Watauga Lake

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Address: Rat Branch Boat Launch area, Hampton, TN 37625

Latitude/Longitude: 36.3030558, -82.1183821

Web site: click here

Pricing: Free


Created in 1948 when the Tennessee Valley Authority closed the gates of the Watauga Dam flooding the original town of Butler, today Watauga Lake is a wonderful place to swim, boat, fish and picnic.

Surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest (90% of the land around the lake is National Forest), Watauga Lake has been called the “third cleanest lake in the US”. Of course, no one has been able to tell me what the first two are although I think one might be the lake which is the water source for Cooperstown, NY.

Along the 110 miles of shoreline there are marinas, campgrounds and private homes as well as public picnic and swimming areas. But no matter where you go, the lake is a wonderful resource for the entire family.

In the summer, the water temperature is often in the mid-70’s (sometimes your fingers get wrinkly), and there is no salt, no chlorine, just pure mountain water which is very buoyant. I think it’s the best water I’ve ever been swimming in!

Boat rentals may be had at Fish Springs Marina or Lakeshore Marina and there are a number of free areas from which to launch your own boat. Pontoon boats are very popular because you can pull off the main channel and jump right off the boat for a quick swim.

The season is usually from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but there are so many sunny days throughout the year that the people who live on the lake year round often go out even in January or February.

The lake is divided by the Butler Bridge with the more public areas, such as the Carden’s Bluff campground, picnic area and Shook Branch roped off swimming area below the bridge and the wider portion of the lake where many of the housing developments have been located is above the Butler Bridge.

From the Author: I love Watauga Lake all year round.

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