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  1. #1
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    Default Fontana Lake camping?

    I have a few days in the fall and a kayak, I want to do some dispersed (primitive) camping and get away from it all (or most of it). Also fish. I know there are registration procedures for camping on Lake Fontana. In addition to doing some hiking in the Smokies, I want to put in my kayak and paddle to a lake campsite as isolated as possible, and camp for a few nights. I want to avoid boat access campsites as I really don't want a lot of noise. I'd rather paddle to a hike in site on one of the fingers of the lake and camp, even if I have to hump my stuff a couple hundred yards or so to the campsite.

    So questions: Any preferred campsites? I will be early October during the week, not the weekend. Any advice? Is Fontana still a semi wilderness experience? I've not been for years. Thanks! Jeff

  2. #2

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    Campsite #74 was very enjoyable many years ago
    Trail Miles: 4,090.3 - AT Trips: 71
    AT Map 1: 2004.8
    AT Map 2: 265.0
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 116.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 31.5

  3. #3
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    i have paddle camped on fontana about a dozen times....

    and lake santeelah which is in that same general area----i have spent about 20 nights on that lake in pretty much every campsite that is on the lake...

    lake santeelah is managed by the forest service and they have set up campsites that are numbered all around the lake....

    they are first come/first served no permit needed....

    a map of these campsites is easily found via a google search...

    as for fontana lake---the north shore and a few of the islands are managed by the National Park Service...

    These are listed on the dollar map...

    A permit is needed for these campsites......

    As for the south shore of the lake (which also includes many islands throughout the lake) is run by the National Forest.....

    These campsites are first come first served no permit needed........

    And there are hundreds of these type of campsites along every part of the shore line and practically every
    island has some......

    There's a really cool one that if put in at cable cove-----paddle out the cove and turn right.......

    paddle for a little bit and go passed the island that's on the left (this island has a few campsites but gets busy with people)..

    at the end of the island on the east side (the island will be on your left), to the right there's a little point of land...

    There's a campsite right there that looks to the east......

    And on that point---someone has built a rock chair that can lean back and watch the lake and the boat traffic.....

    as for boat traffic-----for the most part at least from my experience---there's certain parts that get alot of traffic going by,
    like the area around almond and there's a really big beach area and what not that draws both boat traffic and
    people using beach to play around at (i forget the exact name of this place)......and there's a housing development in this area
    as well....

    for the most of the rest of the lake----it's pretty low key on boat traffic.....

    as for comparision---lake santeelah is a smaller lake but gets more traffic....

    and by traffic, i mean motor boats...

    both lakes draw paddlers but they really arent an issue as most paddlers seem to stick to one side of the
    lake or the other and somewhat hug the shoreline.....

    lake santeelah has a community right there of expensive houses (i've looked at buying one there) which is the
    reason for more motorized traffic of wave runners and ski boats and all that......

    however, i have never had an issue other than the wake.....

    as for campsites that the Park manages------depends upon what kinda fishing you are going to do.....

    do you want to fly fish one of the creeks feeding into the lake like hazel, deep creek or noland?

    or do you wanna just fish the lake from your boat?

    word of warning----i have not been on any of the lakes this year and my guess is that there probably could be more
    traffic and more people using the campsites due to the Rona......

    i could be wrong about this but my gut feeling is that i am right about it.......

    the island campsites and the campsites closer to shore will obviously draw more people....

    and since you are looking for a place without alot of people----for the Park's campsites that leaves
    very little really good options....

    i say that the campsites that wouldnt be as crowded (like 81 or 77) dont sit directly on the lake....

    one would have to pull the boat onto the landing and then lug gear into those campsites a little distance....

    i think 77 was like third quarters of a mile from the landing to the campsite.....

    and you wouldnt be able to keep eye on boat and what not......

    and those campsites dont have direct access to the lake----you can get to the lake by bushwacking
    down to shoreline but at 81 it was a real bitch to do it and the little cove there got all kinds of trash
    and debris in it........

    the campsites that are directly on the lake and have access to the creeks (like 90 and 86 and 74) will have the most
    amount of not only boat campers but backpackers as well.....

    there is a small site (66) that is tucked away that gets limited use from what i can tell...

