The Ultimate Guide To Asheville and the Western North Carolina Mountains
The Ultimate Guide to Asheville & the Western North Carolina Mountains

The Online Version of the Best-selling Regional Guidebook

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  Western North Carolina is blessed with an number of water man-made deep-water lakes. Naturally occurring large lakes are not found in the mountains, and the ones that are in place now are all man made, typically by damming up valleys and coves. It is beyond the scope of this book to cover all of the lakes in the mountains and only some of the major more popular ones are presented below. These are Chatuge Lake, Fontana Lake, Hiwassee Lake, Lake James, Lake Lure, Lake Santeetlah and W. Scott Kerr Dam & Reservoir.

Chatuge Lake
     Chatuge Lake was created in 1942 when the Tennessee Valley Authority constructed a dam across the Hiwassee River. The lake has over 133 miles of shoreline, is over 7,200 acres in size and is in both North Carolina and Georgia. Chatuge Dam is 144 feet high and stretches 2,850 feet across the Hiwassee River. Chatuge was originally built to store water to help prevent flooding downstream. A single hydropower generating unit was added in 1954.
      The Weir, just north of the dam, offers picnic tables and a launch for canoes and tubes for a trip on the Hiawassee River to a take out area near Fires Creek Wildlife Management Area. Call the Tennessee Valley Authority for information regarding water conditions and release schedules at 828-837-7395.
     There are three public boat ramps accessible from North Carolina: Jackrabbitt Mountain Campground off Highway 175, Ledford Chapel Wildlife Access Ramp on Highway 64, and Gibson Cove Campground, on Myers Chapel Road. Contact the Clay Country Chamber of Commerce office at 828-389-3704 for more information.
      Clay County operates two campgrounds on the lake with spaces available for tents and campers. Call 828-389-3532 evenings. Both have: public swimming areas with a sandy beach, BBQ grills and picnic tables. Other amenities include a boat launch, playground, ball park, pavilions and showers.

Location: Near Hayesville, NC
Distance: From Asheville allow 2 -21/2 hours
Address: Chatuge Lake NC 28904
Resources: Clay County Chamber of Commerce 388 Business Highway 64, Hayesville NC 28904;
                  Tennessee Valley Authority/Lake Hiwassee, 221 Old Ranger Road, Murphy NC 28906;
                  Nantahala National Forest, Cheoah Ranger District Office, 828-479-6431
                  Chatuge Cove Marina, 2397 Highway 175, Hayesville NC 28904; 828-389-6155
Nearby: Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Nantahala National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Directions: From Asheville take I-40 West towards Knoxville. Take Exit 27 to merge into US Highway 74/19 West towards to Waynesville/Murphy. In approximately 25 miles take Exit 81 to merge onto US 23/441 towards Franklin/Dillsboro. Continue on Murphy Highway/US 64 and after approximately 28 miles take sharp left onto Highway 175. This will take you to the lake in the Hayesville area.

Fontana Lake
      Fontana Lake, located in Swain and Graham counties, is surrounded on the north side by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the remainder of the shoreline by national forest. At 10,230 acres, Fontana Lake is the largest in the Western North Carolina mountains and offers visitors an abundance of recreational opportunities. There are over 39 miles of hiking trails along its shores, and the Appalachian Trail actually passes over the top of Fontana Dam. The hot showers available at the trail shelter maintained by TVA have led grateful hikers to dub it the Fontana Hilton. There are over 238 miles of shoreline, and most of it is protected from development since 90% is owned by the National Park and U.S. Forest Service.
    Fontana Dam, which forms the lake is the highest dam east of the Rockies is a Tennessee Valley Authority project, towers an amazing 480 feet in height and stretches 2,365 feet across the Little Tennessee River. The dam itself is a major tourist attraction, with thousands of visitors each year. The construction of the dam began in 1942 to provide electric power for the war effort and was completed in 1944. The lake is fed by Chambers Creek, Eagle Creek, Forney Creek, Hazel Creek, Lands Creek, Nolands Creek and Pilkeys Creek, and reaches depths of over 440 feet. The Fontana Dam Visitor Center is is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily from May through November.
     Tsali Recreational Area, located on the southeastern shore of Fontana Lake, has a well deserved reputation as a great spot of hiking, mountain biking, bird watching and horseback riding. Fontana Village Resort in the Fontana Dam area is a good place to begin your tour of the lake. From there the dam is a short drive, and the village resort complex offers restaurants and resources for more lake information.

