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Fontana Lake in North Carolina - Weekend Trip Report

Trip Overview

I did a 2-night solo trip (well, me and my dog) on Fontana Lake in North Carolina October 2012. I went during the week, as I work on weekends and enjoy doing trips when few other people do.

I put in at Swain County Park on the south side of the lake and paddled around for 3 days, with literally no particular place to go. The scenery is gorgeous (the northern boundary of the lake is the southern boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park). Surrounded by the fall colors of Appalachia, I had nice sights all around. The weather was perfect for me- highs in the upper 60s, chilly nights in the 40s.

Most paddlers put in at Hazel Creek at the northwest corner of the lake, but I had already done day trips there and wanted to see the other side of the lake. There were a few old guys out in their motorboats fishing, but by dusk everyone was gone. I (literally) had the entire south part of the lake to myself. Although I love doing solo trips and I love wilderness, it was actually a little creepy to be out there all alone with the only the boogeyman in the woods.

Actually, I was only a little scared because I had seen a black bear no more than a 1/4 mile from where I was camping, and my campsite was the only source of human food the 2 nights I camped. I always use Garcia bear canisters for food, trash, and toiletries, and I placed the canisters and ice chest a good 100 yards from my tent. But being a drought year and the bears trying to fatten up for winter, there was a better than average chance of an encounter, although I never saw a bear the rest of the trip.

I'm not sure exactly how many miles I paddled, but I kinda just paddled around until I felt like setting up camp. The lake levels were lower than usual, so getting to a good campsite required a bit of climbing up what would otherwise be underwater. The footing was fairly steep and like sludge getting up to the sites I set up camp. But the sites were awesome- a nice flat cleared spot with a fire ring. There were also ropes hanging from trees for hanging your food, but I know better than to use oft-used branches for hanging food. I prefer the "canisters way away from my camp" method.

There were a couple of islands that I would've preferred camping on, but due to the low water in the lake, I couldn't access them without a major workout. I go canoeing for fun and recreation, not pain and suffering.

Overall, it was a very relaxing trip with great scenery and weather during the offseason. Doesn't get any better than that for me. I highly recommend this lake for an easy short flatwater canoe trip.


primitive campsites


Old Town Penobscot 16


$5 fee at the put-in at Swain County Park, no fee for multi-day parking

  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip