The Great Smoky Mountains surround the gorgeous Fontana Lake, which is the biggest lake in Western North Carolina. The tallest dam east of the Rockies is the 480-foot Fontana Dam (the equivalent of a 50-story skyscraper). Learn about the 1940s construction at the Tennessee Valley Authority Visitor Center while you drive or walk over the dam. Fontana Dam is a stop on the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine.
What is the Fontana Lake NC?
The 238 miles of coastline are owned and guarded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Nantahala National Forest, totaling 90%. There are several viewpoints along the route of the journey along the Indian Lakes Scenic Byway (NC Highway 28 from Almond). While swimming, boating, and fishing are all popular activities at Fontana, hikers and campers in the wilderness may find it to be their favorite activity.
From April through August, the Fontana Dam Visitor Center is open every day from 9 AM to 7 PM, and from 9 AM to 6 PM in September and October. On the last Sunday in October, the center shuts. However, the dam is accessible year-round by car or foot for breathtaking panoramic views. The 2015 movie “A Walk in the Woods” included the dam. Read on!
Two more parking spots with views are located in addition to the Visitor Center parking. One drives to the end of the road after crossing the bridge to see the scene in the picture above. A parking spot with a picnic pavilion, pier, and viewpoint with this view of the lake is located on the other side of the road, just before the visitor center.
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History and facts about Fontana Lake NC
To help in the war effort, Fontana was created during World War II. In the forest, a brand-new community with around 5,000 residents that was built in three shifts during the day set building records. Fontana Town Resort, a year-round resort with a wide range of lodging options, including a lodge, cottages, and camping, has taken over what was formerly the construction village. Discover a general shop, dining options, a marina, and outdoor swimming pools.
On Fontana Lake, there are roughly 400 houseboats, many of which are used for holiday rentals. Many inaccessible regions of the Great Smoky Mountains are accessible by boat. The Lakeshore Trail begins across the dam (take the road to the right) and continues 35 miles to the Road to Nowhere close to Bryson City in addition to the Appalachian Trail. Since the trail shelter near the dam offers hot showers, it has earned the nickname “Fontana Hilton” among hikers on the Appalachian Trail.
One of the 5,600 dams in North Carolina, Fontana Dam was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). During World War II, the TVA constructed the dam to provide energy to support nuclear power development. Additionally, Fontana Dam supplied energy to a predominantly rural US region that was without it. The highest dam east of the Rockies was constructed in under 36 months, starting in 1942 and ending in 1944. It is 480 feet tall, a half-mile long, and has a construction cost of $70 million. As a consequence, Fontana is often referred to as include Fontana Lake, Fontana Village, and the dam.
1,300 people’ homes had to be moved from the property in order to build the dam. Many of them were paid by the TVA to leave, and 70,000 acres were taken to create place for the dam. Homes, villages, and cemeteries were rendered inaccessible or inundated as a result of the formation of Fontana Lake. The federal government assured displaced citizens that it would build a road so they could access the cemetery.
The Way to Nothing
Unfortunately, owing to environmental concerns, the road has never been finished. Only six of the 42 total miles have been completed, along with a 1,200-foot tunnel. The name “The Route to Nowhere” is given to this incomplete road, which has caused conflict among the inhabitants. Some people wish to see their loved ones, while others want to save the local nature. About an hour’s drive from Fontana Dam, The Road to Nowhere is located 10 to 15 minutes outside of Bryson City’s downtown.
Visiting Fontana Dam
Parking at the dam’s base (Fontana Dam Basin) or traveling to the Fontana Dam Visitor Center towards the top are the two options for seeing the structure from a parking space. The two-lane road that crosses the top of Fontana Dam may be walked on from either the lakefront or the dam side.
Make sure you are familiar with your route or have a GPS before visiting Fontana Dam. We just typed in “Fontana Dam,” and after approximately 30 minutes, we lost mobile service. Fortunately, both Fontana Village and the Pitstop Gas Station on NC 28 provide WiFi. Normally, the Visitor Center is open from April through October. There, you may learn more history as well as details regarding the building and operation of Fontana Dam.
Great views of the dam and the region below it are also available from the Visitors Center. For those desiring an even higher perspective, there is an upper deck available.
Fontana Dam Attractions
- ‘Fontana Hilton’
Appalachian Trail hikers often pause at Fontana Dam. From Georgia to Maine, the path is nearly 2,000 miles long, with 95.7 of those miles passing through the North Carolina mountains. The accessible overnight trail shelter near the dam offers hot showers. Because of this, hikers have dubbed it the “Fontana Hilton.”
- Fontana Dam’s Interior Fontana Reservoir
The Fontana Reservoir has 10,230 acres of water surface and 238 miles of coastline, giving tourists plenty of room to engage in leisure activities. At the reservoir, people often go swimming, boating, and fishing.
Bass Classic Tournaments in the fall and spring are popular among anglers who watch and compete in them. Fly fishers may also check out the reservoir’s north side and a number of popular locations including Eagle Creek and Hazel Creek.
