Lake Hiwassee, North Carolina, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - North Carolina - Mountains -

Also known as:  Hiwassee Reservoir or Hiwassee Lake

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

Lake Hiwassee Photo Gallery

Lake Hiwassee Statistics & Helpful Links

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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

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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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