Rankin WMA

Site Directions:  From the west on I-40, take I-81 north at the I-40/I-81 junction. Exit I-81 at Exit 4 and head east on TN 341.  This exit is 4 miles north of the intersection of I-40 and I-81, about 35 miles east of Knoxville. 

After following TN 341 for 3.6 miles, turn south (right) onto US 25E.  Turn east (left) in 4.5 miles onto Rankin Hill Road.  This intersection is after you cross the US 25E bridge over Dutch Bottoms; see below for instructions on birding this area.

After 3.8 miles, you will reach the intersection of Rankin Hill Road and Hill Road (coordinates 36.05303 N, -83.21597 W). Turn left to enter the main Rankin Bottoms area or right to approach Rankin Bridge.

Alternatively, to avoid the narrow and curvy Rankin Hill Road, continue on US 25E for 5.3 miles, turn left onto Industrial Road, and follow the directions in the next paragraph.

An alternate route to Rankin Bottoms is through Newport. Take I-40 Exit 432B - US 25E/70 towards Newport. After 2.6 miles, turn left (north) at a stoplight onto US 25E-N. After 0.8 miles, turn right (east) onto Industrial Road.

Drive 5.4 miles to the intersection with Rankin Hill Road. Rankin Bridge (see below) is immediate to your right, and the intersection of Rankin Hill Road and Hill Road is about 0.3 miles to your left.

If approaching from the northeast on I-81, take Exit 8 and head south on US 25E for 6.5 miles to the bridge over Dutch Bottoms. Then follow the directions in the first paragraph of this section.

Rankin WMA is part of The Blue Ridge Conservation Opportunity Area (COA)

BOAT LAUNCH LOCATIONS: TWRA boat ramps are located at Rankin Bridge (off of Industrial Rd.),  Leadvale (on Leadvale Rd, east of 25E, 2.4 miles north of Walters Bridge), and at Walters Bridge. See TWRA Boat Ramp access. Kayaks can also be put in on the water by the coal tipple on Rankin WMA (36.077511, -83.23835) or further out towards the point at the end of the gravel road.

Access: Multiple points of entry, primarily foot travel and boat only. Road access is available when Douglas Reservoir is at winter pool. The road may be rough due to being flooded 6-8 months of the year.

Near Observation Area - Lat-Long: 36.077511, -83.23835

Hours: daylight hours

Seasonality: year-round

Fees: none

Cocke County, 1,975 ACRES

Big game, small game, and trapping are the same as statewide seasons, except as noted.

Small game hunters (except waterfowl) must wear blaze orange during big game hunts.

Closed to hunting March 1 through the fourth Friday in Aug., except for spring turkey and spring squirrel.

Coyotes may be taken on big game hunts with devices legal for that hunt. No dogs are allowed while coyote hunting.

Quail - Nov. 4, 2022 - Jan. 15, 2024

No permanent blinds. All decoys, temporary blinds, blind materials, and boats must be removed at the end of legal hunting hours.

Site Description:  Rankin WMA, 1,255 acres, is composed of islands and floodplains that are submerged during the warm season impoundment of Douglas Reservoir.  In late spring, summer, and early fall, the area consists of mudflats, open shallows, and both inundated and dry floodplain forests. 

The area is approximately 65% open, treeless floodplain; 25% black willow/buttonbush/cottonwoods; and 10% mid to late mixed floodplain forest. Virtually the entire area is under 1'-15' of water from mid-May through July.

Maximum ground exposure lasts roughly from mid-October until late March.  The amount and proportion of habitats vary with the reservoir level. Lake elevation ranges from about 995' to about 950'. Migratory shorebird habitat is most extensive from 988 to 978'; no mudflats are found above 992'.

Wildlife to Watch: This is the premier site in East Tennessee for warm-season waterbirds.

Common to abundant birds found at Rankin Bottoms during the late summer and early fall include Double-crested CormorantGreat Blue HeronGreat Egret (often 200 or more), Black-crowned Night-HeronKilldeerSemipalmated PloversLeastSemipalmatedWesternPectoralSpottedSolitary, and Stilt SandpipersGreater and Lesser YellowlegsShort-billed Dowitcher, and several species of swallows.

Regularly occurring but less numerous species include Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, White IbisPeregrine FalconBlack-bellied PloverRuddy Turnstone, American Avocet, WilletSpottedSolitaryBaird's , and Buff-breasted Sandpipers, and Caspian Tern.

Rarer species seen include American White Pelican, Reddish Egret, Wood Stork, Glossy IbisPiping PloverBlack-necked StiltMarbled Godwit , and Ruff.

The majority of Tennessee's ducks and geese have been found here in winter, along with Bald EaglesSandhill CranesTundra Swan, and a variety of sparrows.

Gulls and terns can be also numerous on upper Douglas Lake. In all, there have been a total of 89 waterbird species documented.

Rankin Bottoms holds and attracts full complements of species dependent on mudflats and forested wetlands. There are at least 3 active Osprey nests within the wildlife management area and several additional ones nearby.

Other breeding species include Prothonotary Warbler (20+ nesting territories 2004, 40+ nesting territories 2005), Willow FlycatcherYellow-throated VireoWarbling Vireo (uncommon in East Tennessee), Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, 4 species of woodpeckers (including Red-headed), and Eastern Kingbird.

Douglas Reservoir - 7-27-23

Forecast Contributor Brad Burkhart –  Follow on Facebook

Short & Sweet……, the real “summer bite” has finally showed up. Yes, you can still catch them and yes, they’re still offshore in depths of 28-35’ of water but here’s the deal…..if TVA isn’t pulling a lot of water or if you aren’t on the water at daybreak…..it’s a little tough.

My bait choices haven’t really changed, I’m still using a 3/4oz football jig, Carolina rig and occasionally a 5.5” hollow belly swimbait but I am now relying more on a drop shot than the others. Stick to the same depths, and areas but drop instead of the others.

Yes, you can vertically drop on them to catch them, but you have to have a minimum of 30’ of water between you and them or they won’t hardly bite. My advice, cast to them.

My favorite drop shot worm is a robo obviously….. but I prefer the 7” over the popular 6”.

Hope this helps!!

God Bless and stop by @bassproshops for all your bait/tackle and even license needs.

*Message me on social media to book a day of fishing.

Hope this helps.

Good luck and God Bless

Brad Burkhart


Contact Information

Region 4 office: 423-587-7037
Toll-Free: 1-800-332-0900
Email the office
Area Manager: David Sams (423) 235-4882

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Rankin WMA