Nantahala Lake, North Carolina, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - North Carolina - Mountains -

Also known as:  Lake Nantahala

Nantahala Lake is one of the most pristine lakes in North Carolina. Located within the Nantahala National Forest at an elevation of 3,012 feet, the 1,605-acre lake is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. Nantahala Lake is a large part of the Little Tennessee River Basin, a fertile region for support of wild trout and a diversity of other fish. It is also home to three federally-listed endangered species: the Spotfin Chub fish, Appalachian Elktoe Mussel, and the Little-wing Pearlymussel.

Nantahala Dam, a rockfill dam which impounds the lake in the middle of the Nantahala River, stretches 1,042 feet across and reaches 250 feet in maximum height. The project was constructed by the Nantahala Power & Light Company (now owned by Duke Energy) in 1942 and was created for hydroelectric generation. It is also used for flood control. Lake Nantahala empties into Nantahala River which in turn drains into Lake Fontana and then into the Little Tennessee River.

Anglers, who come to Lake Nantahala from all over the country, find an abundance of trout, bass, catfish, walleye, crappie and sunfish. There is also a population of kokanee salmon in the lake – offspring of the group of salmon stocked there in the 1960s by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. The stock was meant to provide forage fish for other predator fish in the lake and is now a favorite for anglers to catch. Nantahala Lake is the only one in North Carolina with kokanee salmon.

“Nantahala” is the Cherokee word for “Land of the Noonday Sun.” The Cherokee called the area Nantahala because the gorges and some areas of forest are such that only the noonday sun can penetrate the depth and thickness of them. Lake Nantahala is serene with stunning views of the surrounding peaks and North Carolina wildlife. There are no municipalities in the immediate area. This makes Nantahala ideal for those wanting a getaway lake experience with breathtaking nature scenes, views of native wildlife, beautiful sunsets, and quiet waters.

Nantahala Lake is a great place for a vacation cabin or permanent home. There are secluded cabins and large vacation houses for rent on or near the lake. There are also lots in gated communities, cabins, and houses for purchase in the area, but the lake’s shoreline is not over-packed with residences. According to National Forest rules, only 5% of the surrounding lake land may be developed which makes Lake Nantahala a cozy and private place to live for those looking for a true mountain lake retreat.

Residents, vacationers, and visitors enjoy boating, fishing, swimming and camping on Lake Nantahala. The lake has two public boat landings, and primitive camping sites are scattered around the lake on national land. Lakes End Diner and Marina to the north offer the only marina, restaurant and fuel service on the lake. Fishing and sporting supplies are also available there.

Outdoor recreation has no bounds in the Nantahala Lake area. Thousands of visitors per year pilgrim to the region for whitewater rafting which is a booming industry on the Nantahala River. Kayaking, canoeing, and paddling on the river and in Nantahala Gorge are other popular attractions and complement water activities on Lake Nantahala. The Nantahala National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee National Forest, and Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest offer dynamic wildlife opportunities. There are miles and miles of hiking trails and camping opportunities in the surrounding Appalachian forests and mountains. The Appalachian Trail passes just a few miles to the east of Lake Nantahala and can be joined by other hiking trails. Snowboarding and skiing can be found at the Cataloochee Ski Area in nearby Maggie Valley. Adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains you will find the home and lands of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. Drama, Cherokee arts, dance, storytelling, a museum, and Cherokee village are just a few of the possibilities for immersing yourself in the culture of one of the nation’s oldest group of inhabitants.

Lake Nantahala is located near Franklin, Asheville, and the Higlands-Cashiers area and is only about 2.5 hours from Atlanta, Georgia. All cities offer a wealth of heritage, novelty, arts, and entertainment. Franklin is known for its gem mining opportunities. You may also satisfy your curiosity at the Scottish Tartans Museum or Wilderness Taxidermy. With so many sites of interest, you equally have many options for dining and lodging and will not be disappointed.

Things to do at Nantahala Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Camping
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Snowboarding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • National Park
  • National Forest
  • Museum

Fish species found at Nantahala Lake

  • Bass
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Perch
  • Salmon
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Nantahala Lake Photo Gallery

Nantahala Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Duke Energy

Surface Area: 1,605 acres

Shoreline Length: 20 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 3,012 feet

Maximum Depth: 249 feet

Water Volume: 137,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1942

Drainage Area: 91 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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