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Cheatham Lake is an impoundment of the Cumberland River with 320 miles of shoreline. It is 67.5 miles long and extends from Cheatham Dam through Nashville to Old Hickory Dam. In its upper reaches, the lake generally consists of a deepened river channel, where it is often referred to as Cheatham River.
At Normal Pool Elevation 385 (feet above mean sea level), Cheatham Lake covers 7,450 acres and has 320 miles of shoreline. The Corps of Engineers uses most of the inflow hydropower generation; it does not regulate floodwaters. The estimated average annual energy output is 160,000,000 kilowatt hours.
Cheatham Lake is approximately 40 feet deep at the dam. Cheatham Lake levels are controlled to provide a navigable channel with a minimum depth of 9 feet upstream to Old Hickory Dam. Deeper areas are present along the high bluffs found throughout the lake.
Congress authorized the Cheatham Lock and Dam Project in 1946. The original purpose of this project was to replace three smaller, aging locks built at the turn of the century. In 1952, Congress added hydroelectric power production as a project function. The project became fully operational November 1960.
Cheatham Lock is located near Ashland City, TN -- approximately 40 river miles downstream from Nashville, TN. Construction was started on Cheatham Lock in 1950 and the lock began permanent operation on August 7, 1954. The lock chamber is 110 feet wide, 800 feet long, and provides a normal lift of 26 feet. Also, the chamber requires 17,115,429 gallons of water and approximately 12 minutes to fill. It takes approximately 15 minutes to empty. The lock is open to recreational craft at no charge. A single lockage takes about 30 minutes.
Cheatham Lake camping is permitted in only in 2 designated areas. Lock A Campground provides 45 campsites with water and electrical hookups. Harpeth River Bridge Campground has 15 developed campsites but no hookups. Camping elsewhere on public lands along the shoreline, including islands, is prohibited.
A $4 daily vehicle fee is charged during the peak season for use of the recreational facilities in Cheatham Dam Right Bank Recreation Area, whether its occupants picnic, swim at the beach, play at the playgrounds, launch a boat, fish from the bank, or use one the four picnic shelters.
Cheatham Lake visitors may enjoy the water at the designated swimming area in Cheatham Dam Right Bank Recreation Area. This swimming area is off-limits to boaters of all kinds. No lifeguards are present. A spacious sand beach adjoins the swimming area, and restrooms are located nearby. A picnic shelter, playground, and individual picnic tables are also provided. Swimming is strictly prohibited at boat launching ramps and adjacent courtesy floats in the public recreation areas and access points on Cheatham Lake.
Boating is a popular sport on Cheatham Lake. Runabouts, cruisers, personal watercraft, fishing boats, and commercial barge tows all share the public waters of the lake. The stately riverboats, Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen occasionally transit the lake when they visit the Port of Nashville.
Cheatham Lake offers great fishing opportunities. The most popular fish species are lunker largemouth bass, sauger and white bass (stripe). Panfish like bream and crappie are plentiful can be caught virtually anywhere in the lake or tailwaters. Rockfish (striped bass) can exceed 30 pounds. These giants generally prowl the tailwaters. Large catfish are also taken both above and below the dam. A Tennessee state fishing license is required for fishing anywhere on Cheatham Lake or its tailwaters.
There are 2 trails at Cheatham Lake. Take a jump back into the past on the Lock A Nature Trail. This trail, located in the Lock A Campground, will give you a sense of what it was like to live the life of a lockmaster. While you are on the trail, get a bird?s eye view of the river from either of the two overlooks. Keep your (bird?s) eyes open for an eagle, hawk, heron or vulture -- or watch a barge tow pass by.
Starting just west of Ashland City and ending in the Lock A Campground is the Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail. This trail is open from sunrise to sunset and accommodates hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders, bird watchers, wildflower enthusiasts and all people with a love for nature. The trail, a "rails to trails" project, currently spans approximately 6.5 miles of an old railroad bed.
The origin of the name "Cheatham" Lake is unclear, but it is most likely named after one of three illustrious Cheathams - a settler, politician or war hero.
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