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South Holston Lake

South Holston Lake's 7,580 acres are ideal for boating, kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, and fishing. Created by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1940s, the dam impounds the South Fork Holston River in Sullivan County. It is the first dam on the South Fork Holston, and it extends across Tennessee and Virginia state lines near Bristol.

Located about 50 miles above the South Fork Holston River's confluence with the North Fork Holston River, the dam and lake are situated in a beautiful Appalachian Mountain setting. The dam site and the Tennessee portion of this reservoir are surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest, which extends up into Virginia.


South Holston Lake's habitats offer a diversity of structures, including rock bluffs, shale banks, and flat clay points. Trolling anglers can find open water structures ranging from mud flats to river channel drop-offs and submerged islands. TVA built a weir below South Holston Dam in 1991, adding to the river's oxygen when the hydropower plant isnít generating electricity. Look for smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, rainbow trout, black crappie, sunfish, and catfish. Forage consists of gizzard and threadfin shad, alewife, bluegill, and a variety of minnows.

In 2010, a reciprocal agreement between Tennessee and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries went into effect. Tennessee residents currently can purchase an annual South Holston Reservoir License to fish the Virginia side of the lake. Virginia residents can obtain a similar license to fish the Tennessee side, but all residents still must have a valid state license. This is important information, especially for trout fishing, as each resident must have a valid state license to fish for that species. Visiting anglers must abide by state boundaries and the state that issues the license.


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    South Holston Lake Tennessee Coordinates:
36.5586N -82.0044W
Map It:
Lake Type:
Surface Area:
7,580 acres
Maximum Depth:
145 ft
1,726 ft
Normal Water Clarity:
6-10 ft
Major City:


Two public boat launches exist -- one at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's ramp on U.S. 421, and another at the Little Oak Campground off Forest Road #87. The Tennessee side of this lake also hosts five marinas and boat docks, and ramps at Little Oak Campground and Observation Knob Park.


Lodging on the Tennessee side of South Holston Lake includes camping at Cherokee National Forest as well as at other campgrounds in Sullivan County. For hotels, inns, and B&Bs, visitors can find rooms in Kingsport, Bristol, and Blountville.

Review the Lake Resource Guide for additional lodging.


South Holston Lake is situated in Sullivan County, Tennessee, and in Washington County, Virginia. Nearby cities include Bristol (which straddles the Tennessee-Virginia state line), Kingsport, and Blountville in Tennessee. Knoxville is located about two hours from the northern portion of the lake in Tennessee via I-81 and Hwy 394 at Blountville. Bristol is located on I-81 just north of Blountville, and that town is located just 11.6 miles (about 25 minutes) from the lake.

Fun times at South Holston Lake  South Holston Lake

  South Holston Lake  South Holston Lake

Average Temperatures Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High  45 Avg. High  50 Avg. High  59 Avg. High  68 Avg. High  76 Avg. High  83 Avg. High  86 Avg. High  85 Avg. High  79 Avg. High  69 Avg. High  59 Avg. High  48
Avg. Low  25 Avg. Low  28 Avg. Low  34 Avg. Low  42 Avg. Low  51 Avg. Low  60 Avg. Low  64 Avg. Low  63 Avg. Low  55 Avg. Low  44 Avg. Low  35 Avg. Low  28