From the tranquil shores of shimmering reservoirs to the winding pathways of mighty rivers, Tennessee offers a haven for those seeking the perfect boating experience. Whether you’re an avid angler, a water sports enthusiast, or simply love a peaceful cruise amidst breathtaking vistas, there’s something for everyone when you go boating in Tennessee.
To help you uncover the unique charm of Tennessee’s lakes, we’ve created a quick guide to the five best lakes in Tennessee for boating:
- Center Hill Lake
- Cherokee Lake
- Norris Lake
- Old Hickory Lake
- Reelfoot Lake
1. Center Hill Lake
Crystal-clear waters and scenic surroundings are what make Center Hill Lake (18,200 acres) stand out as an ideal destination for boating in Tennessee. From the water, you can take in a shoreline filled with rocky cliffs, rolling hills, hidden coves, and lush forests.
Boaters flock to Center Hill Lake because the peaceful atmosphere is the perfect backdrop for water activities. Try your hand at water skiing, tubing, and jet skiing, or just take your time cruising. Anglers can enjoy casual fishing from a diverse population of bass, crappie, walleye, and catfish.
Cherokee Lake (30,300 acres) is an expansive reservoir known for its gently sloping hills, wooded shorelines, and tranquil coves. The majestic Clinch Mountain Range provides a stunning natural backdrop to any boating adventure, making Cherokee Lake an ideal Tennessee boating destination.
A number of marinas and public access points guarantee easy entry for boaters. Once you’re on the water, you can enjoy various activities, from sailing, powerboating, water skiing, and wakeboarding to leisurely cruising, swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Anglers can cast their lines for bass, crappie, catfish, and striped bass.
Panther Creek State Park is nearby. Enjoy a scenic hike, camp under the stars, and observe local wildlife. You can also visit historic sites like Glenmore Mansion and Davy Crockett’s birthplace.
- Location: Hawkins, Hamblen, Grainger, and Jefferson counties
3. Norris Lake
Boaters who visit Norris Lake (34,000 acres) in Tennessee can experience a beautiful postcard view. Set in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Norris Lake is known for its emerald-green waters and magical forested hillsides.
In addition to traditional watersports, Norris Lake offers opportunities for relaxation and exploration. Explore secluded coves and take a dip in the refreshing waters.
There are over 800 miles of shoreline and a number of small islands throughout the lake, offering the perfect escape for a private or romantic picnic with a stunning view.
Chuck Swan State Forest, Norris Dam State Park, and the Museum of Appalachia are nearby.
- Location: Anderson, Campbell, and Union counties
4. Old Hickory Lake
Old Hickory Lake (22,500 acres) is the perfect destination for boating in Tennessee if you’re looking for fun on the water and ideal proximity to Nashville.
Old Hickory Lake is known for being easily accessible, with 41 entry points and 8 public marinas. There’s plenty of space for adrenaline seekers to water ski, wakeboard, tube, and participate in other water sports. Anglers can try their luck for bass, catfish, and crappie!
Nearby, visitors can explore Hermitage, the Old Hickory Lake Arboretum, or venture into Music City, as Nashville is only 35 minutes away.
- Location: Davidson, Sumner, Trousdale, and Wilson counties
5. Reelfoot Lake
“Hauntingly beautiful” are two words that can describe the unique natural scenery around Reelfoot Lake (15,000 acres). Boaters flock to the area for the otherworldly atmosphere, as the lake is adorned with ancient cypress trees draped in Spanish moss and vibrant aquatic vegetation.
This landscape is home to abundant wildlife, including migratory birds, waterfowl, bald eagles, and a variety of fish species (offering a unique opportunity for anglers).
Get up close when you explore by kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. Or, come ashore to learn about the area through the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, the Discovery Park of America, or the Reelfoot Lake State Park Interpretive Center.
- Location: Lake and Obion counties
Tennessee hosts a variety of scenic lakes and intricate waterways. With so much to explore, we hope this guide to five of the best lakes in Tennessee for boating will help you make the most of your next Tennessee boating adventure.
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