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The Best Lakes Near Johnson City to Cool off This Summer

Looking for somewhere to cool off this summer? Then you might consider visiting one of the beautiful lakes near Johnson City in Northeast Tennessee!

Lakes provide a great variety of outdoor activities from boating, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, swimming, and more.

There are many different marinas that offer boat rentals, campgrounds for tent or RV camping, and hiking trails with lake views.

Aerial view of Watauga Lake near Johnson City, TN at sunset.
Watauga Lake near Johnson City, TN

The lakes in Northeast Tennessee are very beautiful as they reflect the scenery around them such as the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest.

Listed below are a few lakes you can find near Johnson City and the Tri-Cities and what outdoor activities you can find at each of them. These are listed in no particular order so visit one that intrigues you the most—or visit them all!

Keep reading to discover the best lakes near Johnson City, TN!

🌸 Planning your Tennessee spring vacation? Book your hotel in advance! Here are our favorite stays: The Carnegie in Johnson City, The Oliver in Knoxville, and The Bristol in Bristol TN-VA!

Best Lakes Near Johnson City

1. Boone Lake

woman knee boarding on Boone Lake in Johnson City with trees and mountains in the background
Kneeboarding on Boone Lake

Boone Lake is the closest lake to Johnson City and is in both Sullivan and Washington Counties. It is controlled by Boone Dam and is fed by both the South Holston and Watauga Rivers, spanning approximately 4,300 acres in size.

This lake is very popular for both water-based recreation and fishing, supporting fish species such as crappie and bluegill, as well as white, striped, largemouth, and smallmouth bass.

There are many different marinas located on this lake, along with some great campgrounds.


Boone Lake has a few marinas with some offering live music, karaoke, restaurants, fuel pumps, boat rentals, and more. Below are the marinas located on this lake with a brief description of what each one offers.

  1. Rockingham Marina (Johnson City, TN) – Rockingham Marina is a full-service Marina in Johnson City. They provide boat services, fuel pumps, a general store, boat slips, accommodation rentals, and a restaurant called the Rock Cafe.
  2. Serenity Cove Marina & RV Park (Johnson City, TN) – This marina is more secluded and is located close to Winged Deer Park in Johnson City. This is a great marina to visit if you have your own RV or camper van and want to spend some quiet time on the lake.
  3. Boone Lake Marina (Piney Flats, TN) – Boone Lake Marina is a full-service marina offering boat rentals, slips, a fuel pump, a repair shop, a showroom with new and used boats, and a restaurant.
  4. Davis Marina (Blountville, TN) – Restaurant, dock, and public boat ramp. Boonies restaurant is popular on Fish Fridays – offering all-you-can-eat Alaskan white fish.
  5. Sonny’s Marina (Johnson City, TN) – Sonny’s Marina offers boat services, boat rentals, kayak rentals, standup paddleboard rentals, and a restaurant called the Krazy Chicken. This marina is popular for its nightlife as they have a bar and live music.
  6. Jay’s Boat Dock (Gray, TN) – Offers pontoon, floating cabin, slip rentals, and restaurant and bar.
  7. Lakeview Marina (Kingsport, TN) – Offering a full-service shop, used and new boat sales, covered boat slips, boat rentals, and a restaurant.


This lake does not offer many campgrounds for those looking to go camping with tents or RVs. The two campgrounds located on this lake are:

  1. Serenity Cove Marina & RV Park (149 Boatdock Rd, Johnson City) – Serenity Cove was listed above as it is a marina, however, it is also an RV park and campground. This campground is known for being a quiet campground where some people call this place home as they live there most of the year.
  2. Lakeview RV Resort (4550 Hwy 11 E, Bluff City, TN) – Lakeview RV is located within steps off the shore of Boone Lake with amenities such as a swimming pool, camp store, cable TV, a dog park, live music, and more. Bring your RV or rent one of the cabins they have to offer.

Also Read: 9 Best Campgrounds Near Johnson City


  1. Boonies Restaurant (Davis Marina) – Boonies Restaurant is a family-style restaurant located at Davis Marina serving food such as pizza, wings, and sandwiches. They are known for their “Fish Fry Fridays” serving all-you-can-eat Alaskan white fish.
  2. The Krazy Chicken (Sonny’s Marina) – Serving chicken sandwiches, tacos, burgers, wings, and more. Sonny’s is popular among the nightlife as they have live music and cold beer.
  3. Nick’s Anchored (Jay’s Boat Dock Marina) – Nick’s Anchored is a restaurant located at Jay’s Boat Dock Marina in Gray, TN. This restaurant serves menu items such as nachos, wings, and hamburgers. You can find Karaoke, live music, and bingo here on the weekends.
  4. Marker ‘2’ Grille (Lakeview Marina) – This restaurant is at Lakeview Marina offering a large outdoor patio with live music many nights a week. You’ll find menu items from sandwiches, fried seafood baskets, and beer specials.
  5. Rock Cafe (Rockingham Marina) – This is a small cafe serving quick food such as hot sandwiches, cold sandwiches, quesadillas, and salads.

Public Boat Ramps

  • T.V.A Boat Ramp (Lat: 36.44064 Lon: -82.43212)
  • Hidden Cove Boat Ramp (Lat: 36.38513 Lon: -82.35901)
  • Davis Marina (Blountville, TN) – $5 Fee
  • Pickens Bridge (Lat: 36.4191 Lon: -82.37511)
  • Winged Deer Park (Lat: 36.39261 Lon: -82.35663)
  • Devault Bridge Boat Ramp (Lat: 36.46619 Lon: -82.35533)
  • Airport Misty Waters Ramp (Lat: 36.47068 Lon: -82.39632)
  • Rockingham Marina Ramp (Lat: 36.42025 Lon: -82.40435)
  • Rainbow Bridge Boat Ramp (Lat: 36.4737 Lon: -82.31659)
Map of Boone lake showing the locations of the Public Boat Ramps

Boone Lake is a great lake to visit if you are looking for somewhere close to Johnson City to cool off during the hot summer months. But, while this lake is great for water activities and fishing, it lacks other popular outdoor activities such as hiking and camping.

2. Watauga Lake

Aerial view of Watauga Lake near Johnson City, TN at sunset.
Watauga Lake at sunset

Watauga Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes near Johnson City as it is nestled between the Appalachian Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest, providing beautiful lake and mountain views.

This lake is great for those looking for outdoor activities such as camping and hiking, as well as water-based activities and fishing. Fishing species located at this lake include crappie, bluegill, brown trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth & largemouth bass, and walleye.

Watauga Lake is located in the rural counties of Johnson and Carter County and is approximately 6,400 acres in size. This lake is fed by the Elk and Watauga Rivers and was dammed by the TVA in the year of 1948.


  1. Cove Ridge Marina – Offers Pontoon boat rentals, fuel pumps, wet and dry boat slips, kayak rentals, paddleboard rentals, yacht club, campground, and grill.
  2. Fish Springs Marina – Boat sales, 24-hour fuel pumps, boat rentals, paddleboard & kayak rentals, service station, and marina store.
  3. Mallard Cove Marina – fuel pump, launch ramp, snack bar, boat rentals, and campground
  4. Lakeshore Resort & Marina – Offering boat rentals, boat sales, fuel pump, launch ramp, boat slips, cabin rentals, motel unit, and restaurant.
  5. Pioneer Landing Marina & Campground – Boat slips and campground.

Watauga Lake also offers a few campgrounds located right next to the lake great for RV or tent camping. Below are a few of our recommendations.


  1. Cardens Bluff Campground – This campground is part of the Cherokee National Forest and is on a peninsula, offering awesome views of Watauga Lake. This campground has 43 sites and is primarily for tent camping, however, there are a few spots that allow RVs or camper vans. (This is where we camped in our Westie!)
  2. Watauga Dam Campground – Located on the Watauga River, this campground offers 29 sites for RV camping only. All sites offer power and electric hookups.
  3. Boots Off Hostel & Campground – This campground is unique as they offer eco-friendly camping offering “glamping-style” tiny cabins, canvas tents, bunkhouses, and a shaded campground for tent camping. No RVs. Call for car and van campers.

