Old Hickory Lake, Tennessee, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Tennessee - Middle -

Only half an hour outside of Nashville, Old Hickory Lake offers outdoor recreational opportunities for millions of visitors to the middle region of Tennessee each year. The massive man-made lake is located upstream from the city along the Cumberland River. A vital transportation link, the 22,500-acre reservoir behind the Old Hickory Lock and Dam provides a full compliment of recreational activities, including water skiing, boating, hiking, picnicking, fishing, camping and hunting. Wading birds, waterfowl and other wildlife make Old Hickory Lake a favorite for photography and nature study. With four campgrounds, eight marinas and 41 boat launch locations, the long narrow reservoir extends across parts of Sumner and Davidson counties for 97.3 miles from the dam to the base of the Cordell Hull Dam upstream. The City of Henderson and the town of Old Hickory share the shoreline with over a dozen public parks, recreation areas, preserves and a state park. Although only in existence since 1957, residents in the area could not envision a time when the lake wasn’t a large part of their daily lives.

Water sports play a major role in the plans of visitors to the lake: Eight commercial public marinas on Old Hickory Lake offer a number of services to boating visitors including fuel, restaurants, groceries, restrooms, bait and fishing supplies, boating equipment and mooring space for both long and short-term use. Sailboats pleasure boats, fishing boats, water skiers, commercial barges and personal watercraft all use the lake. Two public swimming beaches are maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers and municipal parks also offer swim access. Three Corps-operated campgrounds offer electricity, water, showers, laundry facilities, picnic areas and playgrounds. The Bledsoe Creek State Park offers all of these amenities on the Bledsoe Creek embayment of the reservoir. All offer boat ramps for smaller boats. No dispersed camping is permitted at Old Hickory Lake and reservations are strongly recommended for the most popular campgrounds. An archery practice range is also provided.

Fishing is a big draw to Old Hickory Lake. The impoundment holds largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass, striped bass (rockfish), white bass, sauger and crappie. With 41 boat launch locations there is always a boat ramp nearby that will accommodate smaller fishing boats. There are plenty of places for non-boaters to fish from shore: fishing piers are located at Sanders Ferry, Shutes Branch, Rockland and Bledsoe Creek State Park. All have nearby parking available. Fish attractors are located in the water near most of these fishing piers. The 18 fish attractors are marked with buoys and consist of cedar trees suspended to attract larger numbers of fish for anglers to enjoy. Maintained by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, the attractor sites have been very productive for bass and crappie anglers.

For nature lovers and those desiring a quiet country hike, a large number of walking trails are available to suit most needs. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides a segment of the Nashville Greenways for public use. The three loops of the trail all return along an abandoned railroad bed. They include Woodland Loop, Willow Swamp Loop and Wildlife Loop Woodland Loop has a wildlife viewing blind. Here, behind this wood wall one can watch for wildlife without them being aware of human presence. Along this loop one sees signs of woodchucks, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, meadow mice and other small animals living in this area. Willow Swamp Loop includes a boardwalk crossing an area where water drainage is poor. Here, nature lovers can stop for a time along the boardwalk, experience the feel of a swamp caused by high humidity and identify the pungent odor of decaying vegetation, which is characteristic of swamps. Wildlife Loop is a forest-in-progress: the Corps of Engineers planted a pine forest along this loop in 1967. The pines have grown large enough to provide protection from the weather. Near the dam, a portion of the Nashville Greenways system explores the tailwaters area below the dam. The City of Nashville offers a system of greenway trails downstream extending into the city parks system which is also available to visitors. Bledsoe Creek State Park also provides a variety of walking trails.

In addition to the well-known attractions in nearby Nashville, smaller Hendersonville offers a more home-town atmosphere with plenty of lodgings and an active real estate market. Bed & breakfasts and antique shops make the area especially attractive to those seeking a taste of yesterday. A few private guest rentals may be found overlooking Old Hickory Lake, although there are few locations with direct water frontage. A true piece of American heritage nearby shouldn’t be missed: Andrew Jackson’s estate, The Hermitage. The grounds lie just south of Old Hickory Lake and offer both group tours and a self-guided multi-media tour of the home of the lake’s namesake.The 1,100-acre estate includes homes, gardens and preserved building along with introductory films and a museum at the visitors center.

The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1946 laid the legal groundwork for Old Hickory Lock and Dam. Construction was begin in early 1952, with the dam ready to hold water by June 1954 and the new Old Hickory Lake finished filling in late 1957. The United States Army Corps of Engineers planned the project and still operates and supervises the lake, dam, lock and powerhouse. Although the water is somewhat dark due to vegetation, studies show Old Hickory to be among the cleanest lakes in Tennessee. The shoreline holds several camp facilities for the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Fraternal Order of Police camp for underprivileged children, Easter Seals and debilitation camps. In it’s short existence, Old Hickory Lake has enriched the lives on many in the area and provides hydroelectric power and recreation to the many who live and visit here. Will you be one of them?

Things to do at Old Hickory Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • City Park
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Antiquing

Fish species found at Old Hickory Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Sauger
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Spotted Bass
  • Striped Bass
  • White Bass

Old Hickory Lake Photo Gallery

Old Hickory 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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