Float #87: Fontana Lake

27 Sep

Flat Branch Access

F87_Fontana

Fontana Lake
Swain County, North Carolina
Friday, August 16
5 Miles

The last float of our vacation was on beautiful Fontana Lake. I’m not usually a lake person (I prefer rivers), but Fontana Lake is really worth checking out. The lake is surrounded by National Forest on one side and Great Smoky Mountain National Park on the other side. There is almost no development on the shores of the lake and the scenery is awesome.

We headed to Flat Branch boat ramp Friday morning. The route involved many narrow, switchbacked roads through small farms and tiny neighborhoods. The boat ramp is primitive, just a small parking area and a gravel ramp. We set up our gear while looking to the sky, which was overcast and threatening drizzle. Once we got out on the lake it cleared up and sun came out.

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The water is very clear, but it wasn’t too cold. We picked a direction and paddled toward the mountains surrounding us. This lake has lots of small inlets which were fun to explore. We heard many small waterfalls near the shore, although they were mostly blocked from view by vegetation. I think this lake would be great to paddle in the winter so you could see more of the mountain terrain. I read that this lake is partially drained in the winter to accommodate for snowfall and the spring thaw. During that time you can see the remains of homesteads and other structures that were covered up when the river was dammed to create the lake.

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We stopped for lunch at a small inlet with some interesting trees partially submerged in the water. The water was probably at least 10 feet deep here and you could see all the way to the bottom. I took a swim to cool off, as it had warmed up quite a bit since the sun came out. Once lunch was finished we got back in our boats and paddled back the way we came.

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As we paddled back to our access we saw some of the “smoke” that the National Park is famous for, as clouds rolled off the mountains. I was very impressed with the pristine scenery of this lake. The water was pretty calm that day, but I bet it would be fun with a little bit of wind to kick up some waves!

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When we finished this float it was early afternoon and we headed back to our camp at the National Park. We spent the rest of the day tubing Deep Creek, which is so much fun. We rented some tubes and then hiked the couple miles up to the top of the tubing area of the creek. Deep creek has a lot of small drops and riffles that are a lot of fun to tube, and the water is pretty cold too. We did that a couple of times until it got dark and then we had an excellent dinner of fire grilled chicken and our last few beers. The next day we broke camp and headed back West toward home. It was an awesome vacation and we really had a lot of fun and a lot of new experiences.

Critter Count: Ducks

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