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Boating & Water Safety

Boating, fishing and swimming in Tennessee Valley lakes are just a part of summer fun. But when you're enjoying the water near one of TVA's dams, you need to take extra precautions to stay safe.

Please follow these simple rules when you are fishing, swimming or wading near or below a dam:

  • Always obey posted rules and warnings.
  • Never go into the water alone.
  • Always wear a personal flotation device.
  • Inspect waders for signs of wear, and use ties to prevent water from entering boots. Wet suits are an excellent substitute for waders, especially in the cold water below the tributary dams.
  • Fish, swim or wade below dams only during low-flow periods.
  • Stay out of restricted areas.
  • Plan a quick exit from the water to the nearest bank in case of an emergency.
  • Move to a safer area immediately if a siren sounds or strobe lights flash at dams equipped with these warning devices.
  • State agencies, which are responsible for boater safety, advise boaters to always leave the motor running, even when drift fishing. The water below a dam can roil up suddenly, trapping or capsizing boaters—a stalled or hard-to-start motor can lead to disaster.
  • For the same reason, never anchor your boat below a dam.

If you are caught in surging water:

Any moving water can be dangerous. If you are caught in the water and swept off your feet, remember the following:

  • Drop any items that can weigh you down.
  • Stay calm, lie on your back and keep your feet up and pointed downstream to avoid rocks and foot entrapment.
  • Swim on your back with the current and then swim diagonally across the stream until you reach the shore.
  • Do not attempt to stand up until you are in shallow, slow-moving water.
  • If you get trapped on an island, stay there and signal for help.

Information on reservoir levels and stream flows:

For the latest information on current and predicted reservoir levels, streamflows and expected water releases from TVA dams, please call one of the following numbers or go to our Lake Levels page.

  • In or around Knoxville: 865-632-2264
  • In or around Chattanooga: 423-751-2264
  • From other locations: 800-238-2264
  • If you need additional information or have questions, please call this number: (865) 632-6065; help is available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST