Cheatham Lake, Tennessee, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Tennessee - Middle -

Middle Tennessee is blessed with a wealth of recreational opportunities created by Cheatham Lake. The lake itself is more properly called a wide spot in the Cumberland River, created by the US Army Corps of Engineers with the building of the Cheatham Lock and Dam northeast of Nashville. Originally mandated to replace an aging system of navigational locks, the dam was immediately called into extra duty to generate hydroelectric power for the Tennessee Valley Authority. The result was a long, narrow lake that extends through the City of Nashville 67 miles to the lower side of the Old Hickory Dam and Old Hickory Lake. The resulting water body provides almost two million people annually with recreational opportunities in the form of fishing, boating, camping and wildlife enjoyment.

Cheatham Lake is approximately 40 feet deep at the dam. Cheatham Lake levels are controlled to provide a navigable channel with a minimum depth of 9 feet upstream to Old Hickory Dam. Deeper areas are present along the high bluffs found throughout the lake. The main lock chamber is 110 feet wide, 800 feet long, and provides a normal lift of 26 feet. The chamber requires 17,115,429 gallons of water and approximately 12 minutes to fill. It takes approximately 15 minutes to empty. The lock is open to recreational craft at no charge. A single lockage takes about 30 minutes.

One swimming beach is provided on Cheatham Lake at the Cheatham Dam Right Bank Recreation Area. The acreage under the control of the USACE and their partner, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency provides for hundreds of acres of designated wildlife management areas, nearly a hundred picnic sites, two campgrounds, fourteen playgrounds, 18 boat ramps and two marinas with a total of over 200 boat slips. Municipal parks along the lakeshore are offered in Ashland City, Nashville and Madison. Some of the larger public access locations are Cheatham Dam Left Bank Recreation Area, Sycamore Creek Recreation Area, Johnson Creek Recreation Area, Bluff Creek Recreation Area and Brush Creek Recreation Area. With all of this public recreation going on, the average visitor often forgets that the first purpose of the lake was to improve commercial river transportation. The occasional visit of one of the remaining Mississippi river boats upstream to Nashville thus provides a rather startling reminder that the Cumberland navigational route is vital to the economic health and development of central Tennessee. Official agencies involved in the management of the lake are pleased that the lake can serve double-duty to so many interests.

Recreational boating plays a big part in the lives of the many who visit Cheatham Lake for recreation. Sailing, power boating, water skiing, tubing, jet skiing, wakeboarding and windsurfing are all popular here. The many arms and narrow inlets into protected public lands are favored places to paddle a canoe or kayak. The numerous public boat ramps offer multiple places to launch small craft, while a few large launch sites and the two public marinas provide access to larger boats. The marinas offer fuel, supplies, restaurants, showers, repairs and slip space to visiting boaters and rent slips by the season. Riverview Marina offers scenic boat tours of the lake during the summer season. A third private marina and yacht club sells fuel to the public. One of the public marinas has a private RV campground next door so visitors can enjoy a week or two of lakeside living. The other two publicly-owned campgrounds both have boat ramps for launching smaller fishing boats. The Park office near the dam has navigation maps for the river system and boating regulations available to boaters.

Fishing is a big attraction at Cheatham Lake. ‘Lunker’-size largemouth bass are only one of the attractive sport fish found in the lake. Sauger, striped bass and catfish are some of the other large game fish often caught, with bream, crappie and other panfish especially delightful for young anglers. Two fishing piers offer easy access to cast a line into fish-filled waters. A Tennessee fishing license is required of all fishermen. Bait and extra tackle can be purchased at several location near the boat ramps and at the marinas. Both fishermen and boaters need to be aware of scheduled water release time which can change river conditions in minutes, particularly below the dam. Access to the public lands in the area requires a pass, purchased either by the day for a nominal fee or annually.

Several Wildlife Management Areas at or near Cheatham Lake are open for hunting during hunting season. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency leases 2,796 acres of land and water from the USACE for wildlife management. Most are open year round for nature observation and outdoor enjoyment. The Dyson Ditch Refuge and Pardue Pond Refuge units are off limits to visitors from mid-October to mid-February. The TWRA also has an additional 2,502 acres under their control for wildlife management purposes. Deer, quail,opossum, raccoon, rabbit, turkey, squirrel, snipe, woodcock and waterfowl are all hunted. Competition for the few duck blind sites available on Cheatham Lake is strong, so a number of regulations cover their placement and use. Besides the usual State hunting license, special permits are necessary for hunting deer and waterfowl. A current copy of all applicable regulations for the area should be included in every hunter’s planning to avoid unexpected problems.

Several trails are available for hiking and walking, some with interpretive signage. Take a jump back into the past on the Lock A Nature Trail. This trail, located in the Lock A Campground, will give you a sense of what it was like to live the life of a lockmaster. While you are on the trail, get a bird?s eye view of the river from either of the two overlooks. Keep your (bird?s) eyes open for an eagle, hawk, heron or vulture — or watch a barge tow pass by. Starting just west of Ashland City and ending in the Lock A Campground is the Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail.The trail is open daily to hikers,bird watchers, bicyclists, wildflower enthusiasts, horseback riders and all nature fans. This ‘rails to trails’ location follows an old railroad bed for 6.5 miles.

Because Cheatham Lake runs through several municipalities, there are a large number of lodging choices found nearby. Hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, private guest lodgings and vacation home rentals can be found near the 320-mile shoreline. There is never a shortage of places to obtain supplies, groceries or services within a short distance. Real estate is also available, often with lake views and nearby access to the shore. Nashville in particular is known for a number of highly attractive entertainment venues.

Although nearly everyone is familiar with the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame, The Nashville Symphony may not be on the best-known list. The symphony produces a full line0up of international acts and a classical series that will delight music lovers of all ages. Nashville is also home to a number of historical locations such as President Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage, he city’s oldest home, Traveller’s Rest, Belle Meade Plantation , historically black Fisk University on the National Register of Historic Places. The Nashville Public Library holds a world-famous Civil Rights Collection. Nashville also offers the Nashville Zoo, Children’s Theater, Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art,, the Adventure Science Center and a number of other public venues of interest to those with children in tow. Add plenty of fine dining, exciting night life and great shopping and it’s easy to see why Nashville has been called one of America’s Best Family Friendly Vacations by Trip Adviser.

Visitors interested in the science of dams, hydroelectric generation and river transportation will be pleased to find that the Cheatham Lock and Dam offers information and tours covering this unusual installation: the Cheatham Lock is not designed to hold back flood waters, but to allow them to pass over the lock without damage. The unique geology of the region makes it nearly impossible to contain major flooding but the historic floods of 2010 stressed even the capabilities built into the Cheatham Lock: the lock itself ended up under 15 feet of water-far more than designed for. Due to excellent design, the lock was back in temporary operation in two weeks and further upgrades are planned to make sure that future massive flood events can be survived even more successfully.

A visit to Cheatham Lake is easily accomplished, with or without camping reservations. The many other forms of lodgings will provide the perfect mix of outdoor activities and eclectic city life. The welcoming water and eager fish await you and your family. Can we expect you this year?

Things to do at Cheatham Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Cheatham Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Sauger
  • Striped Bass

Cheatham Lake Photo Gallery

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cheatham Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 7,450 acres

Shoreline Length: 320 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 385 feet

Average Depth: 9 feet

Maximum Depth: 40 feet

Water Volume: 104,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1960

Spread the word! Share our Cheatham Lake article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.