We love the Smoky Mountains. Wish you were here!

The Little Tennessee River, Briefly Interrupted

When it was completed in 1944, Fontana Dam was the fourth tallest dam in the world. And at 480 feet, the Tennessee Valley Authority dam is still the tallest in the Eastern United States, and a must-see for visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s the first of five hydroelectric dams along the Little Tennessee River.

Constructed to provide additional electrical power for the war effort, the dam and the resulting 11,700-acre Fontana Lake required the purchase of 68,292 acres of land, 5125 acres of which was forested and had to be cleared. 1,311 families and 1,047 graves had to be relocated, and four Western North Carolina towns — Fontana, Bushnell, Forney, and Judson — were completely inundated.

As the four towns disappeared, a new village was created to house the project’s 5,000 construction workers. Many of those structures remain today as part of the Fontana Village Resort.

The story of the dam’s origin is portrayed at the Fontana Dam Visitor Center (Open May to November, 9 am – 7 pm, daily), and in Lance Holland’s book, “Fontana – A Pocket History of Appalachia.”

Photo by J.R. vanLienden

Comments are off for this post

Comments are closed.