Location: Swain and Graham Counties, NC
Distance: From Asheville allow 2 -21/2 hours
Address: Fontana Village Resort, Highway 28 North, Fontana Dam NC 28733
Resources: Tennessee Valley Authority/Lake Hiwassee, 221 Old Ranger Road,
Murphy NC 28906;
                  Nantahala National Forest, Cheoah Ranger District Office, 828-479-6431
Nearby: Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Nantahala National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Directions: (To Fontana Village) take I-40 west. Take the exit for Hwy 74 (Great Smoky Mountain Expressway). Stay on Hwy 74 (four lane) you will pass Clyde, Sylva, and 8 miles past Bryson City (last chance for groceries, restaurants) turn right on Hwy 28. Continue on Hwy 28 for 25 miles.

Hiwassee Lake
    Hiwassee Lake was formed in 1940 with the construction of the Tennessee Valley Authority dam, which currently has the highest dam overspill in the world at 307 feet. The dam was created for flood control and hydroelectric power generation, with the resulting 6090 acre lake which has almost 180 miles of shoreline,Map of Lake Hiwassee measures 22 miles long and is more than 200 feet deep in places. Hiwassee Dam is 307 feet high and stretches 1,376 feet across the Hiwassee River.
     Hiwassee Lake is surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest and offers extraordinary scenery, boating and lake activities. Easy access for boaters and kayakers can be found at the Hanging Dog Recreation Area, which also offers a campground, picnic area, hiking trails as well as a boat launching ramp. To get to the Hanging Dog Recreation Area from
Murphy, go 4.4 miles northwest on Peachtree Road which turns into Joe Brown Highway. Entrance to the lake is on the left.
Murphy, NC
Distance: From Asheville allow 2 -21/2 hours
Address: Murphy NC 28609
Resources: Tennessee Valley Authority/Lake Hiwassee, 221 Old Ranger Road, Murphy NC 28906;
                  Mountain View Marina, Bear Paw Resort, 200 Dean Aldrich Drive, Murphy NC 28906;
                  Nantahala National Forest, Cheoah Ranger District Office, 828-479-6431
Nearby: Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Nantahala National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Directions: From Asheville take I-40 West towards Knoxville. Take Exit 27 to merge into US Highway 74/19 West towards to Murphy.

Lake James
    Tucked away in rolling hills at the base of Linville Gorge is Lake James, a 6,510-acre lake with more than 150 miles of shoreline. This impressive waterway is the centerpiece of Lake James State Park. The park offers a variety of activities, including swimming, boating and fishing.
    The park has a well maintained campground for public use, with twenty backpack campsites, each with fire pit, picnic table and tent space. Water and washhouse with showers is also nearby. Campsites are available March through November for a modest fee on a first-come basis.

Website: Lake James State Park
Nebo, NC. Lake James State Park is located in Burke and McDowell counties, five miles northeast of
Marion on NC 126.
Distance: About an hourís drive from Asheville
Address: 2785 NC Highway 126,  Nebo, NC 28761
Telephone: 828-584-7728
Hours: November-February: 8 a.m.-6 p.m., March and October: 8 a.m.-7 p.m., April, May, September: 8 a.m.-8 p.m., June-August: 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Closed Christmas Day
Directions: Traveling east on I-40: From I-40, take the Nebo/Lake James exit (Exit 90) and head north. After a half-mile, turn right onto Harmony Grove Rd., and follow it for 2 miles to a stoplight. Proceed straight across the intersection and past Nebo Elementary School to a stop sign. Turn right onto NC 126, and follow the signs to the park entrance 2.3 miles on the left.

Lake Lure
Located southeast of Hendersonville just below Chimney Rock Park is sparkling Lake Lure, selected by National Geographic as one of the ten most spectacular and beautiful man-made lakes in the world. Over 1,500 acres of crystal clear water and 27 miles of inviting shoreline await the visitor to this majestic body of water. Marina and sandy beaches are open to the public, and boat tours of the lake, offered by Lake Lure Tours, are a popular attraction. The boat tour dock is located at Lake Lure Marina, off of highway 64/74A.

Website: Lake Lure Boat Tours
Location: Southeast of
Distance: From Asheville, approximately 30 miles, a 45-minute drive
Address: Lake Lure Boat Tours, 2930 Memorial Highway, Lake Lure, NC 28746 (located at Lake Lure Marina)
Telephone: Lake Lure Tours: 828-625-1373, 877-386-4255
Hours: Lake Lure Tours: March-November. Daily cruises on the hour from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Fees: Lake Lure Tours: Adult and child rates. Swimming at beach, no fee.
Allow: Cruises take one hour
Tips: Lake Lure has an excellent beach at the northern end of the lake near the Marina. Opens in May.
Nearby: Chimney Rock Park
Directions: From Hendersonville, take Hwy. 64 West. Turn right on Hwy. 74. Go through Chimney Rock to Lake Lure. From Asheville, take I-240 East to Exit 9 (Bat Cave, Blue Ridge Parkway) and continue on Hwy. 74A through Hickory Nut Gap and Chimney Rock. Lake Lure is one mile past Chimney Rock.

