It's become a vacation tradition for my wife, three girls and me to find at least two never-visited lakes each summer. We drive through unfamiliar territory to Georgia, the Carolinas, Kentucky and the upper Midwest to spots we've seen only on our trusty Rand-McNally. It can be risky when you've committed five people to three valuable days in an imaginary place.
In July 2008, we did something we'd never done. We revisited one of those spots: Lake Watauga. Of all the places we've visited, this is the one we had to see again.
Only this time our boat ride lasted a little longer. We took more notice of the hillsides hitting the water at such a steep angle that the depths drop to 170 feet, and of boats that had been sitting in slips for months, with no scum lines. The little girls, normally engaged in the most entertaining activity for 45 minutes max, didn't want to leave the boat after six hours.
I'm not about to claim that ours was the only boat on the water in mid-July. But long after beaching up for a long lunch on one of Watauga's many sandy peninsulas, a bowrider passed 200 feet from where we were swimming. As the rich green water rolled to shore, my wife asked, "Think we should go to another spot?"
This summer, on Watauga, we probably will.
Overshadowed By: Lake Tellico, Norris Lake
You Must Know: It's at the highest elevation in the TVA network of waterways.
Most Popular Boats: Small runabouts because of the ease of trailering, and pontoons.