Center Hill Lake

Nashville District
Published Jan. 10, 2024
Center Hill Lake. Dam mid-excavation, black and white photo

Center Hill Lake

The Nashville District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers welcomes you to Center Hill Lake.  The lake provides varied outdoor recreation opportunities for millions of visitors each year.  Because of the temperate climate and relatively long recreation season, visitors have numerous activities to choose from including fishing, hunting, camping, picnicking, boating, canoeing, hiking, and many others.  Center Hill belongs to you.  Treat our lake and surrounding area with respect by keeping it clean and attractive.  Enjoy yourself, have a safe visit, and come again.  The Center Hill Lake Information Center located at the Resource Manager’s Office offers the visitor a pictorial history of the construction of the dam and a wildlife exhibit featuring many of the birds and animals which are found in the area.

Center Hill Dam and Lake was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1938 and the River and Harbor Act of 1946. The project was completed for flood control in 1948. Three power generating units provide a total hydroelectric capability of 135,000 kilowatts. The project was designed by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and built by private contractors under the supervision of the Corps. The dam, powerplant and reservoir are operated by the Nashville District of the Corps of Engineers.

Center Hill Lake is located in the Cumberland River Basin, on the Caney Fork River, and covers parts of DeKalb, Putman, White, and Warren Counties in Tennessee. It controls the runoff from a drainage area of 2,174 square miles.

Shoreline Management Plan - View


Camping & Group Picnic Shelters

Registration Center hours are:

Mon. & Thurs. 11 am to 5 pm

Tues. & Wed. CLOSED

Fri. & Sat. 10 am to 7 pm

Sun. 12 noon to 6 pm

*If the Registration Center is closed when you arrive please select a non-reserved site and return to register for your stay during the hours listed above.

Floating Mill Campground will open for the 2023 recreation season April 13 through November 5. The campground and Day Use Area is located 5 miles South of  I-40. The campground offers 115 sites.
Long Branch Campground will open for the 2023 recreation season April 13 through November 5. The campground is located just below Center Hill Dam on the Caney Fork River Tailwater in Lancaster, TN. The campground offers 60 sites and is popular for cold water trout fishing. 
Ragland Bottom Campground will open for the 2023 recreation season April 13 through November 5. The campground and Day Use Area is located 8 miles east of Smithville, TN. The campground offers 57 sites, 15 of which are tent sites with no hook-ups.


The Corps of Engineers manages several day use areas on Center Hill Lake.  Some shelters may be reserved (for a fee) up to 365 days in advance.  Reservations may be made through the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS).  When a shelter is not reserved, it is available on a first-come, first-served basis.  Shelters are available for reservation from May 1 until September 30. To reserve a shelter, contact the National Recreation Reservation Service at 1-877-444-6777.


Center Hill’s forested shoreline, close proximity to major metropolitan areas, and Interstate 40 make it an ideal spot for boating and skiing.  One of nine commercial marinas situated at various locations on the lake, or one of the many Corps of Engineers Access areas, provide easy access and supplies for boaters. As the number of boaters visiting Center Hill have increased in recent years, the Corps of Engineers encourages visitors to wear life jackets, pay close attention at all times, abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages, and become familiar with the rules of the water and basic boating regulations. You may contact the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency concerning boating regulations and boating safety information.

Fishing & Hunting

Center Hill Lake and the Caney Fork River downstream of the Center Hill Dam are very popular areas for fishing exceptional crappie, bass, and walleye fishing.  Tennessee state fishing licenses are required for most individuals prior to fishing on Corps of Engineers waters.  Licenses may be purchased at County Clerk's offices, marinas and many other commercial establishments in the area. For up-to-date fishing information, lake elevations, and generation schedules visit the Center Hill Facebook page. For the most up to date information on generation releases and lake levels, please visit: TVA's Lake Information or call 1-800-238-2264, press 4, then 37, then press the # key.

