A look at the historical importance of Cherokee and Douglas Dams

Tennessee showcases as a hub for aid on multiple wartime efforts. It’s one of the reason why Tennessee is lovingly known as the Volunteer State. During World War II, the waters within our great state were harnessed and used to provide hydroelectricity that aided our country. It has been said that without the Tennessee Valley Authority and the communities of Tennessee stepping in to help during the war, the United States would not have been ready. 


Cherokee Dam heralded wartime efforts by providing hydroelectric power to initiatives within and around the nation, including the powering of the Alcoa Aluminum Company. Aluminum production was vital to the war effort in the making of planes and ships.  Large amounts of power was also needed for a top secret project taking place in Oak Ridge, TN, which was known as the Manhattan Project.  Cherokee Dam was completed after only 16 months of construction on December 5, 1941, a whole year ahead of schedule. 

Built on the Holston River and named for the Native Americans that once inhabited this area, the Cherokee Reservoir has 400 miles of shoreline with 28,780 acres of surface area.

Reaching to 175 feet in height, and spanning almost a mile, the dam provides important flood control, navigation, and power to the region. 

The Cherokee Reservoir is the 8th largest lake in TN and hosts a myriad of opportunities for fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, camping and more. The Cherokee Cross-Country Trail on the Dam Reservation is perfect for runners and those just wanting to stroll and take in the beautiful setting. 

Get the latest information on the dam release schedule here and additional information can be gathered by calling 423-587-7037.


The same blueprints used for Cherokee Dam were used for the building of Douglas Dam on the French Broad River. The Douglas Reservoir is the 9th largest manmade lake in Tennessee and has 513 miles of shoreline and approximately 28,240 acres of water surface for recreation.

After Congress signed the Douglas Dam bill in June of 1942, construction began almost immediately with over 6,000 people working on the project. The 202-foot x 1,705-foot dam was completed in a record-breaking 382 days. 

The dam was not constructed without some controversy, however, as Jefferson County lost over 40 square miles of its most fertile farmland to the project, including farmland used to grow produce for Bush Brothers & Company which as we all know today as Bush’s Best! 

The new waters of Douglas Lake also threatened one of Tennessee’s oldest towns, Dandridge.  Citizens and the civic leaders met with TVA officials to petition for a dike to be built to keep the town from flooding.  In September of 1941, this earthen embankment, known as “the Dike that Saved Dandridge” was built, and to this day still keeps the waters of Douglas Lake at bay. If you visit the historic Jefferson County Courthouse’s Museum & Archives, be sure to look for the placard outside that shows how high the waters of Douglas Lake would be if not for the dike. Now the dike serves as a backdrop to many local festivals and music concerts hosted by the Town of Dandridge including the Music on the Town Series & the Scots Irish Festival


The power that was generated from Douglas and Cherokee dams supplied work at the famous Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge and Alcoa aluminum production, both of which were vital to wartime efforts. It has been said that World War II was won, based upon the US’s air power, aluminum, and the development of the atomic bomb.  None of which would have been possible without the supply of hydroelectric power sent to assist the Alcoa Aluminum Company in production which came from the Cherokee and Douglas dams.  President FDR stated it best in his letter that was read during the dedication ceremony of Douglas Dam, “Let our enemies take note, Douglas Dam shows what a democracy can do.” 


From fishing, to hiking, boating to camping, both the Cherokee and Douglas Dam Reservations offer visitors a numerous water and shoreline activities. Both have spacious boat ramps that are free to the public and have played host to multiple national and regional bass fishing tournaments throughout the years including, Bassmaster Elites, Bassmaster Open, the FLW Tour and the BFL Regional Championship. Both offer tent and RV camping sites with gorgeous lake and smoky mountain views as well as trails, and parks with picnic areas for the day traveler. 

Stop by our website today to explore more of what we offer in and around the Douglas and Cherokee Dam areas.