bays mountain lake dam

Modern day Bays Mountain Park began to take its shape in the early 1900’s when a group of businessmen, impressed with the mountain’s unique geological formation, began buying land there to create a water reservoir. In 1914, these men sold more than 1,300 acres to Kingsport Waterworks Corporation and from 1914-1916 land was cleared and the dam was built. Water began flowing to the City of Kingsport in November 1916, just three short months before the city’s incorporation.

The dam served as the City of Kingsport’s water reservoir until 1944 when the population and demand of the city finally outgrew the reservoir’s capability to serve its needs. Once the city outgrew the reservoir needs, the land was preserved as a nature reserve, known today as Bays Mountain Park.

Since opening as a park, the dam received improvements. A railing and fencing over the dam’s walkway allowed visitors safe passage across and enjoyment of the view from the dam. Nearly 30 years ago, as part of routine maintenance, additional support between original stair-stepping stone buttresses was added.

Celebrating 100 years this November, the dam is now slated for additional maintenance/repairs with the preparation of construction documents nearing completion. The necessary maintenance and repairs are those typical of a 100-year-old stone and mortar dam structure.

The anticipated maintenance and needed repairs to the dam include investigation into the condition of the existing bedding sand behind the buttresses and vertical wall faces, and replace as needed. Inspect all mortar joints and repair with high strength repair mortar and/or hydraulic cement as needed. Seal all exposed faces of the stone masonry buttresses and walls with sealant. Repair and replace the structural steel braces and steel support beams (and railing as required) of the walkway bridge over the existing dam over-flow weir.

The maintenance and repairs, an anticipated cost in the range of $1,500,000, are expected to be done in three phases to help budget costs over time.

For more information on Bays Mountain, please visit or call 423-224-2589.dam