J. Percy Priest Lake, Tennessee, USA
Also known as: J. Percy Priest Reservoir
One of the most popular recreation sites in the Middle Tennessee region of J Percy Priest lake. Less than 15 minutes from downtown Nashville, the reservoir receives over seven million visitors a year who come to enjoy sightseeing, swimming, picnicking, boating, fishing, water skiing, hunting, and camping. The region’s mild climate provides for an extended season in which to enjoy the 14,200-acre lake that stretches over 42 miles across parts of Rutherford, Wilson and Davidson counties. Along the shoreline are 18,854 acres of public lands including Long Hunter State Park, state and federal natural and wildlife areas and USACE Public Use areas. Over 10,000 acres are designated wildlife management areas.
With 34 recreation areas, 381 picnic sites, 363 camping sites, 10 playgrounds, 6 swimming areas, 68 trail miles, 2 fishing docks, 33 boat ramps. 5 marinas and 1,776 marina slips included in both public and commercial facilities, J Percy Priest Lake has both the space and the the access needed to make this a valuable addition to recreational opportunities in the Nashville area.
Swimming is one of the most popular activities at J Percy Priest Lake. The USACE maintains three swim areas around the lake. Cook and Anderson Road Recreation Areas both offer playgrounds, sandy beach areas, group shelters, boat launch ramps, restrooms, and picnic sites. Pets are not allowed in these areas. Seven Points Campground provides a sand swimming beach for registered campers only. Other designated swimming areas at J. Percy Priest include Nashville Shores, Long Hunter State Park and Bryant Grove. For safety reason, swimming areas and those devoted to boating are kept strictly separated so that both types of outdoor enthusiasts can engage in their activities safely.
Boating is a major source of water-based fun at J Percy Priest Lake. Sailboats, fishing and hunting boats, pleasure boats, personal watercraft, and water skiers all share the waters. Boat operators born after January 1, 1989 must have completed a boater education course. Five marinas on the lake allow for plenty of boat slips, either as daily use or seasonally. Restaurants, fuel, boat launch ramps, trailer and boat storage, docks, boating supplies, fishing license and bait, tackle and boat registration are all available lakefront at these marinas. Boat rentals, including ski boats, fishing boats, jet skis and pontoons suitable for a group are available for rent, along with required safety equipment and the optional rental of water skis, tubes, wake boards and other water ‘toys’. Sailboats, houseboats, power boats, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards can all be seen sharing the waters of J Percy Priest Lake.
Fishing takes place most of the year at J Percy Priest Lake: Fishermen know this as ‘bass country’: large mouth bass, striped bass, white bass, small mouth bass and Cherokee bass are all caught, along with catfish, sunfish, bluegill and the occasional trout. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency maintains fishery stocks and oversees the 20 fish attractor locations that have been added to the lake. A Tennessee fishing license is required. Professional fishing guides can be hired to guide the unfamiliar angler to the best fishing spots. Tournament fishing occurs here on a regular basis. Although most think a boat is necessary, shoreline fishing has been provided for at J. Percy Priest Overlook, Vivrette Creek, Cook Recreation Area and Stewart Creek. Some of these shore fishing locations are in close proximity to campgrounds, guaranteeing to round out an enjoyable experience of ‘roughing it’ with the kids.
Camping locations at J Percy Priest Lake vary from full-service RV sites with all amenities to isolated primitive camping on designated islands in the reservoir. Reservations are a good idea on summer weekends, particularly holidays as the campsites soon fill up. Some price discounts are available to Access and America the Beautiful Senior Pass holders. A series of walking trails is maintained around the lake by the Corps for the enjoyment of nature-loving visitors: The Three Hickories Nature Trail winds 1.6 miles through the woods in Cook Recreation Area. The paved Anderson Road Fitness Trail meanders for over a mile through a cedar glade and along the lake. Poole Knob Archery Trail scatters archery targets along a third of a mile trail. Other targets are provided as is a small shelter. And for equestrians, the Twin Forks Horse Trail accommodates both horseback riders and hikers along a 18-mile trail along the shore between Nices Mill Recreation Area and Walter Hill Dam. Riders usually access the trail at East Fork Recreation Area. All of the above are maintained by the USACE.
