South Holston Lake area(including the weir, Musick's Campground, and Middlebrook Lake)
South Holston Dam and Weir: South of Bristol, take Hwy 394 east and turn right onto Hwy 421. In 3 miles turn right onto Emmett Road. At the fork stay right on Emmett Rd., then stay straight following signs toward South Holston Dam (the road becomes Holston View Dam Road, with Emmett Rd. turning right). After crossing the bridge over the river, turn left into the second parking lot. This is the weir below South Holston Dam. Continue up this road; at the stop sign turn right to go to the top of the dam. Retrace steps back to Hwy 421.
Lat-Long: 36.5233, -82.088209
Musick's Campground: Continue east on Hwy 421, turn left onto Hwy 44. In 2.8 miles turn right onto Painter Creek Road (VA 701). Note that you have entered Virginia, but will re-enter Tennessee shortly. Over the hill at the sharp right curve, turn left into a gravel driveway for Musick's Lakeside Campground. Stop and sign in and out, then drive out to the lakeshore. When exiting turn left and left at the fork then left again into a gravel driveway to a public boat ramp. Retrace steps back to Hwy 421.
Lat-Long: 36.58602, -82.03315
Boat ramp at 421 bridge: Continue east on Hwy 421, cross the bridge over the lake, turn right into the parking lot for the boat ramp.
Lat-Long: 36.55921, -82.0419
Middlebrook Lake: From the junction of Hwy 394 and 421 (west of Holston Lake), go east on route 435 (Bristol Cavern Hwy), go 1 block and turn left on Old Jonesboro Road. Stay on this road, turning right at the second stop sign (still Old Jonesboro Rd.). After crossing a creek at the bottom of the hill, go 0.5 miles and turn left onto Trammel Road. At the stop sign, turn left onto King College Road, go 1 block and turn right onto Brookwood Drive, go 1 block and turn right onto Redstone Drive. Stay on this to the dam forming the lake and stop in the straight section of road mid-way down the dike.
Lat-Long: 36.59003, -82.1355
Hours: daylight hours
Seasonality: year-round, but fall through spring best
Site Description & Wildlife to Watch:
South Holston Dam and Weir: This dam on the south fork of the Holston River has created a rather large, deep lake. The weir is located about a mile downstream from the dam. At the main parking lot for the weir, scan for wintering ducks.
Buffleheads are usually the most numerous, but also look for Mallard, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Redhead (mainly late winter), and Ruddy Duck. Rarer sightings have included Canvasback, Long-tailed Duck, and scoters. Once a Harlequin Duck was found on the upper reaches!
Walk across the foot-bridge to Osceola Island and follow the trail to the backside of the island or completely around it. Winter also finds Hermit Thrush, kinglets, Brown Creeper, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and others. Yellow-throated Warbler and Northern Parula nest here in summer, as do Cliff Swallows at the road bridge.
Continuing up the road are additional pull-offs from which to scan the river. Ruffed Grouse are occasionally seen beside the road heading up to the top of the dam. Scan the lake from pull-offs on top of the dam. Loons, grebes, ducks, gulls, and Bald Eagle may be seen in winter, with Osprey in migration. Restrooms are available at the weir and in the visitor center on top of the dam.
Musick's Campground: This is the crown jewel of waterbird sites in northeast Tennessee. This site is located on the shoreline overlooking the Spring Creek embayment and the main channel of South Holston Lake, with Holston Mountain and its foothills across the lake.
The campground is private property, so note that you MUST sign in and out at the box on the right just past the garden. Depending on the water level, drive out as far as you can toward the lakeshore, staying on graveled areas. Stop and scan the lake and shoreline. The afternoon provides the best lighting. A spotting scope is necessary.
The variety of birds seen here includes ducks and geese, loons and grebes, cormorants, herons and egrets, coots, Sandhill Crane, shorebirds, gulls and terns, Belted Kingfisher, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Common Raven, American Pipit, and swallows. Eared Grebe is regular from fall through spring, usually numbering 1-8 birds.
Many rare and unusual species have been found here, such as Pacific Loon, American White Pelican, Great White Heron, Marbled Godwit, Red Knot, Sabine's Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Sooty Tern, and Snow Bunting. At the nearby public boat ramp, scan a small arm of the lake; also, the wooded area beside the entrance road is good for fall warblers.
Boat ramp at 421 bridge: In winter look for ducks, loons, grebes, and gulls. Yellow-throated and Pine Warblers nest in the pine trees here.
Middlebrook Lake: This is a small private lake with birding limited to scanning from the roadway on top of the dike. Do not walk off the road.
Small numbers of coots and Pied-billed Grebes can be seen. Flocks of Ring-billed Gulls often linger here, sometimes with a few Herring or Bonaparte's mixed in. Black-crowned Night-Heron is possible in fall or early winter.
Be sure to check out our Safety Tips page for important information regarding viewing wildlife in these areas.