Welcome to the Smoky Mountains, America's most visited National Park. With over 800 square miles of prime nature and wildlife habitat is it any wonder that millions of visitors flock to this spectacular region every year for some much needed communion with the quieter, simpler side of life. One of the parks ultimate attractions are the beautiful, fresh water lakes to be found in abundance throughout the hills, valleys, and mountains of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Cabin rentals and campsites can be found on all the lakes and on many of the popular streams. Boating, kayaking, fishing, rafting, and swimming are just some of the many exciting activities that you can participate in when visiting the lakes of the Smoky Mountains.
Fontana Lake is the largest lake in Western North Carolina and is perfect for families looking for a beautiful and scenic location to rent lake cabins in the North Carolina section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The lake is actually a very large reservoir made by the Fontana Dam located on the swift flowing Little Tennessee River in Graham and Swain counties of North Carolina. This popular water feature has a surface area of 16 square miles and is home to several species of fish including: Largemouth bass, Walleye, Muskellunge, Bluegill, Smallmouth bass, Lake Trout, and Rainbow trout. The 480-foot tall Fontana dam, often referred to as the “Fontana Hilton”, is a popular stop for hikers on the Appalachian Trail because of the availability of hot showers at the trail shelter. The dam was built in the 1940s and towers over the lake like a 50-story skyscraper and was originally built during World War 11 to provide electrical power to help support the war effort. This remarkable and breathtaking dam was featured in the 2015 Robert Redford movie, “A Walk in the Woods”.
A story about rediscovering America by hiking the Appalachian Trail, which by the way, crosses this mammoth dam on its way from Georgia to Maine. The town that sprang up to house the three shifts of 5,000 workers has now become the ‘ Fontana Village Resort’, a year round resort with a large selection of modern amenities, including a full scale historical lodge, restaurants, marina, cabins, and camping. There are about 400 houseboats floating on this large lake and most are reasonably priced vacation rentals. With a boat you can reach the more remote and natural areas, like Fontana’s North Shore that is only accessible by boat or by long strenuous hiking trails.
Eagle Creek, Forney Creek, and the ever popular Hazel Creek are just a few of the more isolated locations that can be reached by boat. First settled in 1830, the town of Proctor on Hazel Creek grew rapidly and became a bustling community of over 1000 residents, a movie theater, an ice cream parlor and fancy Victorian homes, but by 1930 the lumber had run out and Proctor soon became a living memory. With the roads and rails all gone, these areas are only accessible by boat or long hikes. This is one of the remotes locations in the park. 90% of the entire 238-mile shoreline is owned and protected by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Nantahala National Forest, safe guarding it from both sides. While fishing, boating, and swimming are all popular outdoor lake activities, it is perhaps most sought after by the wilderness hikers and campers.
Lake Nantahalas is a small gem of a lake located near Asheville, North Carolina. With a shoreline of only 29 miles this tiny lake may be one of the most beautiful, unspoiled places left east of the Mississippi. The water quality is amazing, you can see the bottom in 40 feet of crystal clear water and rafting is perfect for younger children who want their first white water experience. This small, hidden jewel is owned by the Nantahala National Forest and has made it on the list of the top 10 cleanest lakes in America. It is the 2-3 highest elevation lake in the east. Due to its small size, houseboats and boats with heads are not permitted on this lake. Fishing on Lake Nantahalas is excellent. Fontana is OK, but for variety you can’t beat: Lake Salmon, Rainbow trout, Brown trout, Walleyes, and Small and Largemouth bass. Larger lakes get heavier fishing traffic and generally this ideal lake only has about five boats out at any given time. So if you are looking for a quiet, undeveloped area, with great fishing, hiking, and rafting, be sure to check out this tiny hidden gem.
A few short miles from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is a 28,000 acre reservoir known as Douglas Lake, it is formed by the French Broad River and the tributaries of the Pigeon River. It is a perfect location for all your outdoor lake activities including boating, fishing, swimming, and camping. Douglas Lake is rated as one of the top 5 Crappie fishing lakes in the nation, and the top 10 for Largemouth bass. Fishing is one of the most popular activities at the Lake, with people coming from all around the country to try their luck on this amazing water feature. Douglas dam was built in record time in 1942, taking only 12 months and 17 days to complete. 1705 feet long and 201feet high, this reinforced concrete dam was built to provide hydroelectric power and control flooding in the Tennessee River Valley. Grab a picnic lunch and join the more than 1.7 million visitors to this lake each year.
Wolf Creek Lake is located on Hwy 281/Canada Road, 12.9 miles outside Tuckasegee, North Carolina. This 183 acre lake is hatchery supported and was created by the Nantahala Power and Light Company in the early 1950s. Beautiful scenery and crystal clear water make for amazing kayaking and swimming adventures. Bring your boat and your fishing equipment and try out your luck. A large, public, concrete boat ramp allows easy water access just before crossing the dam on the left. Hatchery supported for Brook, Brown, and Rainbow Trout the bait that works best here is the all natural kind like corn. You can also catch Smallmouth bass, Rock bass, and Walleye. Come enjoy the quiet solitude of this perfect, remote fisherman’s paradise.
