As students finish up final exams and summer finally rolls around, the question of what to do with any newfound spare time may be troubling. Though for those with a sense of adventure and a love of nature, there is no limit to the fun opportunities available in the Tri-Cities, including the vast offerings of places to sun tan and fish.

“Watauga Lake is amazing,” said Kayla Carter, outdoor development manager for Northeast Tennessee Economic Partnership. “I would definitely recommend anybody to go out there. They have a boat launch, and there are some marinas. On the more wilderness side of the lake, a lot of people like to go paddle boarding.”

Boats, canoes and kayaks are available for rent at several of the marinas, guaranteeing a day of aquatic fun. Among these attractions, Watauga Lake also boasts a deep history many locals are happy to share.

Carter shed some light on one of the lesser known attractions around Watauga, Little Wilbur.

“Little Wilbur is a smaller lake that seeps into the Watauga,” said Carter. “Wilbur Dam and Watauga Dam kind of sandwich it, so not a lot of people know about it except for the ones that live nearby. There are little waterfalls you can paddle out to. It’s definitely a cool spot. As far as lakes go, I think Watauga is where it’s at right now.”

This area also has a vast array of hiking trails and parks to explore. In Johnson City, Winged Deer Park is home to a dirt bike course as well as a paved path through a beautiful wooded area patched with blooming Virginia Bluebells. Willow Springs Park offers a fenced dog park, a walking trail and unique views of a protected butterfly field. A short drive from campus in Greeneville, Tennessee, Margarette Falls provides an intermediate hike with a waterfall and shallow pool area that many locals enjoy frequenting.

For more intense hikers, the firetower trails in the area provide a rigorous exercise with an amazing reward at the top.

“I really like all the fire towers in the area,” said Carter. “Those are kind of my favorite hikes to go on, where there is a view at the end to go see.”

The natural beauty of the area truly holds the potential for a summer jam-packed with potential outdoor adventures. Go explore!