Celina and Sights
An overnight trip at the big and beautiful Dale Hollow Lake
A GUIDE TO EXPLORING THE CUMBERLAND RIVER BASIN
Have you ever been to Clay County?
Located on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky, the county holds a rich history on the Cumberland River. The Cumberland flows through the county, splitting it almost at the midway point just outside of Celina. Early on in its history, river transport via the river served as an important form of transport in the region, making the ports of Butlers Landing, Bennett Ferry and Celina major distribution hubs.
Today, Clay County is still a notable destination within the Cumberland River Basin. The county contains much of Dale Hollow Lake- a location renowned for its smallmouth bass fishing and abundant opportunities for aquatic recreation!
The town of Celina is also a great small-town destination, with some of the best BBQ and southern eateries around.
Join us on an overnight trip to Clay County and visit all the best sites around in this guide.
Clay County Museum of History
805 Brown St, Celina, TN 38551
Start your day at Clay County Museum of History. The small museum is located in downtown Celina and offers an insight into the natural, civil, literary, and ecclesiastical histories of the area.
The first piece of history the museum holds is in the building itself. Part of the museum is located inside Cordell Hull’s law office, where the famous regional figure held his law practice before heading to Washington DC to serve as Secretary of State for President FDR.
Check out collections of artifacts from the county and read stories from residents who have called Clay County home across the decades. Among items of note: a taxidermied specimen of the world’s largest smallmouth bass, caught in the one and only Dale Hollow Lake!
The museum’s staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and adept to answer any questions you may have about the area’s history- you may even consider asking them about additional recommendations for your trip to the area.
Gone Country Cafe
302 Dow Ave, Celina, TN 38551
After your visit to Clay County Museum, you may find yourself hungry for more knowledge… or maybe just lunch.
Make a pit stop at Gone Country Cafe to satisfy those cravings and fill up on delicious, made-from-scratch Southern food. The cafe, located in the historic courthouse square of Celina, offers ample burger and sandwich options for lunch, along with their daily meat and 3 specials that locals rave about.
Got a sweet tooth? Treat yourself to one of their famous homemade desserts and take it on the road with you to your next destination.
Pleasant Grove Recreation Area
1170 Cedar Hill Rd, Celina, TN 38551
With dessert in tow, it’s now time to stretch your legs and see the famous Dale Hollow Lake. Head to Pleasant Grove Recreation Area and chow down on your dessert at one of the many picnic shelters scattered throughout the park.
After you’re done, make your way across the bridge onto the park’s small island. A walking trail circles its perimeter- follow it to walk around the island and view the caves and cliffs that lead into the lake. Visiting in the late fall or early spring? Keep your eyes open for a Bald Eagle! Dale Hollow hosts one of the largest wintering eagle populations in the state.
Your loop hike will end where you’ve begun: the scenic bridge that connects this special little island to the mainland. Cross the bridge again and then make your way down to the designated beach and swimming area on the shore. The rock shelves along the lake make for great wading and swimming opportunities- especially during the hot summer months.
Cool off, dip your toes in the water, and relax after a busy day thus far of history and sightseeing.
Dale Hollow One Stop BBQ
1012 E Lake Ave, Celina, TN 38551
Once you’ve cooled off and recovered from your stroll, head back into Celina for dinner at Dale Hollow One Stop BBQ.
If you’re looking for fancy dining, you won’t find it here. You will find, however, generous portions of some of the best BBQ around. Their menu is simple, yet full, of BBQ meats, sides, sandwiches, loaded potatoes, and more. Traveling with a group? Order a “Family”, “Super”, or “Mega” feast and dig in.
The restaurant is a local favorite spot for locals and tourists visiting Dale Hollow Lake, so expect a wait and a busy scene if you’re visiting during the busier late spring and summer months.
Dale Hollow Damsite
200 Campground Rd, Celina, TN 38551
After dinner, it’s time for a well-earned rest. Drive back out of Celina toward the lake and make your way to the Dale Hollow Damsite campground. Make a reservation at recreation.gov beforehand to make sure that you’ve got a site waiting for you to spend the night.
Located right on the water of the Obey River, this campground offers views downstream to the Dale Hollow Dam, where the lake starts. Dale Hollow Damsite also offers a great deal of facilities to make your camping experience enjoyable- such as designated picnic areas, docks on the water for fishing and lounging, and a playground for any little ones that may be in tow.
Pitch your tent and rest well knowing you’ve had a full day of adventure!
Dale Hollow Dam
924 Dale Hollow Dam Rd, Celina, TN 38551
After a restful night of sleep, rise and shine, pack up camp and make your way out of the campground. As you head back in the direction of Celina, be sure to stop at the impressive site of Dale Hollow Dam.
The dam was built in 1943 as a project by the US Army Corps of Engineers, creating Dale Hollow Lake. Due to the dam, the lake impounds 61 miles of the Obey River and has 620 miles of shoreline. The dam serves the purpose of controlling flooding in the area and creating hydropower capable of supplying the energy needs of a city of 45,000 people!
Dam Hollow National Fish Hatchery
Fish Hatchery Rd, Celina, TN 38551
After walking across the dam, head one mile up the road to the Dale Hollow Fish Hatchery.
The Fish Hatchery is run by the US Fish & Wildlife and produces over 300,000 lbs of trout each year for “seeding” in many of TN streams. They provide rainbow, brown and brook trout to both TN and GA, along with assisting Tribal Groups in managing their fisheries in TN & GA. They also work closely with local towns and friends groups to develop good rapport throughout the community.
Head inside the hatchery’s aquarium and visitor center to learn more about the work they do and, of course, see the fish!
711 Brown St, Celina, TN 38551
After you leave the fish hatchery, make one last final stop on your way out of town. Doris’ Diner is known by locals as the best breakfast spot in Celina, and offers convenient drive thru options for diners who prefer to eat on the road.
Omelets, pancakes, hash browns, oh my! The breakfast options are bountiful, big, and delicious and will fill your belly before embarking on your trip back home. Can’t get enough? Their steam table and take-out lunch offers options for those looking to grab a bite for later, too.