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TENNESSEE WILDLIFE VIEWING TRAIL » East Tennessee
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Wilbur Lake

Site Directions: From Hwy 19E in Elizabethton, go north on Hwy 91. At 1.2 mile you will pass Great Lakes Pond on the right. Continuing on for 1.8 mile, turn right onto Blue Springs Road (at the traffic light). In 1.0 mile turn right on Steele Bridge Road, cross the bridge over the Watauga River, and continue straight following the river (the road becomes Wilbur Dam Road). Soon you will come to Wilbur Dam.
Lat-Long: 36.3413, -82.12297
Hours: daylight hours primarily
Seasonality: year round
Fees: none

Site Description: Wilbur Lake is a very small reservoir on the Watauga River, just below Watauga Dam. Beginning at Wilbur Dam, there are several parking lots. Just before crossing the bridge over the lake is a short road on the right that leads up to a small church. After crossing the bridge, the road forks. The right fork continues beside Wilbur Lake, ending at a seasonal campground. Wilbur Lake is easily scanned from many spots along this short route. The left fork of the road goes up over Iron Mountain ending at the overlook and visitor center (restrooms available) for Watauga Dam. The Appalachian Trail runs along the crest of Iron Mountain, crossing the road.

Wildlife to Watch: This site is probably best known for its wintering ducks. Bufflehead may number up to 200+. Smaller numbers of Mallard, American Black Duck, Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck, and Lesser Scaup can usually be seen. Other ducks occur at times, including Canvasback, Redhead (mainly late winter), and scoters. One or two Bald Eagles often winter here; they are most often seen at the upper end of Wilbur, but may move up to Watauga Lake at times. Spring brings transient and nesting warblers, vireos, thrushes, etc. Yellow-throated Warblers nest in tall pines along the lakeshore, particularly near the bridge and up toward the church. Great Horned Owl (year round) and Whip-poor-will (spring and summer) may be heard at night. Wild Turkeys occur regularly. Ruffed Grouse are seen occasionally, mainly along the road to Watauga Dam overlook and on the Appalachian Trail. Loons, grebes, ducks, and gulls may be seen during winter from the Watauga Dam overlook. Ravens are seen at both locations frequently. Beavers, or at least their lodge and cuttings, may be seen on Wilbur near the bridge.

At Great Lakes Pond (back down on Hwy 91) Canada Geese and Mallards are often present, but are occasionally joined by other winter waterfowl.

For more information:

Birds of Wilbur Lake via eBird submissions


Submit your data to eBird and help us add to the list of birds seen at this site

Information for this site page was generously provided by Rick Knight.


Be sure to check out our Safety Tips page for important information regarding viewing wildlife in these areas.