Tellico Reservoir, Tennessee, USA

Also known as:  Tellico Lake

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Tellico Reservoir — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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All About Tellico Reservoir

Lake Locations: USA - US South Region - Tennessee - East Tennessee -

About 30 minutes south of Knoxville, nestled in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, Tellico Lake is the lake that almost wasn’t. Extending 33 miles along the Little Tennessee River, the lake has become an asset for commerce and recreation.

Construction on Tellico Dam began in 1967, but Tellico Lake or Reservoir wasn’t completed until 1979. The reservoir was planned as an extension of Fort Loudoun Lake and is linked directly by canal. In 1973 when the dam was substantially completed, David Etnier discovered snail darters, a small endangered fish, in the waters of the section of the Little Tennessee River affected by the dam. Under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, construction of the dam was halted. Although over $100 million had already been spent on the dam, the Supreme Court ruled the snail darter must be protected and the dam should not be completed.

Proponents of Tellico Reservoir rallied and drafted an amendment to the Endangered Species Act that would allow exemptions to be granted by a committee of cabinet level members. When the amendment passed by Congress in 1978 it seemed like a sure victory for Tellico Lake. The country was having a hard time understanding how a three inch fish could stop a $100 million project, but when Tellico Reservoir went before what was being called the “God Committee” its exemption was denied. In 1979 Congress unanimously denied the lake’s exemption stating that it was an ill-conceived project from the start. Once again proponents of the reservoir banded together, and after several more rejections, the exemption was passed by Congress and President Carter. Tellico Lake was filled later that year.

One of the last major reservoirs built by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Tellico Lake is part of a network of dams and reservoirs intended to protect Chattanooga from flooding and improve navigation on the Tennessee River. The canal that links Tellico Lake to Fort Loudoun Lake lets barges enter the Little Tennessee River without having to pass through a lock increasing commercial barge traffic. The same canal diverts water to Fort Loudoun Lake to generate hydroelectric power. The lakes are separated by just a mile.

The shoreline of Tellico Lake is mostly undeveloped, but there are several recreation facilities including public boat ramps, campgrounds and hiking trails. There is good fishing for trout and largemouth bass, and the lake is stocked with walleye and rainbow trout. With over 15,000 acres of water to explore, boaters will find plenty of room to move around, and the sailing is exceptional. Tellico Lake and the other reservoirs in the chain opened the waters of North America to “Great Loop Cruising.” Tellico Lake’s water levels fluctuate about six feet a year with the highest elevations from May through November.

In addition to exploring the shores of Tellico Lake, visitors will find lots of wildlife and adventure at the nearby Great Smoky Mountain National Park. With over 800 miles of maintained trails and one of the best collections of log buildings in the Eastern United States, it’s easy to see what makes the park the most visited park in the nation.

History buffs will also find lots to explore at Tellico Lake. When the lake was filled it flooded the area where 18th century British Fort Loudoun was. The fort was moved, raised 17 feet and reconstructed. Visitors to the lake can tour some of the reconstructed buildings. The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum is also nearby. Born in 1776 the son of a fur trader and a Cherokee chief’s daughter, Sequoyah developed the written Cherokee language.

With its rich if slightly troubled history, beautiful water and diverse wildlife, Tellico Lake is a great Eastern Tennessee getaway.

Things to Do at Tellico Reservoir

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • National Park
  • Museum

Fish Species Found at Tellico Reservoir

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Darter
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Find Places to Stay at Tellico Reservoir

If you’re considering a Tellico Reservoir lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Tellico Reservoir Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Tellico Reservoir lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

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.

Tellico Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links


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