SOUTH HOLSTON LAKE / RIVER / DAM

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Hundreds of miles of lake shoreline and water await the fisherman, boating enthusiast, skier and nature lover. South Holston Lake, a Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir covering 7,580 acres, is considered one of the top two lakes in Tennessee and among the best in the Southeast for smallmouth bass fishing and also is well known as a fly fisherman’s paradise. The lake also provides many other recreational opportunities for residents, with 60% of its shoreline bordered by the Cherokee National Forest. The Cherokee National Forest is 640,000 acres of a natural wonderland that includes stops along the famous Appalachian Trail.

Fly Fishing is extremely popular in South Holston River, a nationally recognized trout fishery. It produces numerous trophy trout each year. Numerous streams are filled with native brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout.

South Holston Dam, at a whopping 285 feet high and 1,600 feet in length, is the third largest earthen dam in the world. This massive earth and rock structure holds back the waters of South Holston Lake which extends some 24 miles up the river from the dam.

South Holston Dam, an earth-and-rockfill dam, has one generating unit that has a net dependable capacity of 44 megawatts. The reservoir has a flood-storage capacity of 252,800 acre-feet.  In 1991, TVA built a weir below South Holston Dam to add oxygen to the river when the hydropower plant isn’t generating electricity. Oxygen-rich water helps create a sustained habitat for aquatic insects, vegetation and fish.

South Holston Reservoir is on the South Fork Holston River in northeast Tennessee. It extends 24 miles east of the dam into Virginia. Construction of the dam began in 1942 but was halted in favor of other wartime construction efforts. Building resumed in 1947 and was completed in 1950.

South Holston is operated for several purposes, including flood damage reduction, power production, aquatic ecology and augmentation of the flow of water during drier periods.

The South Fork Holston River is home to an annual spring migration of white bass. Locals say that when the serviceberry and dogwood bloom, the white bass run.

A footbridge from the parking lot below the dam leads to Osceola Island and its one-mile-loop wildlife trail. Early in the morning or late in the evening are the best times to sight waterfowl, deer and other wildlife.

There is a visitor center installation on site to tell you more about the history of TVA and South Holston, and about TVA’s current activities.

 South Holston: Facts + Figures

  • Construction of South Holston Dam began in 1942 and was completed in 1950.
  • The earth-and-rockfill dam is 285 feet high and reaches 1,600 feet across the South Fork Holston River.
  • South Holston Dam is a hydroelectric facility. It has one generating unit with a net dependable capacity of 44 megawatts. Net dependable capacity is the amount of power a dam can produce on an average day, minus the electricity used by the dam itself.
  • In a year with normal rainfall, the water level in South Holston Reservoir varies about 25 feet from summer to winter to provide seasonal flood storage.
  • The reservoir has a flood-storage capacity of 252,800 acre-feet.
  • Find South Holston Dam at 918 South View Dam Dr., Bristol, Tenn. 37602.
Adventure Mendota on North Fork Holston Lake

In addition to this great attraction, the North Fork of the Holston River is one of the top 10 small mouth bass fishing rivers in the United States. And if you want to save fishing for another day but still want to enjoy the water, Adventure Mendota is the perfect place to enjoy kayaking and tubing on the Holston.

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