Cordell Hull Lake, Tennessee, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Tennessee - Middle -

Also known as:  Cordell Hull Reservoir

One of the premier spots for water-based recreation in the Middle Tennessee region is Cordell Hull Lake. Built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Cordell Hull Dam across the Cumberland River created a lake covering nearly 12,000 acres. This impounded a large pool of water to provide hydroelectric generation and presented nearly unlimited opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing, camping and hiking along the 381-acre shoreline. The dam is equipped with navigation locks for water transportation. The USACE today manages the lake and shoreline for the Tennessee Valley Authority with the assistance of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Nearly every enjoyable outdoor activity is provided for within the many parks and adjacent wildlife management area. Stocked regularly, the lake holds a variety of game fish, with native animals, waterfowl and songbirds enjoying the shore areas. Human visitors were also part of the plan when the reservoir and its surroundings were designed, with all of the most desirable features accounted for. These are a few of the reasons that Cordell Hull Lake receives thousands of visitors every year.

As Tennessee has few natural lakes, water-based activities are more than welcome. Four swimming beaches are maintained for the enjoyment of visitors. All of the day-use areas hold picnic grounds with tables, grills, rest rooms and shelters. Most also offer a playground and many of the walking trails begin within the parks. Two concession-operated marinas provide fuel, mooring space and supplies for boaters and rent equipment to daily visitors, including small boats, jet skis, pontoons, canoes and kayaks. At least one marina also rents houseboats-a popular vacation option on the lake. The long expanse of the reservoir makes the waters attractive for sailing and power-boating, along with wind surfing, water skiing, wake-boarding and tubing.

Restaurants and snack shops are located at the Cordell Hull Lake marinas and both facilities offer campgrounds for most RVs and tents. Camping cabins are also available here as are launch facilities for visitors’ private watercraft. Both campgrounds provide sandy beach areas for swimming. All facilities charge a minimal fee for their services which keep the parks in top operating condition. A brand new Visitors Center has recently opened to provide information, maps, permits and management space.

Fishing is one of the main reasons many visitors come to Cordell Hull Lake. White bass, crappie, hybrid rockfish, striped bass, catfish, largemouth bass and gizzard shad are all caught in the lake itself, while the Obey River tailwater at Donaldson Park is stocked with 60,000 rainbow trout annually. Brown trout and brook trout can also be caught in the streams that flow into the lake. Donaldson Park also holds boat ramps, picnic grounds and plenty of shady play-space. Some of the rockfish caught here have taken the state record in recent years. Valid fishing licenses must be held by all anglers and all fishing regulations must be adhered to. Fishing, particularly for catfish, is also available downstream from the dam along the Cumberland River. A total of 22 boat ramps placed around the shoreline provide plenty of launch space for fishing boats.

Although the summer season lasts late into the fall in this mild climate, when hunting season rolls around, hunters arrive to stalk their favorite wild game. Waterfowl, wild turkey, white-tail deer, red fox, raccoon, squirrel and rabbit share the Wildlife Management Area with bobcat, skunk, mink, muskrat and bobwhite quail. No target shooting is allowed anywhere at Cordell Hull Lake except for a small archery range at one of the park areas. Trails are a popular feature year round: there are horseback riding trails, nature observation trails and a mountain bike trail included in the network so that everyone may enjoy the natural surroundings. Some are handicapped-accessible.

Named for Cordell Hull, a Tennessee Senator and statesman, the reservoir stretches across parts of Smith, Clay and Jackson counties. The historic small city of Carthage is a few miles south of the west end of the lake and serves as Smith County seat. Carthage offers a number of annual events of interest to visitors, such as the Defeated Creek Bluegrass Festival in June, the Fair on The River and William Walton Days honoring the town’s pioneer heritage. Near the opposite end of Cordell Hull Lake, little Granville features the Granville Museum and Agricultural Museum. Not to be missed are the Sutton Homestead and Sutton General Store along with Pioneer Village. The Museum usually features traveling exhibits of interest to locals and visitors alike. The General Store highlights live Bluegrass performances every Saturday night.

A major area of action during the Civil War, the area along the Cumberland River is complete with historic markers denoting battles and often holds Civil War re-enactment events. The area is filled with all types of lodgings from bed & breakfasts and guest cottages, to hotels and motels in the larger towns. There are plenty of restaurants, farm markets, unique shops and services available close to Cordell Hull Lake but the larger cities of Nashville and Knoxville are only a couple of hours away via Interstate 40. Other large reservoirs and publicly-accessible parks are nearby, including Dale Hollow Lake and Center Hill Lake.

The year-round attraction of the wooded shoreline and open water has made private homes along the lake very popular. Private docks are not allowed as USACE owns the shoreline itself, but most homeowners can at least find space for canoe or rowboat on the waterfront for their own boating pleasure. Larger boats are usually kept at a nearby marina for a fee. Real estate is available in the area, often with lake frontage or lake views. In addition, there are sometimes a few private homes for rent for a week or longer on Cordell Hull Lake. A better or more convenient lake vacation location cant be found in Middle Tennessee. Bring the boat, the kids, the fishing tackle and the swim fins. Plenty of fun, water and sun await at Cordell Hull Lake!

Things to do at Cordell Hull Lake

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

Fish species found at Cordell Hull Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Gizzard Shad
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Shad
  • Striped Bass
  • Trout
  • White Bass

Cordell Hull Lake Photo Gallery

Cordell Hull Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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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.


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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.


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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."


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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