Watauga Lake

Watauga Lake

One of the High Country’s best-kept secrets lies just minutes from downtown Boone. Watauga Lake, the third-cleanest lake in America, beckons water enthusiasts to Tennessee, just 45-minutes from Boone. Once there, they can enjoy a powerboat ride, picnic or just spend a few relaxing hours by water’s edge.

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In an area known for whitewater rafting, Watauga Lake allows visitors to slow down and enjoy the stunning scenery of the Cherokee National Forest and Appalachian Mountains of Northeastern Tennessee. Created in 1942 by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Watauga Lake is located east of Elizabethton and southwest of Mountain City.image

There, visitors can canoe, swim, fish or ride a sailboat. Not all lake activities are slow-paced, though. You can also water ski or skim the waves in a Jet Ski.

The USDA Forest Service manages more than half of the shoreline on the 6,430-acre lake, which is located about 2,000 feet above sea level. There are about 100 miles of shoreline, with most of the developed recreational facilities located along the southern shore.

Various public facilities located along Highway 321, between two and nine miles east of Hampton, Tenn. offer some or all of the following: swimming, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping and boat launch ramps.

The facilities include the Rat Branch Boat Ramp, Carden’s Bluff Campground, Pond Mountain Shooting Range, Y’s Men Picnic Ground, Watauga Point Recreation Area, Little Milligan Boat Ramp and Shook Branch Recreation Area (where the Appalachian Trail crosses US 321).

Each of the areas requires a $2 day use fee per vehicle, and some have restroom facilities and water fountains. Of those facilities, Carden’s Bluff is the only one offering camping. Located two to three miles east of Hampton on Highway 321, Carden’s Bluff features 43 single-unit campsites, each with a $12 fee per night.

Some sites are suitable for small- to medium-sized trailers, but accessibility is limited. Each defined campsite includes a picnic table, fire ring and lantern ring. There are three flush toilet buildings, but no shower facilities. Water hydrants and trash containers are located throughout the area, but there is no trailer dump station.

Sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The entrance gate is locked from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. For more information about Watauga Lake’s public facilities, contact the Cherokee National Forest at (423) 735-1500.

In addition to public areas, Watauga Lake also features some excellent marinas and resorts. They include:

Lakeshore Resort & Marina:

Come to Lakeshore Resort & Marina for all your aquatic needs. Rent ski boats, fishing boats, pontoons and ski equipment for a reasonable price, then head out on the water for a fun-filled day.

If you’re hungry after a long day on the water, pull up a chair at the Captain’s Table, Lakeshore Resort & Marina’s restaurant with a breathtaking view of the lake. Captain’s Table specializes in seafood and also serves tasty steaks, chicken and specials of the day.

If you’re tired, take a load off in one of the resort’s one- or two-bedroom motel units or secluded cottages complete with television sets, air conditioning, comfy beds and private balconies. There’s even a swimming pool.

Come to Lakeshore Resort & Marina and make a weekend out of your visit to Watauga Lake. Call (423) 725-2223 or (423) 926-8090 for more information.

MountainLake Wilderness Resort and Wilderness Ranch:

Enjoy a year-round log cabin vacation at MountainLake Wilderness Resort. The log cabins sleep six people each and offer air conditioning, heat, fireplaces, satellite TV, phones and fully equipped kitchens. They also accept pets.

For larger groups, Wilderness Lodge also has five-bedroom cabins that sleep as many as 20 people. Nature lovers will enjoy the resort’s hiking trails, exotic animal farm and happy pioneer atmosphere. Horseback, buggy and wagon rides are open to the public.

There is also a picnic pavilion with bonfire area. Activities include volleyball, tetherball and horseshoes. There are even steer ropers available for group gatherings. For more information, reservations or ‘saddle-up’ times, call (800) 381-6751 or visit the resort online at http://mountaincityonline.com/.

Area Outfitters:

If you’re looking for something more fast-paced, stop by an area outfitter to set up a trip on one of several High Country whitewater rivers.

Watauga Kayak:

Watauga Kayak offers inflatable canoes and sea kayaks and 14 different locations throughout Virginia, Northeast Tennessee and Southwest North Carolina, including Watauga Lake and the Watauga River.

Watauga Kayak also rents cabins, carries fly fishing accessories and offers a fly fishing guide service. There’s also a shuttle service on the Watauga River. Call (423) 542-6777 for more information.

B-Cliff Whitewater Rafting:

Located on the Watauga River, B-Cliff Whitewater Rafting exclusively conducts tours on section 5 of the Watauga River (not to be confused with Watauga Lake), which is nine miles long. Four-and-one-half-hour tours and six-hour tours are available. Call (800) 592-2262 for more information.

Directions to Watauga Lake:

Follow King Street (Highway 421) north toward Tennessee for about eight miles. Turn left onto Highway 321 north toward Elizabethton/Hampton, Tenn. Follow that road for about 20 to 25 miles. You’ll start seeing the lake once you cross the Elk River.

Contact Info:
Phone: 304-535-6331
Web: http://www.wataugalaketennessee.com

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