TRAVEL GUIDE TO BRYSON CITY AND THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
Places to visit IN THE SMOKIES
Fontana Lake webcam
Fontana Lake Has Been Called the Best-kept Secret in the Mountains
The 29-mile long, 11,700-acre Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) lake has more than 240 miles of shoreline. And its deep, cold waters provide the ideal habitat for a variety of fish. In fact, record size muskie and walleye have been pulled from its depths. And many believe it’s one of the best smallmouth bass fishing lakes in the country, including the Fisherman’s Bass Tournament Circuit, which held its annual Hall of Fame Classic at Fontana in Fall 2001.
Fontana Lake is unique in many ways. Unlike most lakes in the area, shoreline development has been kept to a minimum. More than 90 percent of the land around the Lake is owned by either the National Park Service or the US Forest Service. Maps of the Lake are available at local fishing stores.
Those fortunate enough to go boating on Fontana Lake have a unique perspective of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At places the view is unobstructed from the lake level to the top of towering Clingmans Dome, the Park's highest peak.
There are a number of private marinas where you can rent a boat, or put your own boat on the lake. You'll find knowledgeable staff, and plenty of boating and fishing supplies. Shuttle service is offered to Eagle Creek and Hazel Creek - two north shore locations where you can spend time fishing, hiking, exploring and camping in the National Park. For public access areas, see far right column.
The Dam is Famous But Trout and Muskie Are Cheoah's Main Attractions
Cheoah Lake was formed in 1919 and is the oldest dam on the Little Tennessee River. Cheoah is 644 acres and 9.5 miles long. At the time it was built, it was the world’s tallest overflow dam at 225 feet and had the largest turbines in the world. Cheoah Dam was made famous in the 1993 movie “The Fugitive” in which Harrison Ford "jumped" from the top of the dam to avoid capture by Tommy Lee Jones. Today the dam is referred to as the “Fugitive Dam”.
Cheoah is fed largely by the tailrace of Fontana Dam, which provides a constant flow of clear, cold water that remains at consistent temperatures year around. The ultra cold water environment is perfectly suited for trout and muskie, both of which are stocked by the state of North Carolina. Rainbow, brown, and brook trout call Cheoah home, with some trout reaching several pounds. Muskie were recently stocked by the state and have taken well to their new home. With plenty of trout to feed upon, the muskie are growing at rapid rates.
Bordered by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Forest Service, Cheoah Lake's shores remain undeveloped and pristine. There is only one boat access ramp – Llewellyn Branch – at the upstream end of the lake, just below Fontana Dam. This ramp and adjacent fishing pier are both handicapped accessible. Because the lake is fairly narrow you won't see much in the way of pleasure boat or jet ski traffic, only the occasional fisherman in search of trout and muskie.
The upper stretch of the lake fishes much like a tailwater river, and a close eye on generation schedules from Fontana Dam is highly advisable.
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Marinas, Boating and Guides
Fontana Dam itself is an engineering marvel. When completed in November 1944 to produce electricity for the war effort, the 480-foot-high dam became the highest in the Eastern United States and the fourth highest in the nation. The story of its origin is effectively portrayed at the Fontana Dam Visitor Center (Open May to November, 9 am – 7 pm, daily).
Annual Drawdown —Fontana is a man-made lake with lake levels controlled by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). From September - November TVA lowers lake levels 60-feet to allow for winter snows and spring rains. Fontana is a very deep lake, so even with lowered lake levels fishing is not compromised and public access ramps are open all year.
Old 288 – From Bryson City. Take US 19 S to turn at SR 1323 (Slope St.; begins at bridge by Walgreens). Travel Slope St. .2 miles and turn left at the blinking light onto SR 1321 (Bryson Walk). Bryson Walk becomes Old 288. Travel 1.6 miles and turn left to follow the river continuing on Old 288 Travel .8 miles to the area at the end of the road.
There are picnic tables, restroom, covered pavilion, handicapped accessible ramp and fishing pier at this location.
Lemmons Branch – From Bryson City take US 19/74 West to NC 28 N (right turn towards Robbinsville). Follow NC 28 N about 3 miles to the site for the Tsali Recreation area. Turn right and follow signs to Lemmons Branch Boat Ramp. The ramp is handicapped accessible.
Cable Cove – From Bryson City take US/74 West to NC 28 N (right turn towards Robbinsville). Continue on approximately 20 miles (8.2 past the 143 turnoff). Turn right onto SR 1287 (Cable Cove). Go 1.5 miles to the end of the road.
Lewellyn Branch – On Cheoah Lake, just below Fontana Dam. From Bryson City take US 19/74 West to NC 28 N (right turn towards Robbinsville). Follow NC 28N about 25 miles, crossing the Little Tennessee River just below Fontana Dam. Both the ramp and a fishing pier are handicapped accessible.
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Karen Proctor Wilmot