The weather is getting warmer, and the days are getting longer; it’s the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors and East Tennessee has no shortage of natural beauty. Sprawling mountains, rolling hills, rushing rivers and sparkling lakes cover the region, and Jefferson County has it all.

Jefferson County is home to two beautiful lakes: Cherokee Lake and Douglas Lake. Both boast gorgeous scenery and a multitude of activities. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an adventure, these lakes are a great destination for a weekend, vacation, or an easy day trip.

How to Prepare for a Lake Day in Jefferson County

Preparation is key when it comes to planning your lake vacation. Packing the right things, planning your itinerary, and making reservations in advance will allow you to relax and enjoy the moment once you arrive.

Supplies to Pack for the Lake

It gets hot down here in the south. The most important things to pack for a Summertime lake day are tools to help you beat the heat. Don’t let a sunburn cut your day short or ruin your vacation. Sunscreen is an essential for a day on the water, and don’t forget to reapply! Sunglasses, UV protective clothing, and hats will also help you avoid a painful sunburn. It’s equally important that you stay hydrated, so make sure to bring plenty of water and drink consistently throughout the day. Bringing along snacks or a picnic is also a good idea if you aren’t planning on visiting a local marina for lunchtime. If you plan on taking a dip, don’t forget to bring a towel. While they aren’t necessities, floats, water guns, and games will only add to the fun, and keep children entertained.

Plan Your Itinerary

Planning ahead is the best way to ensure that you will get the most out of your trip. Creating a list of must-do activities and must-see places is a great place to start, especially when there’s so many options to choose from. Research online to find local spots to eat, the best views, and available lake activities (make sure to make a reservation if necessary). Whether you are visiting Douglas Lake, Cherokee lake, (or both!) there are plenty of fun things to do to fill up your itinerary.

What about Watercrafts?

If you are bringing your own boat or jet ski there is no need to stress about where you can put your boat in at either lake. There are plenty of boat ramps available on Douglas Lake and on Cherokee Lake. There are marinas, campgrounds, and public access ramps—some will require payment, so remember to check ahead if that is a concern. 

If you don’t plan on bringing your own watercraft, there are several companies and marinas where you can rent a boat or jet ski. Pontoon boat rentals are perfect for large groups or families, grab an inner tube to add to the fun. For those who have a need for speed or want to explore the lake on their own or with a partner, jet skis are a great option. If fishing is your reason for visiting the lake, there is no reason to settle for lakeside fishing or fishing from an unwieldy pontoon. Take your fishing to next level and rent a bass boat. A bass boat will allow you to hit all the fishing hotspots and navigate in tight areas. Watercraft rentals are available by the day or by the hour. Make sure to book ahead of time, especially if you are visiting on the weekend or on a holiday. If you are a Tennessee resident, keep in mind that if you were born after 1988 a boater’s license is legally required for you to operate a watercraft.

Douglas Lake

Douglas Lake is a reservoir located in the southern part of Jefferson County, surrounded by the towns of Dandridge, White Pine, and Chestnut Hill. This beautiful lake, known for its clean blue water, sits at the foothills of The Smoky Mountains—the views are unmatched. Boating is the obvious activity for lake visitors, but Douglas Lake has plenty of other activities that are worth checking out.

Things to do on Douglas Lake

While sitting back and enjoying the mountain views is the ideal day for some visitors, there are lots of activities for those who want to dive in.

Watersports at Douglas Lake

Whether you brought a boat or rented one, Douglas Lake is the perfect place to tube, ski, kneeboard, wakeboard, or paddle board. Show off your skills or learn something new in the calm, clean water of Douglas Lake. Rental equipment is available at most boat rental businesses. Don’t forget to wear a lifejacket!

Cherokee Lake

Cherokee Lake, named after East Tennessee’s most prominent Native American tribe, stretches across the northern border of Jefferson County. Surrounded by rolling hills, Cherokee Lake is another scenic location worth visiting in Jefferson County.

Things to do on Cherokee Lake

Cherokee Lake is the perfect destination for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors. Fishing, camping, boating and hiking are all popular activities to do in and around Cherokee Lake.

Visit Panther Creek State Park

This lakeside park has over 30 miles of hiking trails ranging from beginner level to advanced and several miles of biking trails. You can work up a sweat exploring the park and cool off with a refreshing swim. There is also an entry ramp for boats, paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes, but you’ll have to bring your own vessel.

Visit The Cherokee Dam

This 175 foot hydroelectric dam is the reason that Cherokee Lake exists. You will find a park, campgrounds, and even beaches around the dam. If relaxing or socializing is your priority, the beaches at Cherokee dam are a great place to anchor your boat, walk around, and meet people or sunbathe in the sand.

Fishing on Douglas and Cherokee Lake

Douglas Lake and Cherokee Lake are both popular fishing destinations, attracting fisherman from East Tennessee and across the country. The fish you could catch include Largemouth Bass, Sauger, Crappie, White Bass, and Bluegill. Douglas Lake has been recognized as a top lake for Crappie fishing and a top 100 Best Bass Lake by Bassmaster. Douglas Lake even hosts professional bass tournaments, but you don’t have to be a professional to have a fun and successful time fishing in Jefferson County, the fish are bountiful, so you’re bound to catch something. Guided fishing trips are also available and are a great opportunity for a family outing, for those who want to improve their fishing skills and to get the inside scoop on the best fishing spots. 

Why you should Visit Jefferson County

Jefferson County is a naturally beautiful area with magnificent lakes, an abundance of outdoor activities, friendly people and small towns with southern charm. Just a short drive from Knoxville, Jefferson County is an easy day trip or a great place to spend the weekend. Come see for yourself or learn more about what Jefferson County has to offer at