Watauga Lake – The Ultimate Guide

TriCities Boating GuideOverview

Imagine Lake Tahoe was moved to East Tennessee and you have a picture of Lake Watauga. It is one of the cleanest lakes in the country and is the highest-elevated reservoir in Tennessee at 1950 feet. Visitors would argue that it is the most scenic of all the lakes in the ‘Volunteer State’. The mountain views are pristine with a large amount of undeveloped land bordering the lake. The majority of the coastline is in the Cherokee National Forest.

Points of Interest

There is a lot to see and do around the Watauga Lake. With over half the shore line being national forest there are many places to camp, hike, and just relax.

The Appalachian Trail crosses the Far West side of the lake. There is also the new Doe Mountain recreation area which is now one of the largest remaining blocks of Southern Appalachian forest in private hands. Part of the mountain is to be used for outdoor recreation, such as all-terrain vehicle trails, mountain biking and horseback riding. The mountain already has many miles of existing roads and trails.

Photo Gallery

Boat Club

Lakeshore Marina and Resort is home to the lake’s only boat club, Carefree Boat Club. The boat club is a member-based club offering unlimited usage of a premium fleet of all new boats. Call (877) 651-3625 for more information.
Carefree Boat Club Pricing & Information Guide

Boat Rental

Three of Watauga’s marinas offer boat rentals: Lakeshore, Fish Springs, and Mallard Cove. Be sure to check out Carefree Boat Club as an alternative to renting.


Lakeshore Marina Watauga Lake
Lakeshore Marina on Watauga Lake

There are five marinas on Watauga Lake. From West to East they are . . .

  • Lake Shore Marina and Resort – (423) 725-2201
  • Fish Springs – (423) 763-2336
  • Mallard Cove – (423) 768-3440
  • CoveRidge – (423) 768-3760
  • Pioneer Landing – (423) 768-3164

Restaurants / Snack Bars

There are great places to eat and listen to music around the lake.

  • Visit Shirley’s on highway 321 (about 5 miles from Lakeshore Marina) for great food and music.
  • Captain’s Table at Lakeshore Marina provides great steaks and seafood. Carefree Boat Club Members enjoy a 15% discount.
  • Visit Suba’s (423-727-5657) to experience a diverse gourmet menu with a long dessert list.
  • Cove Ridge Marina offers hamburgers and hand-dipped ice cream.

Real Estate

The Cherokee National Forest owns more than ½ of the shorelines of Watauga Lake. If you are interested in real estate there are several agents focused on this area.

Events at the lake

Are you physically fit? Participate in the Watauga Lake Triathlon.

Nearby Lodging


The Watauga Dam Visitor Center
The Watauga Dam Visitor Center

Smallmouth, walleye, and trout are the most popular game fish for Watauga anglers. Gizzard shad, alewife, bluegill, and assorted minnows make up the forage base. There are eight public boat ramps, seven marinas and two Forest Service recreation facilities.

History & Uses

Construction of Watauga Dam began in early 1942 but was curtailed later that year in favor of other World War II building efforts. Work on TVA Watauga Dam resumed in 1946, and finished at the end of 1948, impounding both the Watauga River and Elk River for the purposes of flood,hydropower generation and downstream navigation on the Tennessee River and Reservoir system.

Recreation Facilities



Lake Data

  • Lake Type: Reservoir
  • Size: 6600 Acres
  • Max Length: 18 miles
  • Max Depth: 265 feet
  • Shore Length: 105 miles
  • Surface Elevation: 1959’ normal pool

Recreational Release Schedule

View the TVA Watauga / Wilbur Dam Recreational Release Schedule.

TriCities Lake Guide