Old Hickory Lake is a reservoir and dam on the Cumberland River. Designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Old Hickory Lake project was completed in 1957. The lake is named after former President Andrew Jackson, who earned the nickname “Old Hickory” from his aggressive manner. Over the years, the lake has become a popular destination for outdoor recreation.
At 22,500 surface acres in size, Old Hickory Lake attracts millions of visitors each year. Several day-use areas offer an array of activities. Many boat launches provide lake access for those with boats. Visitors wanting to fish can choose to do so by boat or from one of the fishing docks in a recreation area. There are many opportunities to view wildlife at Old Hickory Lake. Head down one of the loops in the nature trail to see the many different types of birds, deer, rabbits, and other animals.
Overnight guests can stay at one of the two campgrounds that are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Between Cage Bend and Cedar Creek, there are over 100 campsites with water and electric hookups. Each campground has many amenities, including laundry facilities and hot showers. Both campgrounds accept reservations.
Old Hickory Lake is not far from Nashville, making it the perfect escape from the city and near enough for visitors to the area to make a day trip. With Nashville just 28 miles away and many other municipalities surrounding the lake, visitors won’t need to travel far to access services.
Nine recreation areas are open to the public for day-use. Two have campgrounds for overnight guests. The recreation areas are several miles apart, requiring visitors to drive if they want to access more than one park.
Upon arrival, RVers planning to stay overnight will want to head to their campsite at Cedar Creek and Cages Bend. After setting up camp, many amenities at the recreation area are accessed by walking, biking, or driving.
Each day-use area has parking, though it is limited at some. Arrive as early as possible during the popular summer season.
Found at one of the two recreation areas that permit camping, Cages Bend COE campground with over 40 available campsites. All sites have electric and water hookups. The campsites are spacious and are mostly shaded by the surrounding trees. At their campsite, campers can gather around the fire ring and picnic table to relax, play games, or socialize. Pets are welcome at Cages Bend.
A dump station, restrooms, and luxurious hot showers are a few amenities that Cages Bend campground has to offer. Guests who plan to stay for multiple days may also want to make use of the laundry facilities. The recreational opportunities at the day-use area include a boat launch, two fishing docks, and a picnic shelter.
The campground can fill up during the peak season. Be sure to reserve a campsite before your trip. There are a limited number of lakefront campsites. The sites that aren’t lakefront are just a short walk to the water.
Cedar Creek campground has 60 campsites. There are very few lakefront sites, though it’s just a short walk to the lake from any of the other campsites. Plenty of shade trees are around the campground to relieve visitors from the hot sun. Reservations can be made in advance and are encouraged as the campsites can fill up quickly.
All of the campsites are equipped with water and electric hookups for RV guests. The parking pads at each site are spacious, making parking less of a challenge for those with big rigs. A dump station is located near the campground. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire ring for campers to relax around.
The campground has many amenities to make overnight guests comfortable. Restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities are on-site. For some fun during your visit, recreational amenities include a group picnic shelter, playground, and boat launch. Cedar Creek COE campground is pet-friendly.
Boating and other water activities like tubing and jet skiing bring many visitors to the lake each year. At over 22,000 surface acres, the lake has plenty of space to explore and zip around on personal watercraft.
There are 41 boat launches located around Old Hickory Lake, including several which are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lake also has eight commercial marinas where boaters can find fuel, moorage, and supplies.
Old Hickory Lake has a nature trail that consists of three short loops, which are fantastic areas to view wildlife. The total trail length is just over one mile.
Willow Swamp Loop takes visitors through a swamp area where many migratory birds pass through. Woodland Loop is home to many rabbits, squirrels, and other types of animals. One of the more popular loops is the Wildlife Loop, which is lined with towering pine trees and leads visitors past a small pond.
Whether you’re gathering for a reunion, birthday, or just a get-together, several picnic areas accommodate large groups at Old Hickory COE lake. Most of the shelters are reservable though others are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The shelters at Waitsboro and Fall Creek recreation areas do not have water and electricity. Restrooms are located not far from each of the picnic shelters.
Old Hickory Lake provides anglers with fantastic fishing throughout most of the year. Crappie, bream, catfish, walleye, and various types of bass are popular types of fish at the lake. Fishing is possible from one of the recreation area docks. Alternatively, with access to a boat, use one of the many boat launches to find a spot in quiet, less-crowded deeper water.
In the spring and fall, the shallow areas will offer the most success. Anglers require a valid fishing license from the State of Tennessee.
Hunting and trapping are allowed in much of the surrounding area of the COE lake and dam. Waterfowl, squirrel, and deer are the main draws for hunting enthusiasts to this Army Corps of Engineers park.
Over 27,000 acres of land at Old Hickory Lake are devoted to increasing the populations of fish and other wildlife. The State of Tennessee manages these efforts. Many hunting areas are water access only.
If you're planning to hunt, ensure you pick up the required permits. Hunting is not allowed in the recreation areas or other developed areas.
Old Hickory Lake is home to many different types of animals, making it a perfect spot for wildlife viewing. White-tailed deer often linger near the woods along the trails. Other commonly observed park occupants are wild turkey, rabbit, and squirrel.
Birding enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the trails. They’ll see many migratory birds and others which are common to the area year-round. Sparrows and barred owls are often seen in the trees, and a bald eagle is spotted on occasion as well.