Lake Santeetlah
    Lake Santeetlah, located in Graham County, has 76 miles of mostly natural forested shoreline, is over 3,000 acres in size and is surrounded by the Cheoah District of the Nantahala National Forest. Almost 80% of the shoreline is public land which is managed by the North Carolina Forest Service. Boating, kayaking and canoeing are popular activities  and Cheoah Point on the east side of the Lake Santeetlah offers swimming at a lakeside beach, picnic areas, over 26 campsites and hiking trails. Cheoah Point is the only campground with facilities on Santeetlah Lake.
     Nearby Forest Service Campgrounds are Horse Cove located on Big Santeetlah Creek with 17 camp sites, toilets, and no showers (Modest fee per day/open winter with no fees/first come first served) and the group camp at Rattler Ford which has four sites (up to 50 people each site), showers, and toilets (Fee per site by reservation). For more information contact the Cheoah District Office at  828-479-6431.
    The lake was created in 1928 by the damming of the Cheoah River to create hydroelectric power as it flows northward to join the Little Tennessee River. During the last decades of the twentieth century non-public lands were developed as scenic residences and vacation homes, most notably in the area now incorporated as the town of Lake Santeetlah.

Location: Along US Highway 129 in Graham County, NC.
Distance: From Asheville allow 2 -21/2 hours
Address: Highway 129, Lake Santeetlah NC
Tips:  Since most of the surrounding land is public access, there are many primitive campsites scattered along the shoreline. These free sites however have no facilities, no toilets or grills.
Resources: Graham County NC Travel and Tourism Authority, 12 Main Street,
Robbinsville NC
                       28711; 828-479-3790.
                  Nantahala National Forest, Cheoah Ranger District Office, 828-479-6431
                  Lake Santeetlah Town Hall, 4 Marine Drive, Lake Santeetlah NC 28711; 828-479-8190
                  Santeetlah Marina, 1 Marine Drive, Lake Santeetlah NC 28711; 828-479-8180
Nearby: Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Nantahala National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Directions: From Asheville take I-40 West towards Knoxville. Take Exit 27 to merge into US Highway 74/19 West towards Waynesville/Murphy. Approximately 20 miles past Bryson City take right onto Highway 129 to Robbinsville. Santeetlah Lake is six miles north of Robbinsville on Highway 129.

W. Scott Kerr Dam & Reservoir
   W. Scott Kerr Dam and Reservoir are named in honor of William Kerr Scott, 1896-1958, former Governor of North Carolina and U.S. Senator. The project was included in the general plan for the improvement of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River for the purpose of reducing flood damage such as was caused by the devastating floods of 1899, 1916, and 1940.
User Fees are  required in some park areas for day use activities and boat launching. The remaining parks, access areas, fringe shorelines and all water areas are open to the public without charge for public and recreational use. Public use facilities have been provided by the Corps of Engineers in the recreational areas including seven boat launching ramps, four swimming areas, paved access roads, picnic areas and campsites with potable water and sanitary facilities. Flush type toilets, laundry trays, and shower facilities are available in Bandits Roost and Warrior Creek Parks. Public service facilities consisting of a marina, snack bar, fueling and bait supplies are available at the Skyline Marina. Anyone visiting the reservoir for the first time should check in at the Visitor Assistance Center on Reservoir Road.

Location: Wilkesboro 
Distance: 21/2 hours from Asheville
Address: 499 Reservoir Road, Wilkesboro NC 28697
Telephone: 336-921-3390
Happy Valley Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest, Stone Mountain State Park
Directions: (To the Visitor Assistance Center)  From Asheville take I-40 East and get off at Exit 100 toward Jamestown Road. Turn left at Jamestown Road and go 2 miles to right at Carbon City Road. In one mile turn left at the US64 Bypass and go 2.7 miles to NC18. Follow NC18  over 30 miles to the Wilkesboro area, and  turn left at Boomer Road. Turn right onto
Highway 268, go 3 miles, turn right onto Reservoir Road at the W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir sign, go 1/4 mile, then turn left beside Shady Grove Baptist Church.


Wild & Furry Animals of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, by Lee James Pantas







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