|Location||Graham / Swain counties, North Carolina, United States|
|Primary inflows||Little Tennessee River|
|Primary outflows||Little Tennessee River|
|Basin countries||United States|
|Max. length||17 miles (27 km)|
|Average depth||135 ft (41 m)|
|Max. depth||440 ft (130 m)|
|Surface elevation||1,703 ft (519 m)|
Fontana Lake is a reservoir impounded by Fontana Dam on the Little Tennessee River, and is located in Graham and Swain counties in North Carolina. The lake forms part of the southern border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the northern border of part of the Nantahala National Forest. Depending on water levels, the lake is about 17 miles (27 km) long. The eastern end is the Tuckasegee River near Bryson City. It has an average depth of 135 feet (41 m) and reaches a maximum depth of 440 feet (130 m), making it the deepest lake in North Carolina. The lake has many inlets into coves and many islands formed from former mountain peaks, especially near the eastern end. As with most dam-impounded lakes, the steep banks are exposed when water levels are low. Many towns were submerged shortly after the creation of Fontana Lake, such as Proctor and Judson.
Fontana Lake provides the only access into the most remote areas of the National Park, unless visitors undertake a multi-day hike to get there. When the lake is at the normal summer level, a boat may be used to access remote trailheads such as Hazel Creek. From the observation tower on Clingmans Dome, on a clear day the lake can be seen nearly a mile below. While the maximum controlled elevation of the lake (top of dam gates) is 1,710 ft (520 m), the normal Summer surface elevation is 1,703 ft (519 m). NC 28 roughly parallels the southern shore of the lake, and US 19, between Bryson City and Wesser/Lauada, briefly skims an inlet at the extreme southeastern edge.
Fontana is named after a Montvale Lumber Company logging town that was once situated at the mouth of Eagle Creek on the lake's north shore. The name is derived from the Italian word for "fountain".
- U.S. Geological survey 1983
- "Fontana Lake, North Carolina, USA Vacation Info - Lakelubbers". Lakelubbers. Retrieved 2017-05-28.
- TVA Fontana Operating Guide
- Duane Oliver, Hazel Creek From Then Till Now (Maryville, Tenn.: Stinnett Printing, 1989), 69.
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