🏕 Also Read: Watauga Lake Camping Guide

Aerial view of campground with trees and a small campervan
Can you spot our campervan?


  1. Southern Craft BBQ Southern Craft BBQ is also located in Johnson City and Bristol, making this the 3rd Southern Craft in Northeast Tennessee. This restaurant will be located at the Lakeshore Resort & Marina.
  2. Mallard Cove Marina Snacks – Features burgers and hot dogs.
  3. J’s Corner at Cove Ridge Marina – Burgers, sandwiches, and hot dogs.

Public Boat Ramps

  • Rat Branch Boat Ramp (Lat: 36.3045 Lon: -82.11887)
  • Little Milligan Boat Ramp (Lat: 36.32471 Lon: -82.00215)
  • Watauga Dam Boat Ramp  Lat: 36.32105 Lon: -82.11715)
  • Fish Springs Marina
  • Lakeshore Marina
  • Mallard Cove Marina
Map of Watauga Lake showing the location of Boat Ramps

The Appalachian Trail runs around Watauga Lake for those interested in a short or multi-day hike. Hiking in this location will provide you with beautiful views of Watauga Lake and the mountains surrounding. To view the different hiking trails around this lake, click here.

We highly recommend visiting Watauga Lake if you are looking for a great lake for boating and water-based activities, fishing, hiking, or camping. However, this lake lacks a variety of restaurants or places that host live music.

3. South Holston Lake

South Holston lake view with boats and the cherokee national forest in the background

The South Holston Lake is a popular lake in Tennessee extending from Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia into Abingdon, Virginia. This lake is approximately 7,500 acres in size and is the biggest lake in Northeast Tennessee. Approximately 60% of this lake’s shoreline is bordered by the Cherokee National Forest, making it great for hiking and camping as well as water-based activities.

This lake is extremely popular among fly fishermen and is nationally recognized for producing numerous trophy trout each year. Streams feeding into this lake are filled with native brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout.

Other fish species located at this lake include black bass, large & smallmouth bass, crappie, walleye, sunfish, and catfish.

As a majority of this lake is surrounded by uninhabited land, you’ll have a good chance at spotting some wildlife from bald eagles, herons, muskrats, and on a rare occasion, black bears.


  1. Laurel Marina & Yacht Club (Bristol, TN) – Boat slips, rentals, marine services, store, and restaurant.
  2. Lake View Dock (Bristol, TN) – Boat slips, general store, floating cottages, and restaurant.
  3. Friendship Resort & Marina (Bristol, TN) – Boat Slips, marine store, and fuel pump.
  4. Painter Creek Marina (Bristol, TN) – Boat slips, rentals, fuel pump, launch ramp, and restaurant.
  5. Sportsman Marina (Abingdon, VA) – Boat slips, aqua park, rentals, fuel pump, marine services, store, and restaurant.


  1. Little Oak Campground (Bristol, TN) – One of our favorite campgrounds in Northeast Tennessee. Campsites here offer great views and access to South Holston Lake. This campground offers 69 universally accessible campsites for both tent and RV camping and has an on-site launch ramp for your boat.
  2. Jacob’s Creek Campground (Bristol, TN) – Situated along the shores of South Holston Lake, this campground offers 27 sites for both tent and RV camping.
  3. Camper’s Cove (Bristol, TN) – RV park for family camping. Offers on-site laundry facilities, pool, and firewood.
  4. Observation Knob Park & Campground (Bristol, TN) – offering RV camping, launch ramp, and picnic shelters.


  1. The Wheelhouse (Lake View Dock Marina) – A casual walk-up restaurant offering breakfast, pizzas, hoagies, and salads. Fine dining is available every Thursday on Lake View’s overlook dock – reservations are required.
  2. Price’s Too Restaurant (Laurel Marina) – Serving comfort-style food from hamburgers, pizza, and Reuben sandwiches. This restaurant also offers live music or DJs on Saturday nights.
  3. Painter Creek Grille (Painter Creek Marina) – Menu items feature wings, burgers, entrees, and more. Live music is hosted here every Friday and Saturday.
  4. Broken Ski Grill (Sportsman’s Marina) – Serving burgers, sandwiches, paninis, and more.

