your paddlesports destination

Fontana Lake in North Carolina

Trip Overview

Cable Cove to #78 and back

Looking for a place to paddle that is as wilderness as you can get in NC or TN without having to drive to the Boundary Waters (like I do)? This is it. Cost: $20 for gas and a little food.

What a trip! Fontana is the largest of the lakes bordering Great Smoky Mountains National Park and while 10,000,000 persons visit the Smokies annually, I only encountered about four other boats the entire trip.

In fact campsite #78 is managed by GSMNP and is a terrific island campsite for about two or three tents. The island is on a curve and is situated in an area where there are no houses, no street lights, no roads, no motorcycles driving the "dragon" and little to no people.

Warm lake water and no people are inviting ingredients for night swimming. As I laid on my back floating staring at the night sky I could see millions of stars that cannot be seen from the city. In fact the milky way was very distinct... try seeing that in the 'burbs of Maryville!


Campsite #78 is maintained by the NPS and is carpeted by pine needles and bordered all around by the lake.


I took my handcrafted 16' wood strip canoe


No fees however a permit is required. The NPS has put out a 2008 version of their trail map on which you can see the location of the campsite. NO RESERVATION is required. Just fill out a permit at the top of the boat ramp at the Fontana Marina and you are ready to go.


Cable Cove boat ramp is conveniently located 1.5 miles off the road just a few minutes east of Fontana Village. Nice and easy entrance into the lake.

  • Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip