The amount of money TVA lake recreation contributes in economic development to the Tennessee Valley is truly a staggering number: $11.9 billion annually.
“From the TVA perspective we break things up into three categories — water-based recreation such as fishing and boating; land-based recreation such as hiking and biking trails and campgrounds; and stream access sites,” said Clay Guerry, TVA Natural Resource Management.
Norris Lake has the most TVA public land east of Chattanooga. Valley-wide TVA has 293,000 acres of public use recreation land, he said.
Area fishermen know that the tailwaters of Norris Dam offer great trout fishing.
The 13-mile stretch below the dam is listed by Trout Unlimited as one of America’s Best Trout Streams.
TVA is making some improvements near Miller Island to make it an even more enjoyable experience for trout fishermen.
“It’s a really popular area and we’re working to expand that out a little bit. We’re going to repave a portion of that and put some steps down into the water and make it a little less slippery when you’re in a pair of waders,” he said.
“In the last couple of years we’ve done a lot of work to improve the trail system at the Loyston Point area. We started collecting data recently and found for the months December, January, and February, which is typically the lowest used recreation season, we saw about 1,500 trail users out there in just those three months. It’s been really well-received and we’re impressed with it,” Guerry said.
“That draws in people from outside the community and creates economic opportunity. We have lodging and a boat ramp there but we’re starting to see people come in specifically to use that trail system,” he said.
The five-mile Loyston Loop is ideal for family rides.
“Last year, we studied the economic impact of the reservoir-based recreation and that was just under $12 billion — about $1 million per mile. This year, we kicked off a study for the stream access sites in northern Georgia and western North Carolina. Next year, we’ll move the study this way to the Powell and Clinch [Rivers]. And then hopefully we’ll look at land-based recreation to get the full picture of what TVA means to the region in recreation opportunities,” Guerry said.
TVA partners with various state and local agencies to manage reservoirs, land, and stream access sites but also manages 80 recreation areas themselves valley-wide. They have agreements across the Tennessee valley to help manage well over 200 recreation sites such as marinas and campgrounds.
TVA is also promoting what they “TVAycations,” recreation opportunities for families to stay close to home but still enjoy an affordable yet fun vacation.
“If you have someone who can’t afford to drive to the beach or rent a beach house, if it’s someone limited on time, or even if it’s just someone who wants to stay close to home, we have plenty of options available,” said Travis Brickey, TVA Senior Program Manager.
TVA has put together several vacation packages detailing opportunities in five regions of the Tennessee Valley - Heart of the Valley (which includes Norris, Melton Hill, Cherokee, Douglas, and Fort Loudon Lakes), Mountain Lake (the Ocoee River, Fontana, Chatuge, and Notterly Lakes), River Gorge (Raccoon Mountain, Nickajack and Chickamauga Lakes), River Shoals (Bear Creek, Guntersville, Wilson, and Wheeler Lakes), River Plains (Beech River, Kentucky and Pickwick Lakes), and the Valley Frontier (Fort Patrick Henry, Boone, Watauga, Wilbur, and South Holston Lakes).
Each package gives a description of the various recreational opportunities from boating, fishing, hiking, camping, biking, and even bird watching.
TVA also offers an old-fashioned folding road map with locations of TVA dams and reservoirs with recreation opportunities.
“TVAcation” packages and maps are available at visitors centers at all TVA dams or more information can be obtained at www.tva.gov.