South Holston Lake, Tennessee & Virginia, USA
Also known as: South Holston Reservoir
An impoundment of the South Fork Holston River, South Holston Lake is an exceptional place to fish and boat. Straddling the Virginia and Tennessee state line, it’s a great place to visit and “A Good Place to Live.”
Created by the South Holston Dam, South Holston Lake is a project of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Construction on the dam started in 1942, but unlike other TVA projects which were accelerated, it was stopped to divert energy for other wartime efforts. Construction resumed in 1947, and the dam was completed in 1950. The resultant reservoir was created for flood control, hydroelectric power and to support aquatic ecology.
South Holston Lake is located in northeastern Tennessee and extends 24 miles into Virginia. The water levels on the lake draw down almost 30 feet in the fall and winter for flood storage. In 1991 the TVA added a weir below the dam to support the fish populations by oxygenating the water when the dam isn’t generating power.
Fishing on South Holston Lake is exceptional. In fact the lake hosted several big fishing tournaments including the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing Tournament. Anglers will find plenty of black bass, blue gill, crappie, and catfish to challenge them, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency stocks South Holston Lake annually with brown and rainbow trout and walleye. The relatively undeveloped shoreline is good for bank fishing, and the South Fork Holston River is home to an annual spring migration of white bass. Locals say, “When the dogwood blooms, the bass run.” Virginia and Tennessee don’t have a reciprocal agreement so anglers may need both a Tennessee and Virginia fishing license depending on where they plan to fish.
With over 10,000 acres of water, 1,600 of which are in Virginia, to play on South Holston Lake is popular with boaters. There is boating, water, and Jet skiing, canoeing, and white water rafting nearby. The lake has several full service marinas and campgrounds for overnight accommodations.
About sixty percent of the shore of South Holston Lake is bordered by the Cherokee National Forest. At 640,000 acres the Cherokee National Forest is the largest tract of public land in Tennessee. It was dedicated in 1936 by President Roosevelt, and large sections of the land were revitalized by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It’s one of the world’s most diverse areas with over 20,000 species of plants and animals and habitats as diverse as the shores of South Holston Lake and the Southern Appalachian Mountain Range. There are trails for hiking and horseback riding and lots of opportunities to see wildlife.
Just as South Holston Lake straddles Virginia and Tennessee, so does Bristol its nearest city. Bristol TN/VA was established in the mid 1800’s. In 1881 Main St. was dedicated as the Virginia and Tennessee state line. Twenty years later Tennessee ceded land to Virginia to make the middle of State St. the state line. A few years later in 1910 the city was made a National Historic Place and a marker was put up declaring that Bristol was “A Good Place to Live.” In addition to all the amenities of a city its size, today Bristol is home to NASCAR’s Bristol Motor Speedway and the Bristol Drag way. Nearby, Bristol Caverns gives visitors a chance to explore the “Underground River” that carved the cave 200 – 400 million years ago.
With the fantastic fishing and boating, culture and entertainment of Bristol, and the forested land of the Cherokee National Forest, South Holston Lake has something for everyone and is sure to be “A Good Place to Visit.”
Things to do at South Holston Lake
- Vacation Rentals
- Fishing Tournaments
- Whitewater Rafting
- Jet Skiing
- Horseback Riding
- Wildlife Viewing
- National Forest
Fish species found at South Holston Lake
- Black Bass
- Rainbow Trout
- White Bass
South Holston Lake Photo Gallery
South Holston Lake Statistics & Helpful Links
Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed
Water Level Control: TVA
Surface Area: 7,580 acres
Shoreline Length: 160 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,718 feet
Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,692 feet
Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,742 feet
Water Volume: 189,100 acre-feet
Completion Year: 1950
Water Residence Time: 262 days
Lake Area-Population: 45,000
Drainage Area: 703 sq. miles
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