TVA Watauga Dam and Reservoir

Watauga Reservoir is near Elizabethton in northeast Tennessee. The reservoir extends 16 miles east from Watauga Dam towards the North Carolina border. At more than 1,900 feet above sea level, Watauga holds the distinction of being the highest reservoir in the Tennessee River system. The town of Butler had to be relocated before the project could be completed.

Watauga is a Native American word that may mean "beautiful waters", "river of plenty", "falling water", "whispering waters" or "broken waters".

For more information about TVA dams, visit

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Latitude: 36.327365 Longitude: -82.120605 Elevation: 1676 ft

Recreational Opportunities

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.

From the visitor center’s parking lot, the Overlook Trail takes you around the mountain to fabulous views of the Cherokee National Forest, Watauga Dam and its unique spillway. A side trail connects hikers to the Appalachian Trail which crosses over Watauga Dam, one of the few remaining dams that can be walked over.

For information about the Overlook Trail, visit TVA's Trails webpage.

Seasons Accessible

All Seasons

How to Get There

From Johnson City: Take US-321 to US-19E (Veterans Memorial Parkway), turn right.  Continue on US-19E to left on Siam Road; continue on Siam Road to right on Wilbur Dam Rd; continue on Wilbur Dam Road, driving past Wilbur Dam, to Watauga Dam.


Visitor centers, trails, boat ramps, and canoe access points operated by TVA are provided to the public with no fee

ADA Accessibility Notes

ADA accessibility available at camping, overlook, picnic tables, restrooms, water fountain

Pet Friendly Notes

Pets welcome but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6-feet. TVA is a partner of Leave No Trace and requests that visitors follow Leave No Trace practices, including picking up after your pet.

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