Cliffside Lake, North Carolina, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - North Carolina - Mountains -

Surrounded by the breathtaking Nantahala National Forest in the Highlands District of North Carolina, Cliffside Lake is sparkling eight-acre lake in the heart of the Cliffside Lake Recreation Area. The Recreation Area offers fishing, swimming, camping, and in conjunction with the National Forest, numerous water sports and incredible scenic beauty for hiking and exploring.

Although one of the smaller camping facilities in the area, the Cliffside Lake Recreation Area is a favorite vacation spot with RV and tent campers. In addition to beautiful Cliffside Lake, the area offers picnic areas, fire rings, several hiking trails and two spectacular waterfalls. Swimming and fishing are the only activities allowed on the lake. A sandy beach and designated swimming area are open to the public. Campsites near the lake are spacious and set back in the densely forested area surrounding the lake. Facilities for campers include flush toilets, water, and showers. There are no lakeside homes or businesses which makes Cliffside Lake the perfect retreat for those seeking peace and tranquility.

One of the main attractions of Cliffside Lake is its fish population. The lake is an impoundment on Skitty Creek which flows through the lake on its way to the Cullasaja River. The water flowing through the lake helps keep the lake clean and also provides the perfect habitat for trout which are the desired catch for anglers. The lake is stocked by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission with rainbow, brook and brown trout. Crappie and pumpkinseed bluegill can also be found in the lake. Because boats are not allowed, fishing is limited to bank casting. Trout stocked in the lake usually measure between 8 and ten inches in length, but the state also stocks a number of trophy-size fish, weighing anywhere from two to five pounds.

Known as the land of Granite Walls and Waterfalls, the area surrounding Cliffside Lake is a hiker’s paradise. Two spectacular waterfalls can be found within a short walk of the lake. Bridal Veil Falls cascades from a height of 120 feet; Dry Falls, a 75-foot waterfall, is named for the fact that you can walk under it for a beautiful view of the Cullasaja gorge without getting too wet. Much of the southwestern portion of North Carolina is encompassed by the Nantahala National Forest. Some of the National Forest lands are fragmented by private holdings such as resorts, tourist towns and summer homes, but plenty of public hiking trails wind their way through the forest, and the Highlands District contains some of the most scenic. High plateaus, numerous waterfalls cascading over massive rock cliffs up to 400 feet high, and round granite domes with cliffs approaching 1,000 feet provide for some incredible views. The cliffs are also excellent places to see peregrine falcons, ravens, and wintering golden eagles.

Most people come to the Cliffside Lake area to set up camp and experience the great outdoors. For those looking for something a little less primitive, there are several cozy cabins for rent in the area. Additional vacation rentals, real estate, and modern accommodations can be found in the towns of Franklin and Highlands, just a short drive from the lake.

Visitors looking for water-related activity will find several larger lakes southeast of Cliffside Lake towards the town of Highlands. Most of the lakes offer lake access for boats and waterskiing. Fishing for bass, pike, catfish, and perch is also good in local lakes. Whitewater rafting and tubing on the Cullasaja River is great way to spend the day. The Highlands District contains two National and Wild Scenic Rivers, the Chattooga and the Horsepasture. The Chattooga, on which the movie “Deliverance” was filmed, is very popular with whitewater rafters, but only after it passes the South Carolina/Georgia border. Canoeing is not permitted on either river within the Highlands District.

For the outdoor enthusiast, the Cliffside Lake area offers unlimited opportunity for adventure. The Highland District covers nearly 105,000 acres in Macon, Jackson, and Transylvania Counties. One of the most famous mountains in the Nantahala Forest is Whiteside Mountain, between Highlands and Cashier on the eastern Continental Divide. With claims of being one of the oldest mountains on earth, it rises more than 2,100 feet from the valley floor to an elevation of 4,930 feet. Its spectacular north and south faces contain sheer cliffs ranging from 400 to 750 feet in height. A two mile loop trail, designated as a National Recreation Trail, circles the top of the mountain and offers unparalleled views to the east, south, and west.

The town of Highlands is just over four miles northwest of Cliffside Lake and is a wonderful growing community which sees a large numbers of tourists in the summer months due to its cool mountain air, fine dining, and hometown Main Street area. Many antique dealers, auction houses, restaurants, specialty shops, inns, and several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places line Main Street. For the performing arts, there are several theaters and for the visual arts, a new Center for the Visual Arts can be found downtown. Highlands is also the start of the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway. The Byway covers 61 miles through southern Appalachian hardwood forests, passed numerous waterfalls and lakes, and through two river gorges. The last few miles of this adventure travels through the Nantahala National Forest ending at beautiful Fontana Lake near Bryson City. Stops along the way offer picnic areas, trails for hiking and biking, and lakes, rivers and streams for canoeing, rafting, fishing, and swimming. Be sure to bring your boat and your picnic basket if you are considering this scenic drive.

“Nantahala” is the Cherokee word for “Land of the Noonday Sun,” and some areas of forest surrounding Cliffside Lake are so dense that only the most powerful rays of the noonday sun can penetrate them. With its incredible scenery, beautiful sunsets, and quiet waters, Cliffside Lake offers visitors a peaceful retreat for a weekend of camping or a starting point for an exciting family adventure.

Things to do at Cliffside Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest
  • Antiquing

Fish species found at Cliffside Lake

  • Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Trout
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Sunfish
  • Trout

Cliffside Lake Photo Gallery

    Cliffside Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

    Water Level Control: Highlands Ranger District

    Surface Area: 8 acres

    Shoreline Length: 1 miles

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 3,396 feet

    Average Depth: 7 feet

    Water Volume: 55 acre-feet

    Completion Year: 1936

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    Trophic State | LakeLubbers

    Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

    An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

    A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

    A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

    The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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    Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

    Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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    Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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    Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

    Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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    Completion Year | LakeLubbers

    This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

    The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

    You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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    Water Volume | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

    You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

    Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

    1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

    The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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    Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

    You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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    Average Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

    Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

    Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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    Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

    At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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    Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

    Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

    When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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    Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

    You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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    Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

    This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

    A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

    When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

    You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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    Surface Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

    The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

    You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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    Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

    This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

    Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

    "Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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    Lake Type | LakeLubbers

    There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

    - A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

    - A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

    - A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

    "Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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