Fun in the Sun: A Perfect Day on the Waters of Jefferson County, TN

Clear blue water and mountain views surround the vast expanse of those who visit Jefferson County in East Tennessee. However, these are only two of the reasons families flock to Cherokee and Douglas Lakes and their connecting rivers, the Holston and the French Broad, every summer. Douglas Lake has 513 miles of beautiful shoreline, with Cherokee Lake offering an additional 400 –meaning plenty of room to explore and relax! Only miles from both the Gatlinburg area and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, our water in Jefferson County boasts fabulous marinas with delicious dockside fare and live entertainment, water sports and paddling adventures, as well as world-class fishing, unique wildlife and bird watching, and camping. How much fun can you plan for this summer?

 

Boats and Paddling

With beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains and surrounded by beautiful trees, cliffs, dotted by islands, and clear water, one of the best ways to enjoy the lakes of Jefferson County is by boat. Whether you desire a fast boat for skiing or tubing, a pontoon to cruise around in, or a leisurely paddle around the pristine coves of either Douglas or Cherokee Lakes—there is something for everyone!

Most of our visitors come from all over the country and hauling a boat with you can add a lot of stress a to summer vacation. With numerous options to rent speedboats and pontoons, as well as kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards, you can discover the beauty of East Tennessee stress-free.

If you’re exploring Cherokee Lake, Black Oak Marina offers both pontoon boats,  kayak and paddle board rentals. Nearby, Douglas Lake Marina is also a popular spot for pontoon, kayak, and paddle board rentals, with the addition of speed boats, canoes, paddle boats, and everything you would need to enjoy a day of tubing, skiing, or boarding! If you’re bringing the family the free ice cream with your rental makes the affordable price for fun even sweeter! H2O Sports has a unique rental fleet, with wave runners, Sea Doos, and Jet Skis available.

If you are bringing your own boat, there are plenty of public boat ramps where you can put in and marinas to dock at for a bite to eat or to fuel up. Whether you are renting or operating your own boat, please check here for up-to-date boating regulations and safety information, access points, waterway navigation information, and interactive waterway maps. Also, check out all the marinas with FREE boat launches or access fees with our convenient directory.

Casting A Line

There is a reason anglers from all over the country flock to Jefferson County, TN, to fish. Cherokee Lake hosted the Bassmaster Elite fishing tournament in 2017 as well as the FLW Tour in 2019 with great success.  Douglas Lake has hosted a Bassmaster Elite in 2012 and over 5 Bassmaster Open Series since 2015, effectively making both Cherokee and Douglas Lakes at the top of many anglers’ “must fish” lists.

While most reservoirs that are next to each other tend to have similar fish habitats and share the same waterways, Douglas and Cherokee Lakes are very different. Both lakes are separate bodies of water fed by two different watersheds — Cherokee is a 30,000-acre reservoir fed by the Holston River, while the 44,000-acre Douglas Lake is fed by the French Broad River. Cherokee Lake is revered by fisherman looking to catch trophy sized smallmouth bass, while most fishermen on Douglas are looking for lunker largemouth bass. Because of the different fishery habitats, each lake has something unique to offer! On both lakes you can also expect to catch other, smaller bass species or even the giant hybrid striped bass, as well as catfish, crappie, bluegill, sauger, and walleye. With numerous tackle and bait shops nearby and public boat ramps and launches with easy access around both lakes, fishing both Cherokee and Douglas Lakes should be part of your summer trip to Jefferson County.

New to fishing or traveling without your boat or equipment? You can enjoy year-round guided trips with friendly and professional licensed guides on both Cherokee and Douglas Lakes, as well as the Holston and French Broad rivers. Teaching beginners or helping guide experienced anglers is the specialty of Smokies Angling Adventures guide service. They offer both spin and fly-fishing excursions and provide all rods and reels, tackle, bait or flies, and expertise for your trip. All you need is a passion for the outdoors and a camera capture a photo of a trophy bass or trout and the beautiful mountain scenery!

 

Explore from The Shore

The lakes of Jefferson County can be just as fun to explore from the shore. Swimming and beach activities are popular during the summer months as temperatures rise and the cool water, light breeze, and shade from an umbrella beckon. Douglas Lake offers numerous swim and leisure areas, the Douglas Dam Headwater Campground that is a favorite hotspot, with a public sand beach, picnic areas with grills, bath houses, a camp store, 60 campsites, and trails for hiking and biking. The day-use area is beautifully landscaped with two distinct trail systems suitable for families of all ages. During the warm spring and summer months, you can spot wildlife and seasonal wildflowers as they bloom with a backdrop of the lake and the Smoky Mountains. On Cherokee Lake, visit the Cherokee Dam Campground, which offers a large public boat ramp, and a beautiful day use area for visitors that has a picnic area, beach and swimming area, and a covered pavilion. The swimming area has a sand beach and is in a quiet cove of the lake, perfect for fun in the sun!

During the summer months, visitors can enjoy bird watching near the water, as many migratory waterfowl make a stop on our shorelines. One of the best areas to spot wildlife is the Mossy Creek Wildlife Viewing Area, a 23-acre wetland wildlife preserve. Encompassing part of the meandering Mossy Creek, this wetland habitat provides cover, feeding grounds, and nesting grounds to wildlife including over 100 species of birds. Expect to spot varieties of herons and ducks, kingfishers, grassland songbirds such as bluebirds and towhees, as well as turtles, muskrats, otters, and even beavers!

After you’ve packed up your beach bag, be sure to join us for an evening of our Rockin’ The Creek Summer Concert Series, a free concert series hosted by the Mossy Creek Foundation in downtown Jefferson City on select Saturdays throughout the summer. Bring a blanket or lawn chair to enjoy local music and a fun lakeside community atmosphere. Food trucks are located onsite, or you can bring a picnic dinner to enjoy on the lawn. The same venue offers Friday night Movies On Main, an outdoor movie night that’s fun for the entire family.

 

Visit Jefferson County, The Lakeside Of The Smokies

Summer is just heating up, so whether it’s a day trip or a weekend of lakeside fun at Cherokee or Douglas Lake—there are great places to explore! Dock up to grab a bite, explore the lake and wildlife areas, or browse the quaint storefronts of our historic towns. To enjoy it all in style, find a cabin that offers mountain views close to the water, eclectic bed and breakfasts off historic streets, convenient hotels, or a resort setting that feels like home and gives you access to the water. With numerous choices on where to eat, stay, play, and shop near our shores, your next sight-seeing vacation will be a breeze. Start your search for a Lakeside of the Smokies adventure today at https://visitjeffersoncountytn.com.