Watauga holds the distinction of being the highest reservoir (more than 1,900 feet above sea level) in the Tennessee River system. The lake is 16.3 miles long, with 104.9 miles of shoreline. At full pool, the TVA's summertime water level target, its water surface covers 6,430 acres. Its estimated depth is 265 feet at the dam. The reservoir is operated for many uses, including flood control, power generation, water quality, and aquatic ecology. Construction of the dam began in early 1942 but was curtailed later that year in favor of other wartime building efforts. Work resumed in 1946, and the dam was completed in 1948.
Surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest and flanked by the Appalachian Mountains, Watauga Reservoir is arguably the most scenic in the Tennessee River watershed. It offers access to the Appalachian Trail. Below Watauga Dam is a wildlife observation area where visitors have a chance to view unique species of waterfowl.
More than half of the Lake's shoreline lies within the Cherokee National Forest and cannot be developed. Recreational uses include boating, fishing, water-skiing, and camping. The release of impounded water from Watauga Dam and Wilbur Dam provides additional downstream riverine recreational opportunities such as whitewater rafting and kayaking on the Watauga River. There is no horsepower limit or speed limit for boats operating on the lake. Several fee-based public and private boat launch ramps provide access on the Hampton side of the reservoir.
Location: From Elizabethton, TN., US 19E N 0.1 mi to Hwy. 91, then Hwy. 91 3 mi to Siam Rd. Turn right.