and Oakridge, Tennessee. The closest metroplexes are Knoxville on the northeast and Chattanooga on the southwest. The Watts Bar Lake region is peacefully rural. 

To find your dream lake home, explore our Watts Bar Lake Homes For Sale page. 

Hiking at Watts Bar Lake

Watts Bar Lake has three main hiking trails. But there are plenty of other places to hike and explore nature all around Watts Bar Lake. TVA public lands are multi-use areas. Wear hunter orange hats and vests to ensure that you are seen when you are in the woods, whether you are hunting or not.

The Fooshee Trail trailhead is down a short gravel road on the left just before the entrance to Fooshee Pass Campground in Ten Mile. It is for moderate to experienced hiking skill levels and three miles long with parking, great views, and camping. 

The Forest City Trail is a short 0.3-mile trail on the Watts Bar Dam Reservation on the right as you enter the day-use area. It provides an ADA all accessible paved trail for easy hiking skill levels with restrooms and parking.  

The Betty Brown Walking Memorial Trail is a three-mile walking and jogging trail that runs from Kingston City Park to Southwest Point Park along Watts Bar Lake with gorgeous views in all directions. Park benches, water fountains, and picnic areas are located along the trail.

Whites Creek Trail is a three-mile loop with parking and camping for moderate to difficult hiking skill levels. Prepare for steep ascents and descents that take you up on the ridge top then down in the valley. Stone and wood steps are built into the steepest climbs, but much of this trail is single file. This is a secluded trail which is great for wildlife viewing near Spring City. 

Hunting Watts Bar Lake

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) operates Watts Bar Lake, and it maintains undeveloped public lands where you can hunt turkeys, bear, white-tailed deer, ducks, elk, rabbits, and squirrels. Furbearers include beaver, bobcat, coyote, fox, and mink. Small game includes coot, crow, rails, snipe, and woodcock. Waterfowl and other migratory game birds include sandhill cranes, ducks, dove, and geese. 

Thief Neck Island, Duck Island, and Long Island are Tennessee Valley Wildlife Management areas. They provide opportunities for bow hunting only for big game. The entire islands except juveniles may use shotguns or muzzleloaders during the statewide Young Sportsman hunt. Island access is via boat only.

You need a Tennessee hunting license but no other special license on TVA lands. There are federal, state, and local laws and regulations. You need to know which ones affect where you want to go hunting. Most TVA areas are multi-use areas, and hunting is allowed unless otherwise posted, and hikers, horseback riders, and other recreation users may be in the area. Wear hunter orange hats and vests to ensure that you are seen when you are in the woods whether you are hunting or not.

Things to Do at Watts Bar Lake

Emory Golf Course is a nine-hole public golf course owned by the City of Harriman with miniverde bermudagrass greens and common bermudagrass fairways, rough and tee boxes. Rockwood Golf & Country Club is a nine-hole course that features beautiful scenery, bermuda grass greens, and paved cart paths. The Clubhouse Bar & Grill at Rockwood serves lunches, drinks, and snacks. The Lakeside Golf Course in Kingston is a nine-hole golf course with champion bermuda greens and bermuda grass fairways right on Watts Bar Lake. 

Fort Southwest Point, circa 1797, is a reconstructed fort with a museum in Kingston on its original site. It served as a major point of interaction between the Cherokee and the United States government. The Historic Roane County Courthouse in Kingston is an antebellum courthouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places with a museum and archive library.  

There are plenty of restaurants around Watts Bar Lake offering various cuisines and serving drinks, plus live entertainment is featured at some of them. Watts Bar Lake is a sparsely inhabited region. The chief attraction in the region is Watts Bar Lake. 

Explore your options on our Things To Do At Watts Bar Lake page.

Watts Bar Lake Weather

Watts Bar Lake sees an average of 55 inches of rain per year, with 4 inches of snow and 207 days of sunshine. The winter low in January is 27 degrees and a summer high in July of 88 degrees. May, September, and October are the most comfortable months for this region. Stay up to date on lake weather with our Watts Bar Lake Weather Forecast page.

Watts Bar Lake Zip Codes

Meigs County: 37322.

Rhea County: 37321, 37332, 37381.

Roane County: 37748, 37763, 37771, 37774, 37846, 37880.

Watts Bar Lake Flora and Fauna

Birdwatchers can find osprey, great blue herons, plus bald eagles and other waterfowl in the winter. Wildlife to watch out for include turkeys, bear, white tailed deer, ducks, elk, rabbits, and squirrels. Furbearers include beaver, bobcat, coyote, fox, and mink. Native plants and trees include American beech, asters, bee balm, lemon mint, mountain laurel, northern sea oats, sunburst, sweet gum, sweet white trillium, virginia bluebell, wild columbine, winterberry, and woodland phlox.


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Watts Bar Lake Weather Forecast


Rain Showers

Hi: 90

Wednesday Night

Thunderstorms Likely

Lo: 68


Rain Showers Likely

Hi: 84

Thursday Night

Chance Thunderstorms

Lo: 66


Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 83

Friday Night

Chance Thunderstorms

Lo: 67


Thunderstorms Likely

Hi: 84

Saturday Night

Chance Thunderstorms

Lo: 67

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