Discover The Deepest Lake In North Carolina

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: August 2, 2023
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Key Points:

  • The deepest lake in North Carolina is Fontana Lake at 440 feet maximum depth.
  • Hikers on the Appalachian Trail taking multi-day treks will often stop at Fontana Lake for a swim and to use the hot showers.
  • Black bears, river otters, bald eagles, white-tailed deer, and raccoons live near the lake.
Infographic for Fontana Lake, North Carolina
Fontana Lake lies between the Great Smoky Mountains and Nantahala National Forest.

North Carolina has it all, from the mountains in the west to the long, beautiful east coast. There are lakeside cabins and beachside cottages. While some states have lakes all concentrated in one area, the lakes in North Carolina are dispersed throughout the state.

Lake Norman, just north of Charlotte, is the largest man-made lake, but is it the deepest? What about Lake Mattamuskeet along the coast?

This is the largest natural lake in the state, but it is the shallowest as well. So which lake is the deepest?

Read on to find out all about the deepest lake in North Carolina.

What Is The Deepest Lake In North Carolina?

The deepest lake in North Carolina is Fontana Lake. It is located in western North Carolina with the Great Smoky Mountains to the north and Nantahala National Forest to the south.

The Appalachian Trail, which hikers can access all the way from Maine to Georgia, crosses over the bridge at the dam. Hikers taking multi-day treks will often stop at Fontana Lake for a swim and to use the hot showers.

Fontana Lake

The deepest lake in North Carolina is Fontana Lake, located in western North Carolina.

© Moore

How Deep Is The Deepest Lake In North Carolina?

The deepest lake in North Carolina is 440 feet deep. That is about the same as six semi-trucks parked end to end. The eastern portion of the lake becomes the Tuskegee River, and this is where the lake is the deepest.  

Animals Found Near Fontana Lake In North Carolina

Fontana Lake is a large reservoir located in the western part of North Carolina, surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The lake and its surrounding areas are home to a wide variety of plant and animal life, including several species of animals that are unique to the region.

Here are a few examples of animals found near Fontana Lake in NC:

  • Black bears: The Great Smoky Mountains are home to one of the largest populations of black bears in the United States, and Fontana Lake is no exception. Visitors to the area may catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures as they forage for food in the forests around the lake.
  • River otters: River otters are playful and curious animals that can be found in and around the waters of Fontana Lake. These sleek, furry creatures are expert swimmers and can often be seen diving and playing in the lake’s many coves and inlets.
  • Bald eagles: The bald eagle is one of the most iconic birds in North America, and Fontana Lake is home to a healthy population of these majestic birds. Visitors to the area may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a bald eagle soaring high above the lake.
  • White-tailed deer: White-tailed deer are a common sight in the forests around Fontana Lake. These graceful animals can often be seen grazing in the early morning and late afternoon hours.
  • Raccoons: Raccoons are opportunistic animals that can be found throughout the forests and around the shores of Fontana Lake. These nocturnal creatures are known for their mischievous behavior and can often be seen raiding campsites and trash cans in search of food.

Overall, Fontana Lake and its surrounding areas are home to a diverse array of plant and animal life, making it a fascinating destination for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.

How Big Is the Dam At Fontana Lake?

The Fontana Dam is the tallest dam in the eastern half of the US. The dam was built back in the 1940s and is 480 feet tall! There is a visitor center at the dam where you can learn all about the making of the dam and the creation of Fontana Lake.

Is Fontana Lake A Recreational Lake?

Fontana Lake is popular for swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, and fishing. There are two overlook areas with parking for some of the best views of the mountains or you can hike on several of the trails in the area, including the Appalachian Trail.

Most of the land surrounding the park is owned by the National Park Service or the US Forest Service, with the exception of the Fontana Village Resort, which has a hotel, marina, restaurants, and a campground.

Are There Houseboats On Fontana Lake?

Fontana Lake is home to 400 houseboats, with groups of them floating in the coves around the lake. Some of the houseboats are vacation rentals, so if you’ve ever wanted to live on a houseboat, even just for a week, check them out! Some are more like floating cabins with front patios, separate bedrooms, and a swimming dock.

