There are a multitude of fun things to see and do on Virginia’s Largest Lake!

photo by Justin Eubank

Buggs Island Lake/John H. Kerr Reservoir
What’s its Name?
Fishing
Fishing Licenses
Boat Rentals
Public Docks
Marina
Public Boat Launches
Beaches

Buggs Island Lake/John H. Kerr Reservoir

Buggs Island Lake is the largest lake in Virginia and one of the most scenic in the south. Clarksville is the only incorporated town on this 50,000 acre lake (or any Virginia lake for that matter). Created for flood control and hydroelectric power in the mid-20th century, the lake extends 39 miles from the John H. Kerr Dam up the Roanoke River.

The lake offers some of the best fishing on the East Coast and is a haven for outdoor recreation including boating, sailing, skiing, and swimming. Wildlife is plentiful along the 800 miles of wooded shoreline, where you might see a Bald Eagle, heron, or other migratory waterfowl.

Around the lake you can find many day-use areas, 30 boat launches and secluded lakefront residential properties. The lake also offers a fishing pier to meet the needs of handicapped fishing enthusiast.

What’s its Name?

Just upstream from the current John H. Kerr Dam, and still visible from the viewing platform below the dam at Tailrace park, lies Buggs Island, named for Samuel Bugg, an early settler. During dam construction from 1946-1952, the dam was called the “Buggs Island Project.” In Virginia, folks still call this beautiful lake “Buggs Island Lake”.

However, officially the lake is named John H. Kerr Reservoir for the U.S. Senator from North Carolina, a prominent supporter of the project. North Carolinian’s know this body of water as Kerr (“Karr”) lake. Call it what you like, we simply like to call it paradise!

Fishing

With 50,000 acres of fresh water filled with white, striped and large mouth bass, catfish, crappie and walleye, Buggs Island Lake has been home to many fishing tournaments sponsored by such organizations as Virginia B.A.S.S. Federation, Southern Crappie Association, Bobcat’s Bait & Tackle, and FLW Outdoors during its 52 year history.

With the addition of fishing lights on the local bridge, Clarksville is now the premier location for nighttime fishing activities and tournaments and the only location in the country with this unique feature. The bridge lights are comprised of two rows of iridescent green lights installed on each of the 19 bridge pylons, one row above the lake water, and one below. The glow of the underwater lights attract millions of tiny feeder fish, which then attract the larger game fish, thus creating a unique nighttime fishing environment. The set of lights above the water provide motorists traveling on the new Highway 58 Bypass Bridge a striking view leading into downtown Clarksville.

Fishing Licenses

Either a Virginia or North Carolina fishing license will allow you to fish on either side of the state line (up to the route 360 bridge on the Staunton River arm). You can purchase a Virginia license at the Lake Motel or at Buggs Island Bait and Tackle. You can also purchase a Virginia fishing license on line at virginiainteractive.org. Fishing regulations can also be found online at virginia.gov

Boat Rentals

Boat rentals are available at the Clarksville Marina and at Occoneechee State Park.
Clarksville Marina – Pontoon boat rentals. Located at 411 Fourth Street, South of Virginia Avenue. (434) 374-8501. www.clarksvillevamarina.com

Clarksville Water Sports – Pontoon & fishing boat rentals. Located at main boat ramp of Occoneechee State Park. (434) 374-2755 for reservations. www.clarksvilleboats.com

Public Docks

The Town Dock is located at the foot of the local bridge next to the Lake Motel, between buoy markers 19 & 20. Tie up your boat at one of 20 complimentary day-use slips and head into town for some unique shopping or a bite to eat. There is also a docking facility at Uppy’s Convenience Store on the opposite side of the bridge for boaters wishing to access their services.

Marina

Clarksville Marina has served this area for 31 years. It’s located at 411 Fourth Street, South of Virginia Avenue. It offers a waterside store with gas, snacks, and boat accessories. (434) 374-8501.

Boat Launches

There are 30 public boat launches available around the lake. The following are the closest to Clarksville. Ramp/day use fees apply. Annual passes are available.
Occoneechee State Park– Three boat-launching ramps and parking. Located on US Highway 58, approximately 1/10 mile east of Clarksville. For more information call 434-374-2210.
Bluestone Landing – Concrete boat-launching ramp and parking. Located on US Highway 15, approximately 5 miles north of Clarksville.
Rudd’s Creek Recreation Area– Two concrete boat-launching ramp/docks and parking. Located on US Highway 58, 8 miles east of Clarksville. 434-738-6827
Longwood Recreation Area– Concrete boat-launching ramp/dock and parking. Located on US Highway 15, approximately 7 miles south of Clarksville. 434-374-2711

Beaches

Public beaches are available at State Parks (excluding Occoneechee) and Corps of Engineer recreation areas around the lake. Those closest to Clarksville are listed below. Day use fees apply.
Rudd’s Creek Recreation Area– Designated beach, multi-purpose court (sand). Located on US Highway 58, 8 miles east of Clarksville. 434-738-6827
Longwood Recreation Area– Designated beach, multi-purpose court (sand). Located on US Highway 15, approximately 7 miles south of Clarksville. 434-374-271