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Wilson Lake

Wilson Lake is a reservoir that the U.S. War Department created by impounding the Tennessee River with the Wilson Dam in 1924. Wheeler Lake upstream feeds into this reservoir, which then feeds into Pickwick Lake. Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) acquired the dam in 1933. This area is recognized as the "Smallmouth Capital of the World" for the record number of smallmouth bass caught here.


Although fishing for smallmouth bass is popular on Wilson Lake, anglers also can find largemouth bass, catfish, hybrid and saltwater striped bass, and sauger. The understanding among anglers who frequent this lake is that it would be a mistake to ignore it, even though it is the smallest impoundment along the Tennessee River System.

State records from this lake include a 41-pound, eight-ounce freshwater drum in 1949; however, Wilson Lake tailwaters below the dam are reknowned nationwide. Records from this area include a 52-pound, 12-ounce paddlefish in 1982 (now protected with a release-when-captured ordinance); a 14-pound, 14-ounce silver redhorse in 1995; a five-pound, two-ounce sauger in 1972, and a 19-pound, eight-ounce muskie in 1972. Note that muskie no longer are stocked in this area.


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    Wilson Lake Alabama Coordinates:
34.8168N -87.5059W
Map It:
Lake Type:
Surface Area:
15,500 acres
Maximum Depth:
90 ft
509 ft
Normal Water Clarity:
3 ft
Major City:


This stretch of the Tennessee River probably is the least populated along the Tennessee River in Alabama. Killen is located at the Lock Six Day Use Area on the north side of the river halfway between the Wheeler and Wilson Dams. Other ramps and fishing access are located in Colbert County at Town Creek (Lakewood View Drive); in Lawrence County at Safe Harbor below Wheeler Dam off Highway 101; and at three places in Lauderdale County, including southside of Wilson Dam off Highway 133 (Fleet Harbor) and Shoal Creek, which is located on U.S. Highway 72 ramp on the southwest side of Shoal Creek.

Otherwise, boaters can expect few outdoor facilities for camping or slips outside Joe Wheeler State Park on Wheeler Lake or in Florence and Muscle Shoals. Both of those towns are located at Wilson Dam. The Tennessee River is navigable through all locks and dams for recreational boats as well as commercial vessels.


Wilson Lake offers little for boaters or anglers who want to stay on or near the lake proper. Joe Wheeler State Park is located upstream above the Wheeler Dam on the north shore. Florence and Muscle Shoals offer plenty of accommodations at Wilson Dam. Both the state park and the towns at Wilson Dam are close enough to ensure easy accommodations and access to the lake and tailwaters.

Review the Lake Resource Guide for additional lodging.


There are no river crossings other than those offered at Wilson and Wheeler Dams, making this lake fairly isolated. Two other bridges cross the Tennessee River between Florence and Muscle Shoals to the west, and a crossing at Decatur to the east before I-65. Rogersville, located on the north shore of Wheeler Lake upstream, provides a marina, and Huntsville is the largest city close to this lake, located approximately 62 miles to the east.

Fun times at Wilson Lake  Wilson Lake

Wilson Lake  Wilson Lake

Average Temperatures Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High  51 Avg. High  56 Avg. High  65 Avg. High  73 Avg. High  81 Avg. High  88 Avg. High  91 Avg. High  91 Avg. High  85 Avg. High  74 Avg. High  63 Avg. High  53
Avg. Low  31 Avg. Low  35 Avg. Low  42 Avg. Low  50 Avg. Low  59 Avg. Low  66 Avg. Low  70 Avg. Low  69 Avg. Low  62 Avg. Low  50 Avg. Low  41 Avg. Low  34