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Dale Hollow Lake
Houseboat Rental Vacation

Dale Hollow Sunset from HouseboatNear the end of summer in 2003  my wife and I decided we wanted to rent a houseboat on Dale Hollow Lake so we could have some time with our two daughters aged 9 and 4. Our 9 year old is a good swimmer and our 4 year old had just taken a series of swimming lessons and was becoming a swimmer also.

Since our kids both love the water so much a houseboat on Dale Hollow Lake seemed like the obvious choice. The lake is incredibly clear and with 620 miles of shoreline so there is lots of room to roam. As it tuned out we started our planning a little to late. Between my work obligations, the fast approaching start of the school year for our kids, and the people who scheduled their houseboat rentals ahead of us, we just couldn't get it together before the start of school. So we elected to go ahead and plan on the houseboat we wanted to rent for early in the summer of 2004.

Our houseboat vacation was intended primarily for some quality family time spent swimming, fishing, and flat water kayaking (a much needed break from the real world). However, we also wanted to invite some friends down for a day and night of swimming, fishing, and eating. So when we chose the houseboat we wanted we decided on a 16' x 64' Jamestowner from Dale Hollow Marina. The reason we liked this houseboat so well is it has four individual bedrooms which would allow for some privacy for us and our guests. It also had a large, covered, front deck, a water slide into the lake, TV and VCR, air conditioning, grill and all the other necessities for a great vacation on Dale Hollow lake.

Our houseboat vacation began on June 1st 2004, the day after Memorial day. I knew that traditionally Dale Hollow Lake could be pretty crowded during holiday weekends, So we elected to start our houseboat rental after everyone else had already headed home. That part of the plan worked out perfectly! In fact we could hardly believe how few people we actually saw, especially in the cove where we spent most of our time.

Since we had been to Dale Hollow Lake before I had a pretty good idea of where we were going. We have all cruised around the lake in a pontoon boat on several occasions, and I have done a bit of fishing up there as well. So, for this trip we didn't really plan on doing a lot of cruising around in the houseboat. We thought, and did, spend the majority of time with the houseboat parked in one spot that was convenient for swimming, eating and fishing while taking a few trips out on the lake in the small boat and the kayaks we had brought along.


On our first day, Tuesday, we arrived at the Marina around 1:00 pm and started loading our stuff. By 1:30 we were getting our orientation on how to drive the boat, safety orientation, and instructions on how to operate all the various amenities such as the generator, grill, air conditioner, etc.  By 2:00 we were on our way across the lake and excited to finally be by ourselves.

As soon as the boat was tied up the kids were ready to go swimming. We took the kayaks off of the back deck and they hopped right in. I thought the water was a little cool but you got used to it pretty quickly, the kids didn't seem to notice.

The kids discovered a treasure trove of unusual rocks and fossils along the shoreline and spent some time wading, collecting.

Wednesday was a truly great day. We woke up early after our first night on the boat. When the kids woke up we called them and they crawled into the bed with us. We all laid there staring out the window that is perfect height so while laying you can enjoy the view of the lake. We were amazed at the glass like water and right from bed we could see numerous fish in the water and a really cool map turtle floating near the houseboat.

After a little while of talking, tickling, and laughing we fixed breakfast and got our swimsuits on. We were all anxious to get back in the water. Most of the day was just spent swimming or watching our kids swim. They were also anxious to get into the kayaks we brought along and our older daughter really seemed right at home paddling around "our" cove. It was great to not have a schedule, a ringing phone, or crowds of people. For the most part, we just relaxed, ate and swam.

Latter that evening as we were about to fix dinner I caught movement on the opposite shore of the lake. It was a red fox running down the shoreline. As he neared a point on shoreline he jumped up onto a fallen tree and walked on it into the woods and silently disappeared into the forest.

Early Thursday morning we woke up and discovered it had starting raining lightly. As the sun came up a huge rainstorm rolled through. It ended up raining off and on much of the day, but we still had fun. We had the covered but open front deck and the large living room area to roam and relax in. In between storms the kids found time to take a couple of swims. By mid-afternoon they were tired enough to lay down and take a nap.
I was able to fish from the back deck that is covered. During periods of heavy rain it was a little wet back there from the blowing rain.

Later in the evening I took the small boat and went to pick up our friends Darren, Crissy, and their son Alex who was 4 years old. We planned on cooking dinner, fishing and swimming with them for that night and most of the next day.

As darkness approached Darren and I set up the drop lights to attract schools of shad. We didn't catch a lot of fish, but we caught several bluegill, a couple small bass and a catfish. At about 4:00 am I woke up when I heard something banging around on the back deck of the boat. I got up and went out to investigate. It was Darren's fishing pole and something big was on his line. I went and knocked on his door and let him know he had caught something and it seemed bigger than everything we had caught so far. It turned out to be a pretty good size channel catfish about 26" inches long, his biggest fish ever!

The weather Friday was perfect! It was about 85 degrees (F) and sunny. We all spent a lot of time swimming and we all took turns paddling the kayaks around the cove. The kids also spent more time wading and collecting rocks and showing their finds to Alex.

Friday evening we were still having a great time, but our family was a little somber knowing tomorrow would be our last day. I took Darren, Crissy and Alex back to their car. Later that evening my wife's sister came out to meet us in her mother-in-laws pontoon boat, and she brought her two daughters along. Our daughters who had started acting a little tired were suddenly rejuvenated and all the kids spent the rest of the evening swimming, kayaking, and wading.


Saturday was quickly upon us and we had to have the houseboat back to the marina by about 11:00 am so they could get it cleaned up for the for the next group. Everyone wanted to get in one last swim and of course the kids wanted to paddle the kayaks around one more time too. So we got up early and let the kids swim while we took turns packing our stuff and keeping an eye on them.

When we got back to the dock they wanted us to just sit and wait for their guys to bring the boat in. Pulling into a space not much wider than the houseboat is generally a task left to the experienced. They re-fueled the houseboat and the small boat, and did a quick visual inspection of both. I was pretty surprised to find out we had only used about $75 worth of gas. We didn't really do much cruising around in the houseboat but I figured we had used the generator more than that.

For my wife and I, I think spending so much uninterrupted time with our kids was an unforgettable experience. Sure there were a lot of fun distractions like swimming, kayaking and fishing but we did those things as a family.

For our kids, they just couldn't get enough of Dale Hollow Lake. They were constantly swimming, going off of the slide, kayaking, and fishing. They also really seemed to enjoy wading the shoreline collecting unusual rocks and fossils and watching the wildlife. We saw a red fox, hawks, crows, turtles, fish, humming birds, Great Blue Heron, and heard a barred owl on multiple occasions.

Trip Summary:
Our houseboat rental on Dale Hollow Lake was one of our best vacations ever. I just can't say enough about the beauty and solitude of Dale Hollow Lake, the comfort of the houseboat and professionalism of the staff and Dale Hollow Marina. We are all hooked on houseboating and hope to be back in 2005!


Here is a Checklist of the major items we brought with us. If you are considering renting a houseboat here are a few Houseboat Planning Suggestions and Tips.
Dale Hollow Marina
99 Arlon Web Drive
Celina, TN 38551
Dale Hollow Lake
Fishing Forum
Rental Planning
Record Smallmouth
Scuba Diving
Dale Hollow Picture
Sponsor Links
Dale Hollow Marina
What's This?
Related Links
Bed & Breakfasts
Marinas & Docks
Fishing Guides
Dale Hollow Map
Vacation Planning Books