smoky mtn/lake fontana paddling

I’m headed down to the smokies this summer and wondering what it is like to overnight paddle the park, specifically Lake Fontana. Does anyone here have any experience there?

Also may be in West Virginia for a time and wondering about any large lakes I could take a sea kayak in.

check Paces2Paddle

– Last Updated: Mar-30-07 4:21 PM EST –

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There’s a great article
in Sea Kayaker Magazine, the February 2004 issue. I used the artical as a guide for a trip last July.

The lake is a nice paddle with some good and convinient campsites. The AT is near too, so you can mix in some hikeing.

One regret, I should have taken a fishing rod. I saw lots of fish, some of them big.


I have paddle it a couple times but the banks are steap and it seemed like everywhere it was flat a tent was already there. We had a hard enough time trying to find a place to get out and swim. If it was me I would stay at Tsali campground and day paddle. From there you can paddle upstream to the NOC at the base of the rapids, get out for lunch and paddle back. You can also go the opposite direction and get more primitive if you take a right at the big fork. It’s a long paddle but nice. Take your mountain bike also. The trails are great for riding or hiking.

i’ve made many trips on fontana. a beautiful lake with many options. first off, however, i’ll say that during the summer power boats are abundant, especially on weekends. that said, i still like to paddle there. if you are looking for a one night, two day trip i’d recommend putting in at either the marina at fontana resorts or at the cable cove launch and paddling across the lake to the proctor campsite in GSMNP. nice scenery, plenty of history at the site of the old town of proctor, good fishing in hazel creek. another option would be to launch from the same locations and travel to eagle creek campsite #90. good fishing, great scenery, and possibly less people. both of these campsites require a permit which is free and available from a kiosk near the fontana resorts marina. if you choose to camp on the national forest side of the lake then the camping doesn’t require a permit. just look for a place flat enough for your tent. plenty of multi-day trips available also. hope this is helpful and that you’ll have a great trip. -harry

thanks all
Thanks for the feedback and looking forward to getting down there.

some more hints
go in a shoulder season plus one a couple of week days and you’ll be hard pressed to find a motorboat. consider a hammock–many of the lakes in e.TN are awesome but most have seriously steep mountains running straight to the water-with a hammock it is moot…i used a hammock on my Fontana paddle but i found opportunities for tenting too.

if you like to hike put your boots or trailrunners in the kayak, the Benton MacKaye Trail is readily accessible as is the aforementioned AT depending on where you are on the lake.

dont miss Proctor, the NPS maintains some buildings of the former town and plenty of room to camp there but if you want to camp there dont forget a 'mesh backpack to carry your kit

Paddling Fontana is a wonderful way to experience Great Smoky NP and many crowds can be avoided.

if you like funky history surf for the ‘road to no where’ in the park and make that a target.

good luck.

I lived and worked in Fontana Village for 5 years back in the early 80’s. Wish I could go back in time with my kayak.

The lake is deep, cold, beautiful and about 29 miles long; lots to explore.