The Raccoon Mountain project is TVA’s largest hydroelectric facility. Water is pumped to the reservoir on top of the mountain and then used to generate electricity when additional power is needed by the TVA system.
Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant is located in southeast Tennessee on a site that overlooks the Tennessee River near Chattanooga.
The plant works like a large storage battery. During periods of low demand, water is pumped from Nickajack Reservoir at the base of the mountain to the reservoir built at the top. It takes 28 hours to fill the upper reservoir. When demand is high, water is released via a tunnel drilled through the center of the mountain to drive generators in the mountain’s underground power plant.
The area around Raccoon Mountain is a state-designated Wildlife Observation Area. The mountaintop is home to whitetail deer, woodchucks, gray foxes and, of course, raccoons. The most compelling wildlife attraction of the area is a large wintering population of bald eagles, which can be sighted from the overlook as they hunt in the woods and waters.
The adjacent day-use area offers more than 28 miles of mountain biking trails—with names like Live Wire, Megawatt, Switch Yard and High Voltage—for riders of all abilities, as well as a bike-washing station. The trails are open to hikers as well.
The Raccoon Mountain Visitor Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from April through October, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. November through March except for major holidays and in times of severe weather. Staffed by TVA retirees, the visitor center features maps, videos and displays explaining Raccoon Mountain, TVA's history and its activities today. The overlook at the visitor center offers a spectacular view of the river gorge, and nearby Laurel Point offers access to nearly 30 miles of biking and hiking trails on the dam reservation.
From Chattanooga: Go west on Interstate 24 to exit 175 (Browns Ferry Road). Turn right on Browns Ferry Road away from Lookout Mountain. After about 0.9 miles, turn left on Elder Mountain Road. Go about 1.8 miles and turn left on TVA Access Road. Continue about 1.2 miles to the visitor center. Total driving distance from Chattanooga is about eight miles. Drive time is about 20 minutes.