Discover the Clearest Lake in Tennessee

Norris Lake Tennessee

Written by Nixza Gonzalez

Updated: July 31, 2023

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Tennessee has some of the most spectacular mountains, lakes, rivers, and ponds in the country. There are over 100,000 small lakes and ponds alone in the state! But which one is the clearest? Follow along to discover the clearest lake in Tennessee.

Norris Lake is the Clearest Lake in Tennessee
Norris Lake is one of the clearest lakes in the entire United States!

What is the Clearest Lake in Tennessee?

The clearest lake in Tennessee is Norris Lake. This lake is also known as Norris Reservoir. It’s also one of the clearest lakes in the United States. The lake is cool, refreshing, beautiful, and sparklingly clear! The lake’s average temperature in summer is 72 °F, perfect for a relaxing dip. Norris Lake is about 206 miles long, with a maximum width of 1.3 miles. The surface area of the lake is 53.875 square miles. This lovely lake’s depth varies, however, the average depth is 75 feet, with the maximum depth being 210 feet. This massive lake also has 809 miles of shore length.

So, why is this lake so clear? Norris Lake has clean and clear water with 25 feet of visibility. This is likely because no other dam feeds water into it, meaning there is less likeliness for debris.

Norris Lake in Tennessee

The clearest lake in Tennessee is Norris Lake. It has about 25 feet of visibility.

©Stephen P Robinson/

The History of Norris Lake

Norris Lake hasn’t always existed, so what’s the history behind this beautiful and refreshing clear lake? It first starts with an underwater ghost town. Loyston, Tennessee was a city in Union County that was inundated in 1936. Loyston was first settled by German immigrant Henry Sharp in the 1780s. The community though didn’t expand until John Loy built a foundry in the area. The community went by many names, including “Loy” and “Loy’s Crossroads.” Sadly, this town didn’t last long as it was submerged in 1936. TVA and the University of Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s extension service relocated the families in the area to nearby farms.

At the time of the Norris Dam’s completion, there were 70 residents living in the town. This small ghost town is now underneath the widest part of the lake. However, many parts of the lake and dam have been named Loyston, including the “Loyston Sea.”

Loyston, Tennessee, the Ghost Town Under Norris Lake

Underneath Norris Lake is the ghost town, Loyston.

©Tennessee Valley Authority/Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Things to Do in the Clearest Lake in Tennessee

You’ll never get bored when visiting Norris Lake as there are many recreational activities to do. For example, you can hike many walking trails along and near the lake and fish from the long shore. Apart from fishing, there are also boating and swimming opportunities. A great way to bird-watch and view the lake at many points is by walking the Norris Dam Lakeside Loop Trail.

Animals in and around Norris Lake

Norris Lake is surrounded by lush forests, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to see animals. In the same area, there is also the Big Ridge State Park. Listed below are some animals you may see while visiting Norris Lake, the clearest lake in Tennessee.

Red Fox

The first animal on our list is the red fox. While it doesn’t live in the lake, it’s a common animal in the forest. Red foxes are found throughout the northern hemisphere. They’ve been introduced to Australia and are considered one of the worst invasive species in the country. Although red foxes are one of the largest fox species, they have short limbs and faces. These animals though, despite their short appearance, can jump impressive lengths up to 6 feet and 7 inches. While uncommon, some states in the U.S. allow people to own red foxes as pets. In Tennessee though, it’s illegal to own a red fox.

playful red fox cubs ( Vulpes ); young animals near the den, playing while vixen is out to hunt

Red foxes are found throughout Tennessee.



Another animal you can find near the clearest lake in Tennessee is the bobcat. This medium-sized wild feline has a short bobbed tail and is a great climber and jumper. Bobcats are native to North America and have a stable population. Bobcats are vulnerable to coyotes and other large predators. These medium-sized cats though are predators themselves and mainly consume small mammals like rabbits. Famers consider bobcats a pest as they hunt for small livestock like ducks, geese, and chickens.

Deadliest Cats - Bobcat

Bobcats are medium-sized wild cats with short bobbed tails.

©Jack Bell Photography/

Largemouth Bass

A fish species you can find in Norris Lake is the largemouth bass. This bass is common throughout North America. It’s native to parts of the United States but is mostly stocked in popular fishing lakes and ponds. Largemouth bass are easiest to catch in water no deeper than 10 feet. In this lake, you can also find a healthy amount of smallmouth bass and walleye.

smallmouth vs largemouth bass

In Norris Lake, anglers can find largemouth bass, walleye, and smallmouth bass.

©Ryno Botha/

Yellow-rumped Warbler

The yellow-rumped warbler is a favorite for many birdwatchers in Tennessee. This small bird has beautiful yellow and grey feathers and is the only warbler to consistently overwinter in the state. This tiny bird typically weighs about 0.4 ounces. It also has a wingspan of 7.5 to 9.4 inches. These lovely birds are loud and call a 4–7 syllable song.

A beautiful male Yellow-rumped Warbler peches on a grape vine during its spring migration in a Colorado river corridor,

The yellow-rumped warbler is a small grey and yellow bird that overwinters in Tennessee.

©Gerald A. DeBoer/

Where is Norris Lake, TN Located on a Map?

Norris Lake, which is also referred to as Norris Reservoir, is a Tennessee-based reservoir. It was formed in 1936 by the Tennessee Valley Authority at the Cove Creek Site on the Clinch River through the construction of Norris Dam.

Here is Norris Lake, TN on a map:

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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