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Watauga Reservoir

Powerhouse at watauga dam

Watauga Reservoir is in northeast Tennessee near Elizabethton. The reservoir extends 16 miles east from Watauga Dam toward the North Carolina border. The photo shows the dam’s sluiceway access tower.

Lower Winter Water Levels

At the request of many property owners, TVA is currently drawing down Watauga Reservoir to facilitate private shoreline cleanup and general maintenance on permitted docks.

The reservoir will be pulled down to approximately the 1,940-foot contour elevation (about 10 feet below normal winter pool) between now and mid-November 2013. This is similar to the draw down pattern last year when navigation safety buoys were installed.

TVA will hold the reservoir around the 1,940-foot contour elevation for approximately four weeks, from mid-November until mid-December, and then quickly begin recovery toward normal 2014 spring/summer levels as rain and runoff permit.

Watauga property owners, dock owners and marina owners are encouraged to take advantage of these low water conditions to complete shoreline cleanup or permitted stabilization efforts, or general dock maintenance on previously permitted structures. As a reminder, any new shoreline work or dock alterations require prior approval from TVA.

For questions regarding Section 26a permitting or other general maintenance questions, please contact Anthony Summitt, the area Program Manager, at 423-467-3801 or at Additional information on TVA Section 26a permits may also be found at or by calling 1-800-882-5263.

Lake users, boaters and shoreline property owners are encouraged to prepare docks and boats for lower water levels, anticipate limited access at many locations and use caution while on the water.

As a reminder, it is illegal to remove, disturb, dig or damage cultural archaeological artifacts on federal property, including land normally covered by water. The public is asked to leave in place any cultural or archaeological items and to report anyone digging for artifacts by calling 1-855-548-2489.

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 waterfowl.

More information on Watauga Reservoir

Operating guide

Daily reservoir operation information

Sportfish survey results

Sportfish ratings

Ecological health ratings

Recreation facilities

Recreation release schedule


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 332 feet high and extends 925 feet across the Watauga River.

Watauga Dam is a hydroelectric facility. It has two generating units with a net dependable capacity of 66 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.


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