Percy Priest Lake

Nashville, Tennessee

Percy Priest Lake: Nashville's water wonderland.

Percy Priest Lake in all its Glory

Nestled in the North Central region of Tennessee, just 10 miles east of downtown Nashville, J. Percy Priest Lake stands as a shining gem in the city's crown. At 42 miles long and spanning 14,200 acres, this reservoir, located between miles 6 and 7 of the Stones River, encompasses portions of Davidson, Wilson, and Rutherford counties.

Named after Congressman Percy Priest, an influential figure in Tennessee's history, the lake was formed in the 1960s with the construction of the J. Percy Priest Dam on the Stones River. Today, it serves not only as a beloved hub for outdoor recreation, but also as a vital water resource for the region.

Percy Priest Lake

Creating Percy Priest Lake

The Percy Priest Dam Project was first authorised by the US Congress in 1946 under the name ‘Stewarts Ferry Reservoir’. But this was later altered to honour Congressman Priest, in 1958. Construction by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, began in June 1963 and was completed in December 1967, at a cost of $57,361,766.

The Lake’s creation involved the forming of a concrete structure across the Stones River, and the submerging of large areas of land, including forests, farmlands, and even some small communities. The project also required the relocation of residents and the acquisition of land to make way for the new lake.

Why was Percy Priest Lake Created?

The sole purpose of the Percy Priest Dam project was to reduce the risk of flooding in the Nashville area and to provide a reliable water supply for the region. Once completed, it helped regulate the flow of the Stones River, mitigating flood risks downstream. The reservoir also provided a vital water supply for drinking water, irrigation, and industrial use in the Nashville area.

Activities on Percy Priest Lake

With almost 33,000 surface areas and 213 miles of shoreline (offering a plethora of recreational activities and natural beauty to explore) it’s no wonder Percy Priest Lake has become a popular destination for millions of locals and tourists alike!

Due to its temperate climate and relatively long recreation season visitors have numerous activities to choose from including: fishing, hunting, camping, boating, canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, and more.


One of the main draws of Percy Priest Lake is its abundance of water-based activities. Boating enthusiasts can set sail on the calm waters, whether they prefer speedboats, pontoons, or sailboats. Several marinas dot the shoreline, providing boat rentals, supplies, and expert advice for those new to the nautical world.


Fishing is another popular pastime at Percy Priest Lake. The lake is teeming with various fish species, including large mouth bass, striped bass, white bass, smallmouth bass, crappie and bluegill. Anglers can cast their lines from the shore or venture out into the water, relishing the tranquillity of the lake while waiting for the perfect catch.

Percy Priest Lake 1


For those seeking a more laid-back, sun-bathing, book-reading experience, the lake offers several sandy beaches where visitors can soak up the sun, enjoy picnics, or engage in beach volleyball. Swimming is also permitted in designated areas, providing a refreshing respite during the hot summer months.

Scenery and Wildlife

Percy Priest Lake and surrounding land is supervised and operated by the Corps of Engineers’ Nashville District personnel. Of the 18,854 acres surrounding the lake, around 10,000 acres are devoted to wildlife management. Lush forests, vibrant wildlife, and scenic hiking trails beckon outdoor lovers to explore the natural wonders on offer.

Facilities at Percy Priest Lake

Dam Site, Visitor Center, and Overlook

Visitors generally flock to these areas for sightseeing. There is also lots of information regarding the history of the Percy Priest Lake at the Visitor Center. Some facilities and activities in this area include:

  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Scenic views
  • Restrooms
  • Picnic tables

Elm Hill Recreation Area

This area is managed by Elm Hill Marina and is hugely popular in the summertime. Some facilities in this area include:

  • Picnic sites
  • Boat ramp
  • Over 100 campsites
  • Restrooms

Cook Day Use

This is often considered the best park on the Lake. There is a picturesque beach, — where it is possible to swim — a great nature trail, and picnic tables. Other facitilites include:

  • Restrooms
  • Picnic table
  • Picnic shelters (These can be booked through the National Recreation Reservation Service.)

Please note there is a fee to enter the park.

Camping at Percy Priest Lake

Poole Knobs Campground

Poole Knobs is the most popular campground on the lake with much to offer, including stunning scenery. Visitors can easily access and enjoy all that Percy Priest Lake has to offer right from this campground. Other facilities include:

  • Campsites
  • Boat ramps
  • Picnic tables
  • Restrooms
  • Bathhouses

Seven Points Day Use and Campground

Open from 1st April until 31st October, Seven Points is one of the best campgrounds on the lake. Guests can find everything they need to perfectly enjoy their experience at Percy Priest Lake. Amenities include:

  • Campsites
  • Boat ramp
  • Picnic tables
  • Picnic shelters (reservable)
  • Grills
  • Restrooms
  • Boat ramps
  • Dump station

Anderson Road Day Use and Campground

This campground and day use area is open from mid-May until 30th September. Camping, picnicking, and swimming at the beach area are all popular activities in the park. Other amenities include:

  • Three restrooms
  • Bathhouse
  • Dump station
  • Picnic tables
  • Beach area
  • Campsites
  • Playground
  • Grills
  • Exercise loop trail
  • Two boat ramps

Smith Springs Day Use Area

This is a fun day use area located right on Percy Priest Lake. Visitors can picnic and grill their days away here in perfect harmony with the water. Other amenities include:

  • Picnic tables
  • Grills
  • Boat ramp
  • Restrooms
  • Reservable picnic shelter

Jefferson Springs Day Use Area

In this area it is possible to also grill up a delicious picnic then lounge around at the picnic tables and shelters, and access the water via the boat ramp. Other amenities include:

  • Picnic tables
  • Boat ramp
  • Grills
  • Picnic shelter

Gregory Mill Day Use Area

Managed by the Town of Smyrna this is a popular attraction and park due to its splash pad. Other facilities include:

  • Comfort station
  • Splash pad
  • Restroom
  • Picnic area
Percy Priest Lake 2

Events at Percy Priest Lake

Percy Priest Lake isn't just a hub for water babies and nature enthusiasts. The lake also hosts various events throughout the year. From fishing tournaments and boat shows to live music concerts and fireworks displays, there's always something happening to entertain and engage the community.

Moreover, the lake's proximity to Nashville (15 minutes from downtown) makes it an ideal day trip or weekend getaway for city dwellers. Visitors can enjoy the best of both worlds, immersing themselves in the peacefulness of the lake during the day and indulging in the vibrant music scene, delicious cuisine, and rich cultural heritage of Nashville in the evenings.

Our Thoughts…

Whether you're a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat, Percy Priest Lake offers a diverse range of experiences for everyone. From boating and fishing to hiking and relaxing on the beach, this Nashville treasure is a water wonderland waiting to be explored. So pack your sunscreen, grab your fishing rod, and get ready to make unforgettable memories at Percy Priest Lake.

Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our CityDays Scavenger Hunts - untangle cryptic clues as a team as you discover the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of Nashville and beyond.


What you need to know

Percy Priest Lake
3737 Bell Rd, Nashville, TN 37214
36.156940, -86.617500
Tips before you visit