The Beauty of Norris Lake

Tennessee waters make a great escape for houseboating

Published online: Dec 21, 2005 News By Terry Gifford
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Whether you're kicking back for an evening sunset or splashing and dashing around the lake on your houseboat accessory craft, few lakes give you the scenic beauty, relatively sparse crowds and excellent accommodations of Tennessee's Norris Lake.

Covering roughly 24,000 surface acres, this lake boasts all the room needed to make a top-notch houseboating holiday.

There are two major parts to this lake, the Clinch River arm and the Powell River Arm. The Clinch consists of about 72 miles of waterway while the Powell extends roughly 50 miles upstream from where its meets the Clinch.

This lake totals 24 marinas with five offering houseboat rental fleets. There are roughly 20 houseboat rentals available on the lake to choose from and more than 840 miles of shoreline to explore.

Completed in 1936, Norris Dam was the first of many artificial impoundments to be built by the Tennessee Valley Authority. It was begun only a few months after the agency was created in 1933. Three years later, its completion helped moderate the disastrous Ohio and Mississippi River flood of 1937.

According to state surveys, Norris has a whopping 800 miles of shoreline with a maximum width of 1.2 miles and a surface area of 34,200 acres. Located in a ridge and valley region, it specializes in cool, clean water that drapes into a seemingly endless string of secluded coves. Translation: houseboat heaven.

If skiing, swimming, sunbathing and enjoying personal watercraft are incorporated into your houseboat outings, then the summer months might be the best time for you to visit Norris Lake. Outside temperatures average around 85 degrees while the water stays at a refreshing 70 degrees.

During the fall and winter, on the other hand, the traffic is usually down and the temperatures average about 50 degrees while the water drops to roughly 45.

If you're plans are strictly houseboating, you should have plenty of options before you. Most rentals offer all the essentials for a great vacation. As an example, Norris Dam Marina offers a hefty 68-by-16-foot vacationing platform called President. The two-tiered craft has four bedrooms and sleeps up to 12 people. You'll also find air conditioning, television with VCR, microwave, gas grill and water slide.

Now, how about a little hook, line and sinker? If you like to fish, you will have to rise early to beat the lake's traffic and warm temperatures in the summer months.

Famous for striped bass or "rockfish", Norris is no stranger to anglers for its trophy-size bass and walleye-as well as bountiful catches of black crappie. And once you get your fill, the fun doesn't end with the still water. The 13 mile stretch of the Clinch River below Norris Dam is a scenic float trip and a renowned trout stream. This stretch of river extends to the Eagle Bend Fish Hatchery, a 100-acre complex operated by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, located at Clinton.

The popularity of Norris to nature lovers of all persuasions is certainly no fluke. There are miles of trails here that lead hikers through deeply forested valleys and ridges.

Not in the mood for sore calves? Then try motor-touring the area on the Appalachian Heritage Trail, which forms a loop off Interstate 75. Driving south, the trail starts at Exit 129; from the north, take Exit 122.

This trail offers some spectacular scenery, plus the chance to visit the Community Crafts Shop and Museum of Appalachia in Norris, the City of Norris, Norris Dam and State Park, the TVA River Bluff Small Wild Area and the Town of Lake City.

If historical interest is more your style, check out the area's grist mill, built in the 1790's and restored by TVA. According to the department of state parks, it still grinds corn daily during the summer months. Adjacent to the mill is a threshing barn and the W.G. Lenoir

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