Long Hunter State Park offers a number of trails near Couchville Lake, a small lake near J Percy Priest Lake. Lake Trail is a barrier-free hard surface trail with self-guiding nature signage. Inland Trail, Nature Loop Trail and Point Trail are all popular short walks. Four-mile Bryant Grove Trail links Couchville to Bryant Grove. Other trails in the state park include Deer Trail, Day Loop Trail and Volunteer trail. Mountain bikers have miles of designated trails to ride at Hamilton Creek Recreation Area. Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation manages the area which also includes Pinnacle Trail. Also operated by Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation, the Stones River Greenway begins near J Percy Priest Dam and follows the river downstream for about three miles before linking with other trails leading to downtown Nashville. This paved trail provides access to the Stones River and is of only moderate difficulty.
Besides the trails and environmental activities afforded by Long Hunter State Park, 110-acre Couchville Lake harbors a variety of water and wading birds including great blue herons. Hooded mergansers over-winter here. Rowboats and canoes are rented during the summer season and a covered fishing pier offers fine fishing even in inclement weather. Electric motors are permitted. The lake holds bass, crappie, catfish and rockfish. The lake is somewhat unusual in that it was formed as a result of the filling of J Percy Priest Lake: water backed up through caves and into sinkholes creating the new lake. Hamilton Creek Park, operated by Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation holds a sailboat marina, a BMX track, the mountain bike trails and a boat launch. The Nashville Shores Water Park has water activities, pools, water slides, beach, putt-putt, and other amusements. Built in 2000, the Nashville Superspeedway NASCAR racing complex adds to the excitement.
Several well-known and historical points of interest are located in or near Nashville: The Grand Ole Opry is one of Nashville’s most famous entertainment venues. President Andrew Jackson’s beloved Hermitage is nearby, available for tours. Twenty-eight-room Two Rivers Mansion sits in its own 12-acre park at the junction of the Stones and Cumberland Rivers. The Sam Davis Home is a State Historic Site in nearby Smyrna. Built in 1820, the preserved home commemorates the Confederate hero who was executed for refusing to divulge information to Union troops. The original furnishings are still on display. The Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro was the site of a particularly bloody Civil War battle.
The history of the J Percy Priest Reservoir is the discovery of the site of the future City of Nashville. When a hunter named Uriah Stone discovered the small river sometime in the 1700s, he found the river basin to contain a wealth of cedar barrens, open grasslands and woodlands teeming with game. Little did he realize that the area had long been a favored hunting area of the Shawnee, Creek, Chickasaw and Cherokee. The river was eventually named for Uriah Stone. Andrew Jackson later built his famous Hermitage on a plantation overlooking the river. Two hundred years later, the Flood Control Act of 1946 provided for Stewarts Ferry Reservoir and the river was dammed for flood control and hydroelectric power. Congress later changed the name to honor the late Tennessee congressman, J Percy Priest. The dam was finished in 1968 and the rest is modern history.
Real estate is available near J. Percy Priest Lake, although not on the shoreline. Several nice developments offer lake views. A few private homes may be found for short-term rental and there are a number of guest cottages and bed & breakfasts available in the area. All type of commercial lodgings are located along the major highways near the lake and in the City of Nashville itself. Somewhere, there is the perfect space for you to enjoy your first visit. See you at the lake!
Things to do at J. Percy Priest Lake
- Vacation Rentals
- Jet Skiing
- Water Skiing
- Horseback Riding
- Wildlife Viewing
- State Park
Fish species found at J. Percy Priest Lake
- Largemouth Bass
- Smallmouth Bass
- Striped Bass
- White Bass
J. Percy Priest Lake Photo Gallery
J. Percy Priest Lake Statistics & Helpful Links
Water Level Control: Corps of Engineers
Surface Area: 14,200 acres
Shoreline Length: 213 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 490 feet
Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 483 feet
Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 505 feet
Average Depth: 29 feet
Maximum Depth: 100 feet
Water Volume: 202,000 acre-feet
Completion Year: 1968
Drainage Area: 892 sq. miles
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