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At more than 1,900 feet above sea level, Watauga holds the distinction of being the highest reservoir in the Tennessee River system. The reservoir is managed for many uses, including flood damage reduction, power generation, water quality, and aquatic ecology.

Surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest and flanked by the Appalachian Mountains, Watauga Reservoir is one of the most scenic in the Tennessee River watershed. It offers access to the Appalachian Trail.

Below Watauga Dam is a wildlife observation area where visitors have a chance to view unique species of wintering waterfowl, including buffleheads, mallards, American black ducks, gadwalls, ring-necked ducks, lesser scaups and other ducks, including canvasbacks, redheads and scoters.

Watauga: Facts & Figures

  • Construction of Watauga Dam began in early 1942 but was curtailed later that year in favor of other wartime building efforts. Work resumed in 1946, and the dam was completed in 1948.
  • Watauga Dam is 318 feet high and extends 900 feet across the Watauga River.
  • Watauga Dam is a hydroelectric facility. It has two generating units with a summer net dependable capacity of 63 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.
  • In a year with normal rainfall, the water level in the reservoir varies about 11 feet from summer to winter to provide for seasonal flood storage.
  • Watauga has a flood-storage capacity of 152,800 acre-feet.

More Information on Watauga Reservoir

Daily Lake Level

Reservoir Health Ratings

Recreation Release Schedule

Water Trail Guide