What’s the Largest Pond in Tennessee?

Written by Claire Wilson
Updated: April 18, 2023
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The biggest pond in Tennessee is Big Hill Pond in McNairy County. It occupies the southwest part of the state. Because people disagree about what distinguishes a lake from a pond, this body of water is sometimes called Big Hill Pond Lake. And to be fair, it is on the large end of a pond. But more commonly, it is called Big Hill Pond.

Where is the Largest Pond in Tennessee Located on a Map?

The largest pond in Tennessee is in McNairy County, on the Mississippi border. The county seat is the city of Selmer – which is close to Big Hill Pond State Park – where the pond is located.

Pond vs. Lake

Although there aren’t set standards for what defines a lake and what defines a pond, you can check out this article on the three main differences between a lake and a pond. The first is that ponds are smaller than lakes.

While that is pretty broad, another feature is that ponds are shallow. Ponds are shallow enough that rooted plants grow throughout the bottom of the pond. Lakes, on the other hand, are much deeper, so rooted plants can only grow close to the shore.

Ponds also have a consistent water temperature from the surface to the bottom. Also, the water temperature easily changes with the air temperature. Lakes, however, have layers of different water temperatures, with it being warmer at the top than at the bottom.

For ponds, the levels of dissolved oxygen change quite a bit depending on water movement, algae, and submerged plants. A pond doesn’t experience much wave movement and plants grow at the shoreline.

Lakes, on the other hand, have a very stable level of dissolved oxygen throughout the day. And with the large surface area, the wind disrupts the water causing waves. With more wave movement, lakes form sandy or rocky shorelines. Plants usually don’t grow around the entire shoreline, but only in areas with low wave movement.

Big Hill Pond, therefore, is too small to be a lake, at only 35 acres. Compare that to Old Hickory Lake in the north-central part of the state, which is 22,500 acres. Big Hill Pond does not see much wave movement, and a gorgeous arrangement of aquatic plants and cypress trees encircle the shoreline. In short, Big Hill Pond is the largest pond Tennessee has to offer.

History of the Largest Pond in Tennessee

big hill pond state park
Big Hill Pond is 35 acres, and 4,200 acres of wetlands and forests called Big Hill Pond State Park surround it.


Big Hill Pond is 35 acres, and 4,200 acres of wetlands and forests surround it. Big Hill Pond was created in 1853 when workers of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad dug out a large pit to build a levee. The levee spanned across the Tuscumbia River and Cypress Creek, allowing them to build a railroad. Over time, the open pit collected water and made the present-day Big Hill Pond.

The Memphis and Charleston Railroad was an important transportation route during the Civil War. Therefore, the Union and Confederates fought frequently over the territory surrounding Big Hill Pond. Finally, after the Battle of Davis Bridge, the Union built earthworks (artificial banks of soil for fortification) and occupied them to keep the railroad under Union control.

Features of Big Hill Pond


Black sea bass in green and blue water
The daily limit for black bass at Big Hill Pond is 10, with no limits on length.


One of the more popular activities people enjoy on Big Hill Pond is, of course, fishing. Because the pond is encircled by a thick forest of cypress trees and a swampy marsh, it is only accessible by boat for fishing. Only electric motors or paddles are allowed on the pond. Also, the boat ramp only handles up to a 20-foot bass boat. But the ramp is steep, so you need a vehicle with four-wheel drive. Also, you need a vehicle large enough to haul your boat up the sharp incline. The daily limit for black bass is 10, with no limits on length.


Paddling is also a favorite on Big Hill Pond. Canoes and kayaks are welcome, and the Big Hill Pond State Park also rents out canoes and kayaks. However, rentals are on a first-come, first-serve basis. They do not take reservations. Meet early at the Travis McNatt Lake boathouse if you want to rent a canoe or kayak!


If you would like to spend more than a day paddling around this peaceful pond, go camping at one of Big Hill Pond’s 28 tent and small RV campsites. Just know that the campsites are gravel. If you’re planning to tent camp, bring a cot or air mattress for more comfort when you sleep.

Although there is no backcountry camping allowed, there are four backcountry shelters that backpackers can hike to. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy a night of solitude in nature. The hiking trails around Big Hill Pond are gorgeous with varying levels of difficulty, and even some mountain biking trails!


Acadian Flycatcher
You will have an opportunity to spot many must-see birds at Tennesse’s Big Hill Pond, such as the Acadian flycatcher.

©Tom Franks/Shutterstock.com

The trails also offer ample opportunities for birding. Some of the featured birds include red-tailed hawk, Carolina chickadee, black vulture, and Acadian flycatcher! You will have a chance of spotting many of the must-see birds in Tennessee.

For even more opportunities for fun at Big Hill Pond, checkout the Tennessee State Parks website.

Big Hill Pond is the perfect destination for an outdoor getaway. This largest pond in Tennessee certainly lives up to its title!

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A tree in the water with the sunset behind it
The 51,000 acre Tennessee wildlife refuge has over 300 bird species
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About the Author

Claire is fascinated by the intricacy of nature and has always been drawn to animals. She's thrilled to share more knowledge about the world around us and write about how animals are even more extraordinary than we imagined!

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