Public Boat Ramps

  1. 421 Bridge Boat Ramp (Lat: 36.55915 Lon: -82.04169)
  2. Observation Knob Park (Lat: 36.58075 Lon: -82.04149)
  3. Painter Creek Marina (Lat: 36.58543 Lon: -82.0421)
  4. Avens Boat Ramp (Lat: 36.63511 Lon: -81.96056)
  5. Whitaker Hollow Park (Lat: 36.64673 Lon: -81.92277)
South Holston Lake Boat Ramps

South Holston Lake is a great all-around lake offering great fishing, a variety of marinas and restaurants, and a few campgrounds. Let us know what you think of this lake in the comments below!

4. Fort Patrick Henry Lake

People Kayaking on Fort Patrick Henry Lake with trees in the background

Fort Patrick Henry Lake is the smallest lake inhabiting Northeast Tennessee, approximately 872-acres in size. This lake is great for outdoor activities such as camping, biking, boating, fishing, and hiking.

Warriors’ Path State Park is a 950-acre park that borders Fort Patrick Henry Lake. This park is popular for outdoor activities, including an internationally-renowned mountain bike trail system, and a nationally-recognized golf course.

Fort Patrick Henry Lake is also popular among fishermen as it is accessible by many boat ramps and offers a variety of fish species such as rainbow trait, bluefin, crappie, and bass.


  1. Warriors’ Path State Park Marina (490 Hemlock Rd, Kingsport) – This is the only Marina located on Fort Patrick Henry Lake. This marina offers a public boat ramp, boat slips, boat rentals, a fuel station, a service dock, and a snack bar.


  1. Warriors’ Path State Park Campground – Offering 94 campsites for both tent and RV camping. Water and electrical hookups.
    • Cedar Ridge Hammock Campground – Warriors’ Path also offers a unique ‘hammock only’ campground, great for primitive or group-style camping.


There are currently NO restaurants located on Fort Patrick Henry Lake. We recommend packing sandwiches and snacks if you plan on spending the day on this lake.

Public Boat Ramps

  • Warriors’ Path State Park (Lat: 36.49121 Lon: -82.47697)
  • Warrior Drive (Lat: 36.49112 Lon: -82.48096)
  • Fort Patrick Henry Dam Reservation (Lat: 36.49908 Lon: -82.50737)
  • Cook’s Landing (Lat: 36.51124 Lon: -82.49393)
Map of Fort Patrick Henry Lake showing the locations of the public boat ramps

Fort Patrick Henry Lake would be a great lake to visit if you are planning on camping or participating in outdoor activities at Warriors’ Path State Park. This lake lacks marinas and restaurants, keep this in mind when visiting!

Have you been to one of these lakes near Johnson City? What are your recommendations? Let us know in the comments below!

Aerial gallery of lakes near Johnson City, Tennessee with text overlay.


Thursday 9th of June 2022

Great article, thank you. We've been to the beach at Watauga Lake, but does Boone Lake have a beach?


Thursday 9th of June 2022

Thank you for your comment, Laura! Yes, the Boone Dam Public Recreational Area just opened back up to the public just a few weeks ago. This area had been closed for many years while they were making repairs to the Dam. The beach area is now located right next to Boone Dam. We haven't had the opportunity to visit it ourselves yet but we hope you enjoy your time there.🙂

Margo Greenwell

Monday 6th of June 2022

I love Boone Lake ,I have lived on it for 37years, I love all the nature, fish,turtles,ducks,geese,and big grey crains we have even had egrets the last couple of years across the lake from my house, if someone gets near their nest,they will sure let them know!I was raised near Beautiful Watauga lake,name meaning beautiful waters! I love Watauga Lake in its mountainous terrain! We are blessed with all these beautiful lakes to enjoy!


Monday 6th of June 2022

We love both of those! Laurin just sold her house near Boone Lake -- it was beautiful. Thanks for sharing with us, Margo ☺️