*Please note:  Water release schedules often change without notice due to unanticipated changes in weather conditions and power system requirements. Use caution near dams. A large amount of water may be discharged without warning at any time. Your safety depends on obeying all posted safety regulations and warnings. 

Approximately 20,000 acres of forested public property along the shoreline at Center Hill Lake provide endless opportunities for hunting white-tail deer, wild turkey, and small game (squirrel, rabbits). The public may hunt on most Corps of Engineers’ managed public lands that are not developed recreation areas, are not leased to other entities, and are not designated as “No Hunting.” All State hunting rules and regulations apply. Wildlife Management Area (WMA) rules apply on Edgar Evins State Park and hunters are required to register and obtain a free permit to hunt on state park property from the Edgar Evins headquarters, (931) 858-2446. Specific questions about Corps’ property can be addressed by contacting a Park Ranger at the Resource Manager’s Office, (931) 858-3125 or (931) 858-3125.

Hunting map: click here

Scuba & Swimming

Scuba diving is allowed at Center Hill Lake. Divers must display a "Diver Down" flag in the area where they are diving. Boaters should be alert to the "Diver Down" flag and keep a safe distance away. 

The Corps of Engineers operates three swim areas on Center Hill: Ragland Bottom Recreation Area (Day Use), Floating Mill Day Use and Floating Mill Campground (the latter is open to registered campers only). Swimming is prohibited at launching ramps, mooring points, marinas, public docks, and posted areas. It is allowed elsewhere, but for safety's sake please swim only in specifically designated areas. These areas are much safer as they are off-limits to boaters of all kinds. They are surrounded by “restricted area” buoys and a floating yellow pipeline.

All three have sand beaches where pets are prohibited. At the two Day Use Areas there is a nominal day use fee. No pets are allowed at these two areas. Near each day use beach are playgrounds, picnic sites, group shelters, boat launching ramps, and bathrooms.


Buffalo Valley Nature Trail Located 5 miles from Interstate 40 at the Buffalo Valley Exit No. 268 and adjacent to the Center Hill Lake Resource Manager’s Office, this trail provides river access to the Caney Fork and is a very popular access area for trout fishermen.  Facilities available at the trailhead include vehicle-trailer parking, restrooms, improved river launch access, and interpretative signage and benches along the trail.  The trail is extensively used by pedestrian trout fishermen accessing the reaches of the Caney Fork River immediately below Center Hill Dam.  The area is also a wonderful wildlife viewing area!  This is true despite the fact that areas along the trail were once forested by stands of pine trees which have been destroyed by infestation of the Southern Pine Beetle.  The trail has now been extensively rehabilitated with new plantings of a variety of hardwood saplings.  Please come and enjoy this recovering area and experience the varied wildlife habitats that vegetative succession creates!

Lost Springs Trail A two-mile stretch of scenic trail that loops above the Floating Mill Campground and Hurricane Marina, both located just off Highway 56, approximately 4 miles south of Interstate 40 at the Silver Point Exit (exit 273). This trail is popular with weekend campers and travelers due in part to the convenient and easy access to the campground and highways. The trail provides hikers with a well rounded use, whether you prefer extreme exertion or a quiet relaxed walk along the more level loop. Limited parking is available at the trailhead and at the adjacent Day Use park. Inquire at the Campground entrance station for trail access.

Ye Ole Red Post Trail Almost two-miles long, the Red Post Trail is a very beautiful (but steep!) trail that loops above the Ragland Bottom Campground off Highway 70, approximately 8 miles east of Smithville and 12 miles west of Sparta. This trail is popular with weekend campers and others who brave the moderately difficult climb to be rewarded with beautiful overlooks of the lake and nearby Sligo Bridge and Marina. Parking is available at the nearby Day Use park. Inquire at the Campground entrance station for trail access.


Monday-Friday 7:00 AM – 3:30 PM

158 Resource Lane Lancaster, TN 38569