Carter County’s natural delights inspire votes for two “best of” awards

Published 4:48 pm Thursday, June 15, 2023

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By Angela Cutrer
Star correspondent
 Voters recognized two of Carter County’s beautiful locations in the latest Blue Ridge Country magazine’s “2023 Best of the Mountains” reader poll.
Blue Hole Falls won first place as the “best swimming hole” and Watauga Lake won second place for “best fishing lake.”
“Our readers know the Southern Appalachian region better than anyone,” Blue Ridge Country Editor-in-Chief Kurt Rheinheimer said in a press release. “We are so pleased to present their knowledgeable picks in our 35th-anniversary issue.” Rheinheimer continued, “If the Blue Ridge Country readership has one key trait, it is deep knowledge and appreciation of the seven-state mountain region, and being able to scout that region for true gems like Watauga Lake and Blue Hole Falls. Cream rises!”
The polling takes place every five years, with this year’s survey featuring 48 categories. A complete list of winners is presented in the 2023 July/August 35th Anniversary Issue of Blue Ridge Country, available now on newsstands.
Readers submitted their votes online over the course of two months, resulting in more than 130 first, second and third-place awards for the best cities, towns, attractions and activities from the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
“We wouldn’t be celebrating our 35th without our cherished readers and our loyal advertisers,” said Associate Publisher Cynthia Bruggeman in the release. “Every issue highlights amazing destinations and the people, history and stories that make them unique. Our ‘Best of’ feature in the summer mag is a snapshot of winners sure to provide year-long travel ideas and inspiration.”
Blue Hole Falls is considered a moderately challenging traverse, with about 13 minutes needed to complete. A popular trail for hiking and walking, with a welcome to leashed dogs, Blue Hole Falls’s waterfalls and swimming hole is appropriate for all ages and skill levels.
The area is a series of four waterfalls on Holston Mountain in the Stoney Creek community. The falls’ name, Blue Hole Falls, comes from the deep blue pool in front of the main waterfall, according to
To get there, go 10 miles on Highway 19E from Elizabethton and look for Panhandle Road’s location at the National Forest sign that mentions “Blue Hole.”
Watauga Lake (formally known as Lake Watauga) is a man-made reservoir built by the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) in 1942 for flood prevention, creation of aquatic habitat and hydropower generation. The stunning lake and mountain views call fishermen from all areas to the TVA’s highest-elevated reservoir in Tennessee. It sits 1,959 feet above sea level at full summertime elevations, has steep shorelines and is surrounded by densely forested mountains in “high country.” The lake, off SR-67, is 16.2 miles long and covers 6,430 acres, or a little more than 10 square miles. It is 305 feet at its deepest when full.
Fishing at the lake, which requires a Tennessee State Fishing License, could net you Black Crappie, White Crappie, Bluegill, Brown Trout, Lake Trout, Rainbow Trout, Large mouth Bass, Small mouth Bass, Spotted Bass, and Walleye.
“We are really blessed to have the natural resources we have here in East Tennessee and we sure shouldn’t take it for granted,” said Danny Deal, Carter County commissioner for the 4th District. “Those of us who were raised here sure haven’t. I mean, we’ve always used Watauga Lake and the Blue Hole and always loved them.
“I’ve had my boat at Watauga Lake for, oh, five years I guess it’s been, and I really enjoyed trolling. I’ll be fishing 40 to 50 feet deep and catch all kinds of fish – channel catfish, spotted and small mouth trout, brown trout – I mean, there’s all kind of fish in that lake. It’s one of the cleanest lakes and it’s right here at home. I spent every moment I can up there, every time I can. It’s just beautiful and relaxing.”

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