- Marina Fontana
The nearest marina to the dam among the others is Fontana Marina, which also rents out equipment and vessels. These include paddleboards, kayaks, pontoon boats, and canoes.
Awaiting Your Visit to Fontana Dam?
Even the beautiful lake it produced, as well as an intriguing history, are somewhat overshadowed by the massive Fontana Dam. Whether you’re driving to the Visitor Center, taking a boat out on Fontana Lake, or climbing the Appalachian Trail, have you been to Fontana Dam before? Whether you saw it in person, let us know if you were as amazed as we were.
Activities in the Area
When visiting Fontana Dam, you could feel a little alone, but don’t worry—these enjoyable destinations and activities are not too far away.
- Inn at Fontana NC’s Bryson City
A community for the families and construction workers who traveled from all over the nation to build the dam, Fontana Village has been established for close to a century. It now provides a range of lodging options for tourists, including a lodge, cabins, and campsites.
Visitors may take use of a marina that provides rentals to Fontana Lake, pontoon tours, and fishing places. You may also take use of recreational facilities including swimming pools, a lazy river, mini-golf, tennis and basketball courts, mountain biking, and more.
All throughout the year, many occasions and activities take place, such as concerts featuring traditional music, reunions of motorcycle and vehicle clubs, outdoor activities, and holiday festivities. After viewing Fontana Dam, Fontana Village is a nice spot to have some lunch.
- Carolina’s Cherohala Skyway
43 miles of breathtaking byway known as the Cherohala Skyway connect Tellico Plains, Tennessee, with Robbinsville, North Carolina. This route takes you through breathtaking mountain vistas covered in forest and past overlooks where you may pause to take it all in.
Before descending through 23 miles of the Tennessee backwoods, it travels through 5,400-foot mountains and across 18 miles of North Carolina. Due to its passage through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests, the skyway has a unique moniker.
- Swain County Heritage Museum in Bryson City, North Carolina
You may have driven from Bryson City to Fontana Dam, but just in case, here are some of our favorite things to do there. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just close to this lovely mountain community. For some outdoor experiences, check out the aforementioned Road to Nowhere, visit the elk at the Oconaulftee Visitor Center, or try tubing at Deep Creek. Naturally, you’ll want to board the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for a trip down the Nantahala Gorge from downtown.
The Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) is one of the many attractions of that train excursion, but you may also drive there and explore on your own schedule. It combines an adventure park, a fantastic restaurant along the river, and maybe North Carolina’s top outdoor retailer all in one location.
While in the city, be sure to stop at the Swain County Heritage Museum. The Bryson City Visitor Center and it share a lovely historic courthouse. The museum chronicles the history of Swain County and individuals who have lived there for centuries, especially the Cherokee.
The town also holds a lot of events throughout the years, offers a variety of lodging options, has a ton of interesting shops to browse, and excellent restaurants and pubs to satiate any hunger.
Bryson City Lakeview at Fontana Lakeview at Fontana
Lakeview at Fontana is located between the heart of Bryson City and the road that goes to the NOC (or perhaps the Fontana Dam). This is the ideal location to rest and unwind while surrounded by nature. The adult-only resort Lakeview offers tranquilly furnished accommodations, spa and massage services, and cabanas that are perched in the trees for soaking.
A private room with a view of Fontana Lake and the Smoky Mountains is available in the cabanas. Take a soak in their spacious standalone baths and forget all your problems. No matter what you pick, you will definitely enjoy the calming and therapeutic effects of the salt bath thanks to the bath salts and the possibility to add on extra products.
Additional Things to Do Near Fontana Dam
The several stairs you must travel to get there are worth it since Mingo Falls is among the highest and most magnificent waterfalls in North Carolina and the Southern Appalachians. On the North Carolina side of the Tennessee line, Clingmans Dome Observation Tower provides breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Soco Falls is a stunning double waterfall a short distance from the Blue Ridge Parkway and close to Cherokee. It’s so simple to overlook, but with this instruction, you won’t. One of the greatest places in North Carolina for hiking is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Deep Creek Trail, which passes three spectacular waterfalls. In the vicinity of Bryson City, The Road to Nowhere is presently a well-liked tourist site. Of course, it’s important to remember this region of Western North Carolina’s history.
Bryson City, a charming town with numerous attractions, is encircled by the beautiful Smoky Mountains. The top activities in Bryson City are listed here! The nicest spa resort in North Carolina is Lakeview at Fontana in Bryson City, which is the ideal destination for a romantic break. We provide every information in our guide. One of the top things to do in Bryson City, North Carolina, is to ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Our guide includes rates and all the other information you want!
There are live table games, electronic, and video gambling machines at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. All of these fun activities are included in our guide, plus more!
Now you have a clear idea on what Fontana Lake NC is all about. Keep these facts in mind and plan your visit accordingly. You will surely love what it is offering on your way.