There are three lakes close to Nashville's city center: Radnor Lake, 9 miles south, Percy Priest Lake, 15 miles east, and Old Hickory Lake, 28.5 miles northeast. Whether you're looking to partake in leisurely pursuits such as fishing, camping or birdwatching, or activities such as boating, standup paddleboarding or horseback riding, there's something for every lifestyle.
OLD HICKORY LAKE
A popular reservoir for fishing, boating, camping and watersports, Old Hickory Lake was formed by the Old Hickory Lock and Dam. It spans 22,500 acres and five counties and has 41 access sites for boats.
A visit to the Old Hickory Lake Visitor Center is a must for those who want to learn more about the lake's history and navigational and recreational facilities. Among the engaging exhibits is one that displays old navigational locks used on the Cumberland River before the advent of modern dams.
Looking to kick back on the lake's sandy shoreline? You can do so at Old Hickory Beach. Those looking for a quiet area will find that Nat Caldwell Park—in Gallatin, about 30 minutes from Nashville— fits the bill perfectly. Also in Gallatin, Bledsoe Creek State Park was once a Native American hunting ground; explore primitive sites and 6 miles of scenic trails here, including the Shoreline Trail.
Those looking for a serene spot to commune with nature will find Radnor Lake State Park a natural nirvana. This 1,400-acre protected park is the area's hottest spot for birding, with more than 200 bird species reported—barred owls, wild turkeys and great blue herons among them. It also teems with numerous species of amphibians, reptiles and mammals such as mink and otters.
No private boats or rentals are allowed at Radnor Lake, but from Memorial Day through Labor Day, visitors can take part in an interpretive canoe float, which take place 3-4 times a week at sunrise and sunset, optimal times for wildlife viewing. All canoe floats are led by canoe-certified rangers, who are also interpretive guides. Click here to register for events at Radnor Lake.
J. PERCY PRIEST LAKE
Perhaps Nashvillians' most sought-after body of water, J. Percy Priest Lake, is known for its blue water and limestone shores. The 42-mile-long lake is 15 miles upstream from Nashville, and was created in the '60s when the Stones River, just east of Nashville, was dammed.
Marinas and recreational organizations such as the Vanderbilt Sailing Club, Nashville Rowing Club and Percy Priest Yacht Club—to name but a few—abound here, as do standup paddleboarding and horseback riding. There are also about three dozen islands to explore, about a dozen with primitive camping sites.
The lake is also home to Nashville Shores Waterpark; at 385 acres, it's the largest in the area. Stay cool in the wave pool, lazy river, on eight thrilling water slides and beneath a massive water treehouse.