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Archive for the 'Lakes, Creeks & Waterfalls' Category

Volunteers Work to Keep the Tuckasegee Clean


When people litter, much of it eventually washes into our streams, rivers and lakes. As Roger Clapp, Executive Director of WATR (Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River) puts it, “With our steep slopes and intense rain storms, road litter quickly becomes river litter. No one has figured a way to repeal the law of gravity.”

To combat the problem, local civic groups, businesses and volunteers throughout the Smokies often group together in organized river cleanups — just as this group did in late June. Organized by the Nantahala Gorge Association, WATR and the Green Women of Swain County, half of the volunteers worked the banks and roadsides. Others worked in rafts supplied by Wildwater, Ltd. Rafting and Endless River Adventures. The end result was a trailer-load of trash that will never reach Fontana Lake.

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Some Portions of Deep Creek Are Actually Deep


Not all of Deep Creek’s mile-long tubing course is fast-moving water. At the end of the upper “whitewater” section, Deep Creek widens at a deep swimming hole that provides a refreshing pause from tubing.

The Deep Creek Recreation area is just inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two miles north of Bryson City. There’s camping, picnicking, hiking trails, trout fishing and three beautiful waterfalls. Tubes can be rented from several vendors near the park entrance. Where else can you have a day of great fun for less than five bucks?

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Is This Jetboat Lost?

Smoky Mountain Jetboat Rides are a popular attraction on the 400 foot-deep Fontana Lake. Riders are thrilled to experience the boat’s trademark Hamilton spins – a flat spin within the boat’s own length. Yet the biggest surprise may come when the 11-passenger craft ventures up the relatively shallow Nantahala River to the base of Wesser Falls. How is this possible? Drawing just four inches of draft, the New Zealand-style jet boat rides like a ski on the surface of the water, enabling it to go where no other speed boat would dare go.

In addition to providing safe and thrilling rides, Smoky Mountain Jetboats also manufactures the boats in their Bryson City plant.

Photo by J.R. vanLienden

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Smokies’ Summer Stillwater Fishing Season Starts Saturday


With Fontana Lake filling up right on schedule, the season’s first big fishing event gets underway at 7 a.m Saturday May 2 at the Almond Boat and RV Park near Bryson City, NC. The 16th Annual Bass Tournament and Barbecue will feature music, food, raffle prizes, and huge cash prizes for the tournament winners! All proceeds benefit the West Swain Volunteer Fire Department. To register, contact Jim at Almond Boat and RV Park 828-488-6423; Casey at Smoky Mountain Lakes and Marine 828-488-2424; or stop by Clampitt Ace Hardware in downtown Bryson City 828-488-2782.

Fontana Lake boasts one of the most diverse fish populations anywhere in the country, including Large and Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Crappie, Bream, Muskie, Catfish, Steelhead Trout and White Bass. The website GreatSmokies.com has more information about Fontana Lake and fishing in the NC Smokies.

Photo by J.R. vanLienden

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The Nantahala Rafting Season is Now Underway


April signals the beginning of whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River. From now through October, more than 200,000 paddlers will ride the eight mile course that snakes through the scenic Nantahala Gorge just west of Bryson City. With its Class II and III rapids, the “Nanty” is a family river, suitable for just about every generation (children must be at least seven years old or at least 60 pounds). Yet it’s challenging enough for the US Olympic Kayaking Team, which often trains there.

National Geographic Adventure and ABC’s Good Morning America’s “Vacationland” series named the Nantahala River the number one place to spend a wet and wild vacation in the US. Watch GMA video.

Trips can be scheduled with a number of Nantahala outfitters. A variety of trips are offered and each company seems to add its own personal touch. All outfitters provide approved life jackets and most provide a wet suit and/or paddling jackets during the cooler months. And like the family pictured above, all rafters are required to have safety instruction before they are allowed on the river.

Photo by J.R. vanLienden

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A Time To View and Photograph the Smokies’ Waterfalls


When the weather forecast calls for a wet rainy weekend, that could be the very best time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina …especially if you love waterfalls. It’s when the creeks and rivers are in their finest whitewater form.

Indian Creek Falls is always beautiful. But it has never looked better than in the above photo, which was shot a few hours after a heavy Spring rain swept through the Park. Indian Creek is one of three scenic waterfalls in the Deep Creek Area of the National Park two miles north of Bryson City. All are within a mile of the trail head parking lot.

You’ll find information on these and other waterfalls in the Bryson City area on the Waterfalls page of the Bryson City Smoky Mountain Vacation Guide web site.

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Can’t Wait For Trout Season to Begin? Go to Cherokee This Weekend.


The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opens its hatchery-supported tribal waters for fishing on March 28, one week ahead of the North Carolina state trout season. Cherokee’s “Enterprise Waters” include more than thirty miles of clear, stocked streams and three easily accessed ponds. The Fisheries & Wildlife Management program, which manages the tribal trout hatchery, will have stocked 20,000 pounds of rainbow, brook, brown and some golden trout for opening day.

The cost of a tribal fishing license, which is all you need to fish tribal waters, is $7 per day, $14 for two days, $20 for three days and $28 for five days. A $200 annual permit is good March 28, 2009 through February 28, 2010. The daily creel limit is 10 for adult anglers and a parent/guardian with a child or children.

The tribe offers three handicapped fishing piers which can accommodate wheelchairs. One is located at the fishing ponds in Big Cove and two are along the Oconaluftee River in downtown Cherokee.

Cherokee also features a catch & release fly fishing only section — more than two miles long — which begins at the Blue Ridge Parkway bridge on Big Cove Road and ends at the River Valley Campround. This section of stream requires a catch & release special use permit for $20 which is good for a 365 days from the date of purchase and at least a daily tribal fishing permit.

Photo by J.R. vanLienden

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An Unusual Sight — Ice on the Tuckaseigee River


February arrived in the North Carolina Smokies on a blast of frigid arctic air. With temperatures remaining below freezing for several days, the creeks, ponds and rivers all turned to ice …including the Tuckaseigee, shown here where US 19 crosses the river just east of Bryson City.  Photo by Jennifer Wilson.

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Highway 288 Bridge — Now You See It, Soon You Won’t


Each Winter, when the Tennessee Valley Authority lowers the lake level by more than fifty feet, Fontana Lake reveals some of its fascinating history, like the old Highway 288 bridge pictured above. In the Summer, at full pool, the lake’s shoreline reaches the tree line at the top of the photo.

Highway 288 once connected Bryson City with the communities of Fontana, Bushnell, Forney and Judson along the Tuckaseigee River. But with the creation of the 10,230-acre reservoir in 1944, both the communities and Highway 288 were completely inundated, with only portions resurfacing during TVA’s annual Winter drawdown.

The bridge spans Lands Creek, which flows out of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park just west of Bryson City.

ADDED 2/12/09

Several people have asked about visiting this bridge.

The best time to see it without a boat is in the winter, when the lake level is low enough to walk along the shoreline (by late Spring it should be under water). Here’s how to get there…

From the Dollar General store in downtown Bryson City, drive west on Bryson Walk. After you pass the Lumber Mill, look for Old Hwy 288 which peels off to the left and continues along the Tuckaseigee River. Continue on 288 until it ends at the municipal boat ramp. From there, walk north along the shoreline about a mile to the Lands Creek Bridge.

You can also see it from the pull-off on Buckner Branch Road, across the lake (where I took the photo).

— Charles Snodgrass

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Mother Nature Reclaims Bryson City’s Old Lands Creek Reservoir


In the mid-1980s, when Bryson City abandoned its Lands Creek reservoir and turned to Deep Creek for the town’s water supply, many questioned the future of the 750-acre Lands Creek tract. Bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Lands Creek property was understandably attractive to private developers.

In 2006, rather than opening up the land to development, Bryson City established a conservation easement that protects the land and makes it available for recreational activities like camping, hiking, fishing and hunting.

Today, only the concrete dam remains, and mother nature is well on her way to reclaiming Lands Creek. Photo by Faye Bumgarner

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The Cool Fall Weather Brings Out the Trout …and the Fishermen

Trout fishing on Deep Creek near Bryson City

Trout love cold water and that makes Fall a great time for fly fishing in Smoky Mountain streams like Deep Creek (above). To fish in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you must have either a valid North Carolina or Tennessee fishing license. No license is required to fish in Cherokee Reservation waters, however a tribal permit is required. The cost is $7 per day with a creel limit of ten.

You can purchase a basic North Carolina license for a period of one day, three days or one year. The one-day cost for a resident is $5 (one year is $15); for a non-resident is $10, two days $15, one year $30. If you plan to fish for trout outside the National Park, an additional “trout stamp” is required at a cost of $10. Some of the trout streams are strictly catch-and-release.

For more information about North Carolina fishing, go to Online Fishing Regulations.

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Canada Geese on the Banks of the Oconaluftee

Canada Geese at Cherokee\'s Island Park

At Cherokee’s Island Park, the shoals of the Oconaluftee River are as popular with the wild ducks and geese as they are with visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains. Above, South Carolina visitors Sherri and Mitchell McCutcheon enjoy the geese on an early Fall afternoon.

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Fontana Lake — a Relaxing Day in the Smoky Mountains

Of all the ways to enjoy the Great Smokies, nothing is more relaxing than a pontoon boat outing on beautiful Fontana Lake. With the entire north shore of the 35-mile-long lake protected by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, wildlife sightings are common, including black bears and bald eagles. Several marinas rent the covered boats for full-day or half-day outings. Photo by J.R. vanLienden, Masterpiece Portraits.

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The Many Ways to Enjoy The Nantahala River

Nantahala kayakers and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad\'s scenic excursion

The Nantahala is one of the most scenic and popular rivers in the North Carolina Smokies. Best-known for whitewater rafting, the river is also popular for kayaking, trout fishing and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s scenic excursion which runs alongside the Nantahala’s eight-mile whitewater rafting venue. Photo by Jennifer Wilson.

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Deep Creek Tubing — Mother Nature’s Thrill Ride

Whitewater tubing on Deep Creek near Bryson City, NC

Floating down Deep Creek on an inner tube is not just a thrill, it’s a cheap thrill. For less than $5, you can rent a tube for the entire day. Then try your best to stay in the tube as it bounces over Deep Creek’s whitewater rapids.

The Deep Creek Recreation area is just inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two miles north of Bryson City. There’s camping, picnicking, hiking trails, trout fishing and three beautiful waterfalls. Tubes (with protective seats) can be rented from several vendors near the park entrance.

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Once Upon a Time, Bryson City Generated Its Own Power

The Bryson City dam on the Oconaluftee River at Ela

Located on the Oconaluftee River in Ela, about five miles east of town, the Bryson City hydroelectric plant was constructed for the town in 1924-25.

It was purchased from the Town of Bryson City by Nantahala Power and Light (now Duke Energy) in 1942. The sale was approved by the town board and then by the majority of the registered voters. The town had been trying to sell the hydro plant since the late 1930s. It includes a multiple-arch type concrete dam, originally known as Oconaluftee Dam, and a power house with two turbines and generators. The 36 feet high and 341 feet long dam still generates electricity for the Duke Energy system.

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