South Holston Lake – The Ultimate Guide
South Holston Lake includes many of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia’s most scenic vistas. It is the largest and longest lake in the area and features spectacular views of of Holston Mountain, the peaks of which stretch up over 2,000 feet from lake level. The 7,580 acre lake includes 73% of shoreline on national forest land making it a quiet and majestic treat for visitors. Many camping facilities, hiking trails, and picnic and recreational areas (2 county parks) provide opportunities to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
Points of Interest
Cliff Island is located off Point 2 and is a South Holston hot-spot. Pull your boat near the small island, swim to the low side of the island, and in 50 steps, you’ll be ready for an exhilarating 10 foot drop into the lake.
There are some great coves for water sports at the south end of the lake. If you’re heading south down the lake, hang a left at Point 3 and you’ll find some great options. Much of the shoreline is brittle shale making great places to pull your boat close to shore and enjoy a picnic or some exploring.
The TVA observation building at the dam on Highway 421 is a must stop location to enjoy views and learn about the lake.
Also see our South Holston Lake Tubing Guide.
Laurel Marina & Yacht Club 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 423-737-2444 for more information.
There are four marinas on South Holston Lake. From north to south they are . . .
- Sportsmans Marina – 276-628-2850
- Painter Creek Marina – 423-878-5775
- Laurel Marina & Yacht Club – 423-878-5656
- Friendship Resort and Marina – 423-878-3128.
Restaurants / Snack Bars
You won’t need your coat and tie to dine on South Holston Lake, but you won’t want to miss the home made chicken salad at Laurel Marina, or ice cream for the kids. Other eateries include Painter Creek Marina and Sportsmans Marina and Lakeshore Campground.
The Cherokee National Forest owns seventy-three percent of the shorelines of South Holston Lake. If you are interested in real estate, you’ll want to head past Painter Creek to see more residential areas.
The four star Martha Washington Hotel and Spa is in nearby Abingdon, only 9 miles from Sportsmans Marina. And the area offers several Holiday Inn and Hampton Inn types of lodging. For the more adventurous, drive your boat up to Little Oak or Caleb’s Cove campgrounds right on the lake.
A variety of species of fish including black bass, bluegill, crappie, walleye, rainbow trout, and catfish liven the waters of South Holston. A recent agreement with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries went into effect, allowing Tennessee residents to purchase an annual South Holston Reservoir License (Type 063) to fish the VA portion of South Holston Reservoir. Virginia anglers can buy a similar license from VDGIF to fish the TN portion of the reservoir.
History & Uses
Construction of the 285 foot high, 1600 foot wide dam began in 1942. War efforts delayed the construction and it was completed in 1950. If you stop by the dam, you’ll want to take a scenic diversion via the footbridge from the parking lot below the dam. You’ll find yourself on Osceola Island and enjoying the one-mile loop wildlife trail.
Purposes for the reservoir include flood control, power production, and aquatic ecology. Water levels vary about 30 feet during normal years to provide for flood storage and augmentation of the flow of water during the drier seasons of the year. The South Fork Holston River is home to an annual spring migration of white bass. You will hear locals say that “when serviceberry and dogwoods bloom, the white bass run.”
- Lake Type: Reservoir
- Location: Sullivan County, TN; Washington County, VA
- Size: 7,580 Acres
- Max Length: 24 miles
- Max Depth: Just over 200 feet
- Shore Length: 183 miles
- Surface Elevation: 1729’ normal pool
- Landings or Ramps: Avens Access, Baumgardner Access, Little Oak Mountain Recreation Area, Painter Creek Marina, Sullivan County Park, US HWY 421 Access, Washington County Park, Whitaker Hollow Park
The TVA publishes release schedules for 3 running days. Please check the TVA website at http://www.tva.gov/lakes/shh_r.htm