South Holston Lake and Dam: Stepping Back in Time

The South Holston River offers something for all lovers of the outdoors!

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When we visited Bristol and Northeast Tennessee in March, we were scheduled to visit the South Holston Lake and dam but had no idea what we would see on this visit or learn! What we found was one of the most beautiful and relaxing locations in all northeast Tennessee and so much more!

            The South Holston Dam is an earthen dam that was built in the 1940s by the Tennessee Valley Authority as part of the efforts to control flooding in the Tennessee River watershed. Due to a shortage of critical materials needed for the war effort, the construction of the dam was halted in 1942 and resumed July 1, 1947. Finally, on October 21, 1950, the valve gate was closed, allowing water to back up and create the South Holston Reservoir. 

            Today, the South Holston River may be the best trout fishing east of the Mississippi River. The tailwater below South Holston Lake offers nearly 18 miles of pristine, fishable water. The population of rainbow and brown trout has grown so quickly that estimates show that there are approximately 6000 fish per mile and trout 20 inches long or more are caught regularly. There are several fishing outfitters in the area that will hook an angler up with all that is needed for their outing. Additionally, we saw several fishermen waded into the river and the water was just above their knees, allowing them to fly fish peacefully. However, it is of critical importance to fish in areas where you can see and hear the water release sirens and flood sirens. Many times, the weather on top of the mountain that warrants a release is not the same at the bottom. Additionally, the amount of rain that has fallen over the course of a few days may require water to be released so if you are planning to fish, please be mindful of where to go if the water begins to rise. One thing is for sure that you will have a fun and successful fishing expedition.

            If fishing really is not your thing, there are plenty of hikes along the road heading toward the dam as well as numerous bathrooms and picnic locations. Many such locations have a wide variety of trails that head into the mountains for different mileage and elevation gains. Additionally, a trip to the dam is well worth the drive to the top of the mountain. There are not many places to see earthen dams these days and the views from the top are spectacular.

If a day trip just is not enough for you, visitors can also rent vacation homes from South Holston River Rentals to enjoy all the activities not only on the South Holston River but in Bristol as well. 

            As you are planning your next vacation, make sure to contact Explore Bristol for all the information you need for your trip! Or, reach out to the contact at South Fork Holston River directly at (423) 587-7037. If you need help booking your rental property, give our friends at South Holston River Rentals a call at (423) 366-3000! This is one part of Northeast Tennessee you do not want to miss and you will never forget!  


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