South Holston Lake

Camping, fishing, swimming and more in East Tennessee

Enjoy fishing at South Holston Lake on the Tennessee-Virginia border

Perhaps a lesser-known reservoir in the east Tennessee mountains, South Holston Lake is a gem hiding in the wilderness. Campers, fishermen and families looking for a day’s recreation will all find something to enjoy here. Located in the northeast corner of the state and extending 24 miles into Virginia, the lake is a recreational destination for vacationers from both states.

South Holston’s dam was constructed in the 1940’s, and is still a wonder to see. Visitors to the dam will find a footbridge leading to Osceola Island, which features a one-mile-loop nature trail. From here, expect to see wildlife like deer and waterfowl. If you are able to stay awhile, consider the many recreational activities available on or near the lake: camping, fishing, swimming, boating, bird-watching and picnicking. Nearly 60 percent of the shoreline is bordered by beautiful Cherokee National Forest, and wilderness lovers will relish the isolation of the general area.

Campers may choose from several options, such as the Little Oak Campground or Jacobs Creek Recreation Area. Little Oak is situated on a peninsula along the eastern shore, and offers 68 universally-accessible campsites. Many sites have lake views and direct access to the water. This is also a designated Watchable Wildlife Area and features two interpretive trails for those interested in learning more about the area. Jacobs Creek, also located on a peninsula of the lake’s eastern shore, has 27 campsites, a dump station and a lovely lakeside trail; its day-use area features picnicking facilities and a swim site. Boaters may launch their craft from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency’s ramp on US 421, or at the Little Oak Campground.

South Holston Dam is also a renowned spot for bird-watching. From the dam, watch the mountain skyline for bald eagles, loons, mallards, ring-billed gulls and buffleheads. Or just enjoy a stunning sunset if you are planning to stay near the lake for the evening.

Families will enjoy a long, leisurely afternoon at one of the lake’s recreation areas, where they can swim, have a cookout, soak up the sun and just relax. It’s better than the pool—here, you will be a world away from everyday life, tucked deep in some of the region’s most gorgeous mountains.