Lake Hiwassee, North Carolina, USA

Also known as:  Hiwassee Reservoir or Hiwassee Lake

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Hiwassee — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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Looking for Lake Hiwassee cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Lake Hiwassee

Lake Hiwassee is located in the mountainous region of North Carolina’s southwestern Cherokee County. Sitting in the Nantahala National Forest, it is almost completely surrounded by wilderness and is fed by six major tributaries. “Hiwassee” means “savannah” or “meadow” and is derived from the Cherokee word, “Ayuhwasi.” The Cherokee lived in the area for thousands of years before being forcibly removed by government troops in the early 1800s.

Formed by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s construction of the concrete gravity Hiwassee Dam on Hiwassee River in 1940, Hiwassee Lake covers 6,275 acres with 163 miles of wild forest shoreline. The dam, which took four years to complete, is an impressive 307 feet high, and stretches 1,376 feet across the river. In the implementation of the massive dam project, 261 families, 462 gravesites and 25 miles of roads were relocated.

Hiwassee Reservoir, four miles from the city of Murphy, was created primarily for hydroelectric energy and flood control but naturally serves recreational purposes as well. Its water level varies about 38 feet in an ordinary year and it has a maximum depth of 308 feet. To prevent and control flooding, TVA drops the water level up to 60 feet during the winter to facilitate increased power generation and expected precipitation from snowfalls and spring rains. The lake does not freeze in the winter. But the deep water flow of the lake is always chilly.

Lake Hiwassee’s shoreline is largely undeveloped and is managed by the National Forest Service. The only residential development on the lake is Bear Paw community with resort amenities such as a full service marina, tennis court, community swimming pool, clubhouse, children’s playground and fishing pond.

Anglers flock to Hiwassee Reservoir for catches of black, spotted and striped bass; smallmouth and largemouth bass; and walleye, yellow perch, bluegill and muskie fish. The nearby Hiwassee River is prized for its trout and is a designated Trophy Trout Stream. Appalachia Lake is just next door, and Lake Chatuge is located upstream. White-tailed deer, wild turkey, black bear, and other animals along with thousands of native plant species make the area of Lake Hiwassee their home.

You can enjoy any water sport on Lake Hiwassee’s waters. The lake is open to canoeing, rafting, boating, swimming, kayaking and water skiing. There are a few marinas, boat ramps, campgrounds, and access areas scattered around the reservoir that feature varying amenities including trailer and tent campsites, restrooms, water, picnic and swimming areas and hiking trails. There are also numerous primitive campsites. There is a boat ramp, picnic area and Visitor’s Overlook at the Hiwassee Dam Reservation.

Cherokee County serves two main cities, Murphy and Andrews, and is comprised of other smaller townships. The county borders both Georgia and Tennessee and is conveniently within 2 hours driving distance of four major cities: Asheville, NC; Chattanooga, TN; Atlanta, GA and Knoxville, TN. Although encircled by a national forest, Hiwassee Lake is still next to all the excitement of the cities.

In the mountains and forests, visitors may take advantage of a wide range of adventures and activities including backpacking, hiking, camping, rafting, horseback riding, and golfing. Murphy and Andrews both host holiday festivities throughout the year that highlight these activities. There are many historic sites to explore. For architectural interests, visit the Cherokee County Courthouse built of unpolished blue marble, or the 19th century Robert Lafayette Cooper House built in a Queen Anne architectural style – both sites are in Murphy. The Cherokee County Historical Museum, also in Murphy, offers museum collections of Native American artifacts, early American tools and housewares and exhibits of old mountain life. The first floor of the museum has several exhibits of the Trail of Tears, highlighting the event when the Cherokee people were forced from their lands in this part of the country. The John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown offers a wealth of music, dance, folklore, crafts and storytelling experiences year-round, and there is an old-fashioned 4th of July Celebration in Andrews featuring America’s oldest wagon train.

Cherokee County and the Lake Hiwassee area are rich with an abundance of experiences not limited to theaters, flea markets, festivals, restaurants and antique shopping. There are charming places to stay: bed and breakfasts that are on the National Register of Historic Places; rooms with antique furnishing; rustic cabins in the mountains or by the river; lakefront vacation rentals, and a host of primitive camping facilities for a full outdoor experience. You will find a combination of rich history and tradition, outdoors recreation, and entertainment, all conveniently close to Hiwassee Reservoir.

Things to Do at Lake Hiwassee

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Swimming Pool
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Antiquing
  • Shopping

Fish Species Found at Lake Hiwassee

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Striped Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch

Find Places to Stay at Lake Hiwassee

If you’re considering a Lake Hiwassee lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Lake Hiwassee Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Hiwassee lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Lake Hiwassee Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Tennessee Valley Authority

Surface Area: 6,275 acres

Shoreline Length: 163 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,521 feet

Maximum Depth: 308 feet

Water Volume: 205,590 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1940

Drainage Area: 968 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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