Tennessee River Navigation Notes – Quimby's Cruising Guide

Tennessee River Navigation Notes

Today, a total of nine locks and dams create nine lakes on the Tennessee River, including the Chickamauga, Fort Loudoun, Watts Barr and Nickajack.

Suited to any type of boating, from sailboats to large cruisers and houseboats, these lakes have attracted vacationers for more than 35 years. Chickamauga and Watts Bar are particularly suited for family vacations, with more than 40 resorts and boat docks. Chickamauga Dam, which backs up a 35,000-acre lake, is located adjacent to historic Chattanooga, Tenn., home of the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and Lookout Mountain.

There is an international rowing course on 5,690-acre Melton Hill Lake. In 1981, the Pan American canoe and kayak championships were held there, and the site is considered by the U.S. Olympic Committee as a premier training ground for American Olympic-class oarsmen.

The expansive waters of Guntersville, Pickwick, Wheeler and Wilson lakes stretch 215 miles and flow west across north Alabama. Guntersville and Wheeler are the largest, each boasting more than 67,000 acres of water surface for excellent boating and great fishing.

The 34,500-acre Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is a favorite haunt for wildlife enthusiasts, photographers and fishermen.

Stretching 180 miles, the Kentucky is the last lake on the Tennessee River. It is by far the largest, most developed and most popular in the system. Scattered along its shoreline are five state parks, the Shiloh National Military Park, over 80 resorts and boat docks, and the Land Between the Lakes project, offering a variety of cultural, educational and recreational opportunities. Fishermen are enticed to Kentucky Lake for the spring crappie runs. Sauger, a cousin to the walleye, is also a popular catch. In all, anglers take more than 1,000 tons of fish annually from the lake. 

There are 160,000 acres to explore by boat and hundreds of secluded coves with sand beaches waiting for your anchor.

Tennessee River Lock Mile Markers

Kentucky Lock: 22.4
Pickwick Landing Lock: 206.7
Wilson Lock: 259.4
Joe Wheeler Lock: 274.9
Guntersville Lock: 349.0
Nickajack Lock: 424.7
Chickamauga Lock: 471.0
Watts Bar Lock: 529.9
Fort Loudon Lock: 602.5