On the West Fork of the Tuckasegee River, 9.4 from the town of Cashiers, North Carolina is Lake Glenville, or Thorpe Reservoir. If you are an avid fisherman looking for a more secluded location to do your angling we highly recommend this pretty little spot, with access to local Pine Creek Cove it makes for some fantastic fishing opportunities. A large parking area is available for trucks and trailers so be sure to bring your boat and your lunch and enjoy a peaceful day out on the lake.
Tanasee Creek Lake is a picture perfect, hatchery supported little lake located 14.5 miles outside Tuckasegee, North Carolina. Brook, Brown and Rainbow trout are kept well stocked and fight for your bait alongside Crappie, Walleye, and Large and Smallmouth bass. If you enjoy the quiet peacefulness of fishing from a canoe, small boat, or a kayak this lake is perfect for you. Due to its small size, motor boats are not permitted on this lake. This also makes it a wonderful place for swimming or floating on tubes on those hot, lazy summer days. Bring the family and leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind. Oh, and cell phones and gadgets seldom work due to the remote location. Whatever will the kids do?
Of the four lakes created by Nantahala Power and Light Company in the 1950s Bear Creek Lake is the largest, but it still manages to maintain that peaceful remote feeling that is craved by so many vacationers today. We suggest bringing your boat, and fishing equipment and going out for the day. With over 5,000 Brook, Brown, and Rainbow trout stocked each year and the native Small and Largemouth bass you are sure to be catching your limit quickly. But remember to have your valid N.C. fishing permit before you try your luck. These are not for sell inside the National Park, but are available for purchase in many of the local communities. This lake is also a great place for those persons just learning the art of water sports. A small beach is ideal for swimming and you will find the privacy, safety and relaxation sought after by many outdoor enthusiasts.
Only an hour from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the nearby Cherokee National Forest, Tellico Lake in East Tennessee is considered the premier location for all your outdoor adventures from hiking, biking, and horseback riding to boating, fishing, swimming, water skiing, bird watching, photography and more. This lake has it all. Largemouth bass, Striped bass, Black bass, Sauger, Sunfish, Walleye, Crappie, and Catfish can all be found in large quantities in this fisherman’s paradise. With a surface area of over 15,000 acres of gorgeous, pristine water surrounded by more than 357 miles of beautiful shoreline, this Tennessee jewel is private and secluded, but not isolated, being only a half hours drive from down town Knoxville. In Knoxville you can do such wonderful things as walk through the old historic area and enjoy a delightful array of delicious dining. Rent kayaks and paddleboats and visit some of the downtown venues by boat where you can find plenty of shopping and entertainment.
With the Smoky Mountains providing such a beautiful and picturesque backdrop, it is often easy to forget that one can go from brown bag lunch and boots in the morning, to tuxes and operas in the evening. Don’t worry the Tennessee valley Association has put a ban on future residential development of the shoreline and area surrounding this sparkling Tennessee Jewel, so as to maintain that wonderful mountain feeling.
Located just 73 miles north of Knoxville on the Powell and Clinch Rivers, Norris Reservoir boasts over 800 miles of shoreline. Bordered by three state parks and two state wildlife management areas, Norris Lake is one of the most popular tourist and recreational boating areas in East Tennessee. Fishing is excellent here and the largest Brown Trout ever caught on record for the state was caught in the Clinch River just below the Norris Dam. Norris Dam and reservoir were the first of the kind, built by the Tennessee Valley Association, but several more have followed.
Just south of Norris Lake is Melton Hill Lake. Smaller than some of the other TVA lakes at only 5690 acres, it is 57 miles long and boasts 173 miles of beautiful shoreline. This small lake is not used for flood control so the water level remains fairly constant making it perfect for year round fishing and boating. Melton Hill currently features an International Rowing Course, after being home to the Pan American Canoe and Kayak Championships in 1981.
The Tennessee Valley, with over 1,000 square miles of sparkling, clear, cold, mountain water and 11,000 miles of shoreline, they have long been considered a prime vacation destination for boating, fishing, and outdoor enthusiasts. These scenic lakes found between the Smoky Mountains and the Cumberland Mountains provide a multitude of outdoor adventures while remaining close enough to take in the wonderful city night life available in the surrounding communities.
The western North Carolina lakes are just as beautiful and popular in their own right. Just minutes from downtown Knoxville, these quaint, peaceful lakes are the perfect setting for an outdoor adventure. With an abundance of camping, fishing, and hiking you are sure to find something to please the entire family. From mornings spent fishing and swimming, to evenings at the opera, these lakes provide a world class atmosphere that cannot be found anywhere else on earth. With careful planning and proper management these unique, beautiful, and awe inspiring lakes will give lasting enjoyment, entertainment, education, and adventure to outdoor enthusiasts for many generations to come.