Douglas Lake is the second most famous natural landmark of the Smoky Mountains region that isn’t the Smoky Mountain National Park and is an intrinsic part of Historic Dandridge (more on that below). Despite that, it may be surprising to learn that Douglas Lake is actually a man-made lake and far younger than Dandridge is. It was formed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1943 as a reservoir extension of the French Broad River that cuts through East Tennessee near Knoxville and once held a world record for how fast it was to complete an agricultural project of its size (12 months and 17 days!)
You’d never know that to look at it now as the lake is enormous and filled with wildlife opportunities (fishing, birdwatching, etc.) as well as normal shorelines and boating opportunities like any natural lake. During the warm months, the lake is filled with families swimming, jet-skiing, picnicing and fishing and more. During the Autumn months, visitors and locals alike delight in the leaves changing and the multicolored treelines and mountains reflecting in the water along with more fishing. During the Winter months… well, most of that is just more fishermen. In fact, fishing is year-round on Douglas Lake.
Douglas Lake is approximately 555 miles of shoreline with twists, turns, coves and bays stretching from the confluence of the Nolichucky, French Broad and Pigeon River in Cocke County, 8 miles west to the site of the Douglas Dam in Sevier County. It has approximately 28,420 acres of water surface and has more than 40 different types of fish living under the surface.
More information on the lake can be found at http://www.douglaslake.info/.
Douglas Lake is a man made lake. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) formed Douglas Lake from the French Broad River in the early 1940s. While creating the Douglas Dam, the TVA spent one million dollars building a dike in order to prevent the Jefferson County Seat, the town of Dandridge itself, from being completely flooded by the water of the newly formed Douglas Lake. Today, nearly 60 years later, the Dandridge Dike has become a landmark on its own and an integral part of the town itself. The dike is located above numerous historical buildings, many dating back to the 1820s, and are today used as governmental offices and small businesses.
“Historic” Dandridge is the official name of our city on the shores of Douglas Lake and we got that name by being Tennessee’s second oldest city. Compared to areas like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Dandridge is considerably less oriented on a tourism industry and draws more attention to itself through its status as a historic city and landmark (and, obviously, the gigantic lake that Dandridge wraps around on one side).
What makes Dandridge historic? Well, the town was founded in 1783 (!) and named after Martha Washington herself (her full name was Martha DANDRIDGE Washington). In addition to that, the area is home to over 20 historically relevant buildings and landmarks that include the Shepard’s Inn that was built in 1814, the Roper Tavern that was built in 1817, the Hickman Tavern that was built in 1820, the Vance Building that was built in 1823 and many more. Then there’s the Revolutionary War Graveyard that was, if you can believe it, the spot that created Dandridge and the county seat for Jefferson County in 1793 and leads to the Hopewell Presbyterian Church that also dates back to before the 1800s. There’s also the famous Tinsley Bible Drug store that was opened in 1911 and remains in active business today.
In modern times, Dandridge is home to a large country club and golf course and plenty of homegrown restaurants and shops with a thriving community of, you guessed it, fisherpeople, along with antique dealers, artists and other industries relevant to its historic status. Dandridge is also blessed to be near another popular lake with Cherokee Lake. Douglas is south, Cherokee is north. Mostly, Dandridge is just a cool, quiet place to relax in if the lakes are too busy or you’d just like to get away from it all.
More information on landmarks mentioned here can be found at https://dandridgetn.gov/plan-your-visit/history/.
You may have heard about Douglas Lake or Dandridge by hearing about Douglas Dam and sometimes the name is used interchangably with the waterbody by locals or frequent visitors. This is because our famous Douglas Lake was actually formed by the Douglas Dam Reservoir in 1942-1943 when the Tennessee Valley Authority built the dam along the French Broad River to provide power for the area needed during World War II. Douglas Dam is an iconic stop on the way to Dandridge, TN, from Sevierville/Kodak along the eponyous Douglas Dam Rd. and it is a working hydroelectric dam still in use today where visitors can stop and enjoy some recreational activities outside of it.
How to Get There
From US I-40, east of Knoxville, TN:
- Take exit 407.
- Travel south on TN-66 towards Sevierville, turning right onto TN-139.
- Then turn right onto TN-338 – this will take you to Douglas Dam, the 2 campgrounds (signs to the Headwater Campground are after you cross the dam), the day use areas and the Trotter Bluff Trail.
Pet Friendly Notes
Pets welcome but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6-feet. TVA is a partner of Leave No Traceand requests that visitors follow Leave No Trace practices, including picking up after your pet.Pets are not allowed in the beach area.
Birdwatchers enjoy the fall migration of shore birds, wading birds and other waterfowl that flock to Douglas from late July to early October. The birds rest and feed along the muddy shoreline that is exposed as the level of the reservoir is lowered to winter flood control levels. A good place to observe birds is at Rankin Bottoms Wildlife Management Area managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency – you might get lucky and spot an American White Pelican, a Black-necked Stilt or a Wood Stork.
The Trotter Bluff Small Wild Area features a 1.2 mile loop hiking trail through a mature hardwood forest and limestone sinkholes – also a good trail to hike in the spring to catch wildflowers in bloom. For more information on the Trotter Bluff Trail and the nearby Dandridge Partnership Trail, visit the TVA Trails webpage.
Douglas: Facts & Figures
Douglas Dam is a hydroelectric facility. It has four generating units with a summer net dependable capacity of 182 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.
Douglas Dam is 201 feet high and stretches 1,705 feet across the French Broad River.
Douglas Reservoir provides 513 miles of shoreline and about 28,420 acres of water surface for recreation activities.
In a year with normal rainfall, the water level in Douglas Reservoir varies about 44 feet from summer to winter to provide seasonal flood storage.
The reservoir has a flood-storage capacity of 1,082,000 acre-feet.
Find Douglas Dam at 850 Powerhouse Way, Dandridge, Tenn.
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