    i stayed there one winter when the lake level was low and i could hike the shoreline out to it...

    when the lake is at it's summer pool----cant hike the shoreline to is as noland creek trail ends right at the water line..

    and actually the trail ends right there but with low lake level, i was able to just hike the shoreline til i saw some fire rings
    on the shoreline and then looked to my left and saw the bear cables...

    this site was easily the least used one as it was kinda overgrown and not beat down like the others....

    not sure how easy it would be to find by paddling into that cove...

    im sure it could be found, just might take a little bit.......

    i cant remember if there was something obvious (other than a fire ring and the short wooden sign that is at all the Park's campsites)....

    for the Park's campsites----the land campsites all have the bear cables but some of the island one were missing...

    i believe they were torn down by people..........that was my take on it at least.....

    and yeah----ive seen bears swimming in the lake so food storage is still key.....

    some of the island campsites----people have built wooden tables and seats.....and there could be some tarps
    and other trash as well at those (more usage equals more trash).........


    oh, and at night----there's very little motor boat traffic.........it's kinda nice and serene to sit back with a fire and watch the lake
    and the stars and all that without many distractions..... every now and then a boat might come by but it's not constant...

    hope all this helps...

    i was not a "boat person" before...

    and i only bought my canoe in order to complete my goal of staying in every campsite in the Park...

    and with the island campsites----besides paying shuttle 50 bucks every time to take me there, i figured i would just go ahead and
    buy a canoe and do it that way...

    and i really dug it------i would backpack the fall, winter, and spring then when it got hot---i would switch
    over to doing paddle overnighters.....

    paddle for a little bit---take a dip in the lake---paddle more.....

    repeat til i found a campsite....

    spend the night and do the same coming back to the launch sites...

    oh, and if you google---you can find a map of the public launches on fontana....

    i think the marina now either charges to launch or they just might charge to park in their lot (they didnt when i was
    there a few year ago but i think i read that they switched that)....


    if you have any other questions-----feel free to ask.....

    i found that by paddling the lake---it was a different way of experiencing the Park....

    there are some homesites, cemeteries and other things that are only accessible by boat so the common backpacker
    never sees those.....

    anyways, hope this helps and have fun......

  4. #4
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    The last couple of Octobers I've done really good throwing a Whopper Popper for the smallmouth bass. Be sure to take one or two with you.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffRome View Post
    I want to avoid boat access campsites as I really don't want a lot of noise.
    Sounds like you're wanting to avoid camping as GSMNP designated campsites.
    But if you're wanting to camp on the north shore, that's GSMNP land and you're required to camp only at designated campsites with a reservation/permit.
    So you would be limited to either one of the boat-in campsites, or hike into one of the back country campsites along north shore such as 86, 81, 77, 76, or 98.

  6. #6
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    Just went to Fontana a couple of weeks ago. Parked at Cable Cove. Spent one night at #90 and one night at #86, both easily reachable by kayak or canoe. Boat traffic was relatively light once we were up the creeks a little way. 86 sits right on Hazel Creek which is an exceptional trout stream. There were backpackers in both sites but they are fairly large and easy to spread out in.


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  7. #7
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    86 sits right on Hazel Creek which is an exceptional trout stream

    did ya go to the cemetery that is only accessible by boat that's in the cove on the left about a third of the
    way going up hazel creek from the main channel?

  8. #8
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    We didnít know about this one. Did walk around the Calhoun House and up the Hazel Creek trail past the old mill site. Will definitely be going back.


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    once you get outta the main channel of fontana, and start paddling into the hazel creek cove,
    head to the left bank...........

    go about a third of the way up the cove and you'll see a small cove to the left...

    go into that one and it dead ends where another stream (dont recall name and i dont have a map in front of me),
    and you'll see a gravel roadbed.....

    they still use the roadbed when they do the celebration day back there using the Ford Suburban....

    tie boat up and follow that roadbed up and you'll run into the cemetery....

    and there's an old homesite with chimney as well...

    this one also might have some other foundation in the area if im recalling correctly....