Skinny Dip Falls

Skinny Dip Falls isn’t a clothing-optional area, despite the cheeky name.


How Is The Fishing On Fontana Lake?

The fishing is excellent in Fontana Lake, especially for fish that prefer cold deep waters like walleye. Other fish, like smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and catfish are all popular catches.

Are There Any State Fishing Records From Fontana Lake?

None of the trophy fishes pulled from Fontana have been big enough to break a state record. There was an enormous muskie caught back in September of 2017, however, it was too skinny to break the record. Fishing records are based on weight and this one was not quite as heavy as the current record of 41 pounds 8 ounces.

The muskie caught on Fontana was 32 pounds, but a whopping 52 inches long! That is almost 4 ½ feet! Captain Kyle Fronrath, who owns Fontana Guides, caught this fish near the Little Tennessee River. Remarkably, this muskie was a wild muskie, not one that had been stocked. A truly rare catch!

What Is The Biggest Lake In North Carolina?

The biggest lake in North Carolina is Kerr Lake on the northern border with Virginia. This massive lake covers 50,000 acres and is on the Roanoke River. The John H. Kerr Dam (named after the senator that supported the dam project) is on the Virginia side of the lake and was created to provide hydroelectric power to the area and to control flooding.

The locals, especially those in Virginia, refer to the lake as Buggs Island Lake named after an early settler, Samuel Bugg.

Kerr Lake Virginia

The massive Kerr Lake covers 50,000 acres and is on the Roanoke River.

©Rui Serra Maia/

Are There Any Fishing Records From Kerr Lake?

Two fishing records are from the North Carolina side and two records are from the Virginia side. In North Carolina the white bass record was set by Jim King when he reeled in a 5-pound 14-ounce bass. His catch dates back to March 15, 1986.

The second record holder is Jonathan Wilkerson, who caught a 23-pound 8-ounce Freshwater Drum on Kerr Lake on March 20, 2013. It’s possible that same Freshwater Drum swam across the border into Virginia, where it continued to grow, before it was caught again.

Del Pool caught a 29-pound 6-ounce Drum on March 26, 2018, on the Virginia side of Kerr Lake.

Was A 100 Pound Catfish Caught In Kerr Lake?

On June 18, 2011, Richard “Nick” Anderson reeled in a massive blue catfish. His trophy fish weighed in at 143 pounds! The biggest blue catfish caught in North Carolina was just recently snagged.

On July 10, 2021, Rocky Baker caught a 127-pound 1-ounce blue cat while fishing on the Roanoke River.

Blue catfish in Tennessee aquarium

The largest blue catfish caught in Kerr Lake was 143 pounds!

©Thomsonmg2000, cropped and adjusted by Kostka Martin / CC0 – License

How Deep Are The Roanoke River And The Albemarle Sound?

Although the depth of the river varies as it flows toward the sound, the deepest areas are 25 feet deep. Similarly, the deepest spot in the sound is 25 feet deep.

How Deep Is The Ocean Off The Coast Of North Carolina?

The coast gradually gets deeper further from the shore. This part of the land that extends past the edge of the coastline underwater is called the continental margin. The shelf area, the part of the land closest to shore, can get up to 100 meters (328 feet) deep, but further out, its depth can range between 100-2,500 meters (328 – 8,202 feet).

How Does The Deepest Lake In North Carolina Compare To The Deepest Lake In The US?

The deepest lake in North Carolina, Fontana Lake, is 440 feet deep. If you compare that to the deepest lake in the U.S., you will see it comes up short. Crater Lake in Oregon is 1,943 feet deep making it the deepest lake in the country.

Crater Lake is unique because it sits in the top of a collapsed volcano. The volcano is dormant now and the crystal blue waters of the sunken lake with the surrounding snowcapped ridges is a beautiful scene.

Crater Lake in Oregon is 1,943 feet deep making it the deepest lake in the US.

©GCaptain Budd Christman, NOAA Corps / Public Domain – License

Where Is Fontana Lake, North Carolina Located On A Map?

Fontana Lake is located in remote western North Carolina on the Cheoah River near Robbinsville and is surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains. North Carolina is bordered by South Carolina and Georgia to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Virginia to the north, and Tennessee to the east.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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