Nickajack Lake, Tennessee, USA

Also known as:  Nickajack Reservoir

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Nickajack Lake.

If you’re considering Nickajack Lake vacation rentals, we’ve made it super easy to explore accommodations and nearby hotels using the interactive map below. Simply click on a listing to compare similar properties, best rates and availability for your dates. Or keep scrolling to read our Nickajack Lake guide!

Nickajack Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - South - Tennessee - East -

Set against the spectacular scenery and steep walls of the Tennessee River Gorge, Nickajack Lake is the perfect place to relax on the water, fish, or explore the nature and wildlife of the Cumberland Mountains.

Nickajack Lake is an impoundment of the Tennessee River and one of nine reservoirs on the river managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The lake was created for flood control, navigation, and power generation. Construction on Nickajack Dam started in 1964 and was completed in 1967 replacing the existing Hales Bar Dam. Hales Bar Dam was built in 1913 by the Chattanooga and Tennessee Power Company and was bought by the TVA in 1939, but there were leaks in the dam’s foundation that couldn’t be repaired. Hales Bar Dam Lock and Powerhouse are still visible six miles above Nickajack Lake and the Lock was converted to a coal barge terminal.

When the TVA built Nickajack Lake and Dam, they planned ahead for future expansion. Nickajack Lock can lift nine large barges at one time 41 feet, allowing more than 2.5 million tons of raw materials and goods to pass through the Tennessee River Gorge every year. If the lock is ever insufficient to handle the traffic, there is already a 110 foot by 800 foot underwater structure for a future lock. The observation platform at Nickajack Lock re-opened to the public in 2015 after a 14-year closure following 9/11.

Located in Marion County half an hour from Chattanooga, Nickajack Lake extends 46 miles upstream from the Nickajack Dam to the Chickamauga Dam. Lake levels are controlled by the TVA and fluctuate as needed for power generation and navigation. With over 10,300 acres of water and almost 180 miles of shoreline to explore, anglers will find plenty of fish to challenge them especially black, spotted, and largemouth bass. The catfish and pan fish are also plentiful. There are fishing berms around Nickajack Lake, an ADA accessible fishing pier and several public boat launches. Along with fishing from the shore or by boat, visitors to Nickajack Lake can boat, water ski or Jet Ski. The TVA also manages camping, swimming, and picnicking at several spots.

Nickajack Lake was named for a Chickamauga leader whose renegade band hid out in Nickajack Cave. The cave has a rich history. It was mined for saltpeter by James Orr starting in 1800. The cave was mined continuously until 1863 or 1864. Today Nickajack Cave partially flooded by Nickajack Lake is a wildlife refuge managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. From late April to early October the cave is home to a colony of around 100,000 endangered gray bats. The bats use the cave as a maternity roost and arrive to give birth in the spring. At dusk thousands of bats fly out to feed in a big gray cloud. The entrance to the cave is protected and blocked to people, but visitors can watch the bats from a specially designated area.

Nickajack Lake extends into the Tennessee River Gorge. The Gorge is about 27,000 acres carved through Cumberland Mountain. Known as the Grand Canyon of Tennessee, it’s a 26-mile long steep walled gorge. Home to bald eagles and osprey, the scenery around the gorge is extraordinary.

Abundant wildlife, plentiful fishing and the spectacular backdrop of the Tennessee River Gorge combine to make Nickajack Lake a fantastic outdoor getaway. Add all the attractions of nearby Chattanooga and there is sure to be something to please everyone at Nickajack Lake.

Custom Nickajack Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Nickajack Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Nickajack Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Largemouth Bass

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Nickajack Lake

The Nickajack Lake map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Nickajack Lake photo gallery

New photos coming soon!

Nickajack Lake statistics & helpful links

divider

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

Advertise your Nickajack Lake vacation rental

LakeLubbers will soon offer homeowners and property managers the opportunity to to showcase their vacation rentals to the thousands of lake lovers searching our site daily for accommodations. If you’d like additional details, please contact our advertising team here.

divider

Looking for the Nickajack Lake forum?

LakeLubbers previously offered visitors the ability to create accounts and participate in lake forums. When we overhauled the site’s content management system in 2021 we had to disable those features. We’re evaluating options and welcome your comments and feedback here.

We also encourage you to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook and Instagram!

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