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    once you get outta the main channel of fontana, and start paddling into the hazel creek cove,
    head to the left bank...........
    Found it! Added it to my Google Earth Data. Here's a map

    At the bottom left is the entrance to the Hazel Creek area from the main channel of Fontana lake.
    Like TNHiker says, about 1/3 the way to Hazel Creek, there is a cove on the left.
    Per a Topo overly I have for Google Earth, the creek and cemetery are named Cable Branch.
    I've plotted an approximate location of the trail based on what I can make out in Google Earth satellite data and measured it to be about 2/3rds of a mile to the cemetery.
    The orange lines in the top right corner are the various back country trails. The numbered white boxes are mileage indicators:
    0.3: That's Ollie Cove trail
    0.7 & 2.7: That's Lakeshore trail from Hazel Creek to Ollie Cove heading towards CS81
    0.6: That's the Hazel Creek access trail heading to CS86

    CableBranch.jpg

  11. #11
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    fwiw.....there are a couple of other cemeteries, along with many homesites, that are only easily accessible by boat......

    i say that cause yeah, i guess someone could bushwack to those but it would not be pleasant........no trails take one to those......

  12. #12
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    cable branch...

    should have known that....

    im not at my normal residence so my notes and what not are not with me...

    but the cables had some other places named for them.....ie....cable cove......

    and the list of northshore cemeteries in on the north shore website if that is still active...

  13. #13
    Registered User Wheezy's Avatar
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    I saw that cove but by that point in the day it was 85 degrees and I was ready to do some soaking and fishing in Hazel Creek. Iíll have to hit it next time.


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  14. #14

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    Ya Cable Branch, my mother-in-law grew up there (her maiden name is Hall /related to the Hall family whose name is associated with the cabin at end of Bone Valley) . Her family was one that had to relocate when the dam was built. My wife has many ancestors buried in those cemeteries. Kind of morbid (but oddly enjoyable for some reason) , several years ago we paid for the boat ride to Proctor and spent a few days backpacking, locating family headstones, and taking pictures to show the older folks that were interested.

  15. #15
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    My wife has many ancestors buried in those cemeteries


    maybe next summer, when my life gets settled down, we should paddle over there...

  16. #16

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    OK just got it straight, my wife's great, great grandfather was Fonzie Hall, brother of Crate Hall who built the cabin.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    maybe next summer, when my life gets settled down, we should paddle over there...
    yeah man, let's do it! I think you have copper mine to show me too right?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by PatmanTN View Post
    yeah man, let's do it! I think you have copper mine to show me too right?



    yeah....

    one of my favorite historical sites.....

    i just need to get through the next few months....

  19. #19
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    Canoeing across Fontana lake and trying some of the boat-in camp sites has been on my to-do list for a long time...

    ...especially since I've got a canoe that my wife and I bought as a way of exercising together... just before she got pregnant and we started a family (and we never got back to the canoe).

    For the most part, that to-do list is on hold while my son and I work towards him joining me in the 900 Miler Club (he's got 85% of the park done).

    But for future reference:
    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    oh, and if you google---you can find a map of the public launches on fontana....
    https://greatsmokiesfishing.com/boat-ramps.html (that's at least one thing I could find)

    It looks like Cable Cove is the perfect launch for Hazel Creek area.
    Is over-night parking allowed/safe at the launch (or the other public launch sites)?

  20. #20
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    Canoeing across Fontana lake and trying some of the boat-in camp sites has been on my to-do list for a long time...

    i bought my canoe just to stay in those sites in order to complete my goal of every night in every campsite in the Park...



    It looks like Cable Cove is the perfect launch for Hazel Creek area.

    yeah.....it's essentially right across the lake.......

    and there's a launch that has easy access to forney as well....

    takes just a bit of a paddle on the main channel but forney aint that far....



    Is over-night parking allowed/safe at the launch (or the other public launch sites)?

    i cant pull map up but i have been to a bunch of the launches and overnight parking is allowed....

    there will also be trucks with boat trailers as well at most of them........

    i have been lucky in the Park as my car has never had damage from any of my trips to the Park.......

    i think fontana marina now charges to park.......at least they did the last time i was there maybe 5 years ago...

    but, one can find non paying parking in that area pretty easily....

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