Lake Fontana -

by  davbart
  • Site 73

    Site 73

  • Site 72

    Site 72

  • Site 78

    Site 78

A self-supported trip created by davbart

Trip Overview

With backcountry permits in hand, I headed out for 4 days of exploring Lake Fontana and camping the backcountry of the Great Smokys National Park. The first day I left Tsali Boating Access Ramp headed to campsite #73. It was going to be a short 5 mile row. Yes, row not paddle. I was trying an experiment and decided to take my homemade rowboat instead of a canoe, hence the short mileage everyday. Lake Fontana has beautiful clear water and great scenery with the Appalachian Mountains surrounding the lake. It was a great row, and because of the early morning (8am) I only saw one pontoon boat the whole distance. It was tied up to the bank and a couple was enjoying their morning breakfast in the quiet morning.

Site #73 was not hard to find on a obvious peninsula. Due to low water (about 1680 ft?) the landing was muddy, and the climb up the bank was steep. The site itself is open and has 270 degree views of the lake and mountains. This site like the other two I visited had obviously been abused by previous occupants. I cleaned up the trash, but it was annoying. After setting up camp, I collected driftwood for the evening fire (caveman TV). At all three sites there was more than enough driftwood, no need to cut live (against the rules) like some others had obviously done. No animals sighted, but boat traffic from about 10am until 6 pm was steady. Not particularly annoying, but not the perfect "backcountry" experience. But, when the traffic died out, the evening was quiet and enjoyable with a nice fire burning. I had a good night's sleep, and the Barred Owls woke me about 530. They don't sound anything like a rooster, but they seem to be just as regular and persistent as one because I heard them every morning.

The next morning, I headed out early before the boats for my next site #78. This site was on a beautiful little island with a high point that allowed you to see for miles. The drawbacks mentioned about the other site; difficult muddy landing, trash and boat traffic, were present with all the positives too; great views, plentiful firewood and the morning wake up from the Barred Owls. A late afternoon and evening rain made me glad for an early camp arrival and setup including tarp. No fun being trapped in the tent.

Another early morning on the third day retracing my path back past site #73 and onto site #72. Again, another muddy landing on a peninsula, with the accompanying trash and abundant drift/fire wood. One additional positive was much less boat traffic, and that resulted in some wildlife sightings; unidentified waterfowl, coyotes and a bear. The bear was about a quarter mile away on an opposite shoreline, but I definitely used the bag hanging devices available at all the sites. The coyotes came real close, and seemed frustrated by my presence. I think they wanted to eat the fruit of the persimmon trees and grape vines near the site. Another hour of rain meant more time spent under the tarp reading a book, but no complaints the rain was actually quite peaceful. Of course the coyotes made sure that I hadn't forgotten them by starting a serenade about 430 the next morning. I did hear the Barred Owls again too, but thanks to the coyotes I was already awake.

With the early wake up, I hit the flat calm water as early as I had enough light and rowed back to the boating access in a sporadic light rain. Of note, even though it was earlier than the previous days, I did have to contend with some small boat wake from the some early morning fisherman, but that was no problem.

Overall, it was a nice little getaway, and despite some boats and trash I had a great time.

Safety Notes

I did have cell service during most of the trip and at Sites 72 and 73.

Gear Notes


Trip Details

  • Trip Dates: 9/14/2021-9/17/2021
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water

Trip Location