Discover the Deepest Lake in the South

Carters Lake in Winter
Tamparitus / CC BY-SA 4.0

Written by Mike Edmisten

Updated: July 27, 2023

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Carters Lake is the Deepest Lake in the American South
Carters Lake is a popular destination for camping and fishing.

Most of the United States’ deepest lakes are located in the nation’s northern regions. For example, Alaska has more lakes with depths over 300 feet than any other state in the nation. Crater Lake in Oregon is the deepest lake in the U.S., with a maximum depth of 1949 feet. While lakes in the southern U.S. number in the tens of thousands, finding a deep lake (over 300 feet) in the south is a relative rarity. There are a few notable exceptions, though, including the deepest lake in the American South.

The South’s Deepest Lake

With a maximum depth of 450 feet, Carters Lake in Georgia is the deepest lake in the south.

Carters Lake was named after Farrish Carter, a wealthy nineteenth-century property owner in the area. The lake is a man-made reservoir located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Gilmer and Murray counties. The lake’s surface elevation is 1,074 feet. The average depth is 200 feet.

Carters Lake, Georgia

Carters Lake is the deepest lake in the American South.

The Coosawattee River feeds Carters Lake, which flows south from Tennessee into Georgia. The lake was created with the completion of Carters Dam in 1977. The huge dam is made of earth and rock. At 445 feet tall, Carters Dam is the largest earthen dam east of the Mississippi River.

Carters Dam was built primarily for flood control. There is also a hydroelectric plant below the dam to provide electrical power through the Southeastern Power Administration.

Before the dam was built, the area was home to some of the best whitewater east of the Mississippi River. The wild-flowing Coosawattee River inspired James Dickey’s 1972 film, Deliverance. The construction of Carters Dam forever changed the landscape. The gorge was flooded, and the fast-moving whitewater river was transformed into a deep 3,200-acre lake with 62 miles of shoreline.

The lake is owned and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Because it is federally owned land, no private development is permitted around the lake. That prohibition has allowed the area around the lake to remain a pristine wilderness. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the dam in 1977 for flood control and hydroelectric power generation. The dam impounds Carters Lake in the mountains of northwestern Georgia.

Carters Dam is a massive 445-foot-tall earthen dam.

Fishing in Carters Lake

Carters Lake boasts some of the finest fishing anywhere in northern Georgia. Anglers can target a number of fish species.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources actively stocks walleye, striped bass, and hybrid striped bass in the lake. Walleye are cold-water fish, but the lake’s deep waters allow them to thrive even in a warm-weather state such as Georgia.

Carters Lake is a great place to fish for trophy-striped bass. Ten-pound stripers are common, but stripers weighing 30 pounds or more also inhabit these waters.

Spotted bass (also known as Kentucky bass) are the predominant fish in the lake. An average spotted bass in Carters Lake weighs about a pound, through three and four-pounders also lurk in the lake.

Kentucky Bass

The spotted bass is the primary fish in Carters Lake.

Channel and flathead catfish proliferate in Carters Lake. Crappies and bluegill also populate these waters.

Young anglers set two Carters Lake records in recent years. Thirteen-year-old Wyatt Stokes landed the lake record flathead catfish on May 6, 2020. The massive fish weighed 41 pounds, 12 ounces.

Then, on February 28, 2021, twelve-year-old Chandler Watkins set a new lake record for white crappie. His fish weighed a whopping 3 pounds, 4.9 ounces.

Bank fishing is all but impossible in much of Carters Lake due to the remote access and the steep cliffs that make up much of the shoreline. If you want to fish the south’s deepest lake, you’re going to need a boat.

Boating on Carters Lake

Boating is a popular pastime on the lake, whether it is to access fishing spots or simply pleasure boating. All manner of boats can be seen on the lake, from kayaks to fast-moving ski boats. Pontoons are very popular and can be rented from the Carters Lake Marina. The lake’s boat ramps are found at Damsite, Doll Mountain, Woodring Branch, and Ridgeway.

Carters Lake, Georgia

These boaters are enjoying their day on Carters Lake.

Camping at Carters Lake

There are two RV campgrounds at Carters Lake. Woodring Branch Campground is located on the north side of the lake, four miles off Highway 282. The campground features 42 campsites. Of those sites, 31 have electric and water hookups, and 11 are primitive tent sites. 

Doll Mountain Campground is found on the south side of the lake, about three miles off Highway 382. This campground has 65 sites, 39 of which have hookups for electricity and water. The remaining 26 sites are primitive tent-only sites.

Camper Trailer, Pick-up Truck, Vehicle Trailer, Road, Forest

RV sites have electrical and water hookups at two Carters Lake campgrounds.

There is also a boat-in/hike-in campground with twelve primitive sites. It is located on a peninsula east of Carters Dam. 

Boaters can tie up near their campsite. Hikers can access this campground via the Amadahy Trail (discussed below). It is roughly a two-mile hike to the campground.

Each campsite features a tent pad, table, and lantern holder. The sites are free and open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis.

Swimming in Carters Lake

There is one public beach at Carters Lake. Harris Beach is a sandy beach that is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. 

Hiking at Carters Lake

There are multiple hiking trails in the Carters Lake Area.

Easy Trails

Big Acorn Trail

  • Roundtrip Distance: 0.6 Mile
  • Time: 30 Minutes 
  • Trail Type: Out-And-Back

Hidden Pond Songbird Trail

  • Roundtrip Distance: 1 Mile
  • Time: 1 Hour 
  • Trail Type: Loop

Moderate Trails

Amadahy Trail 

  • Roundtrip Distance: 4 Miles
  • Time: 1.5 Hours
  • Trail Type: Loop

Oak Ridge Nature Trail

  • Roundtrip Distance: 0.7 Mile
  • Time: Varies
  • Trail Type: This trail offers both a loop and an out-and-back option.

Talking Rock Nature Trail

  • Roundtrip Distance: 2 Miles
  • Time: 2 Hours
  • Trail Type: Out-And-Back

Tumbling Waters Nature Trail

  • Roundtrip Distance: 1 Mile
  • Time: 1 Hour
  • Trail Type: Out-And-Back

Mountain Biking at Carters Lake

Mountain bikers flock to Carters Lake for its beauty and variety of trails. All of the hiking trails mentioned above are also open to mountain bikers. In addition to those trails, the lake offers the Ridgeway Mountain Bike Trail. The main trail is six miles long, but some spurs allow for a longer ride. It is the most challenging trail for bikers at Carters Lake. The Ridgeway Mountain Bike Trail includes steep climbs, technical downhills, stream crossings, and other challenges. 

Cycling, Bicycle, Mountain, Footpath, Hiking

Carters Lake is a great place for mountain biking.

Hunting at Carters Lake

There are approximately 3,000 acres available to hunters in the Coosawattee Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) around Carters Lake. Various game species may be hunted in accordance with their applicable seasons per Georgia law.

Bow Hunting

Deer hunting with archery equipment is permitted in the land surrounding Carters Lake during the legal season.

Deer hunting is permitted during the fall season using archery equipment. There is no gun hunting in CWMA.

Turkey and the small game may be hunted with firearms during their legal seasons.

A wheelchair hunt is also held every November to provide hunters with disabilities the opportunity for a deer hunt with minimal competition from other hunters. No one other than registered wheelchair hunters is permitted to hunt the area during the annual November event.

Wildlife at Carters Lake

Animals abound at Carters Lake and the surrounding CWMA. Visitors may encounter white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, red and gray foxes, squirrels, raccoons, and opossums

A wide variety of aquatic birds inhabit the lake. Along with a wide variety of ducks, guests may see green, great blue, and little blue herons. 

Look to the sky, and you may see hawks or even a bald eagle flying overhead.

Some visitors even have a rare opportunity to spot a black bear.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Fort Myers Beach, Florida.

Great blue herons are seen regularly at Carters Lake.

Other Deep Lakes in the South

Carters Lake is the deepest lake in the south, but there are a few others that reach maximum depths of 300 feet or more.

  • Fontana Lake, North Carolina – 440 feet
  • Lake Jocassee, South Carolina SC – 351 feet
  • Hiwassee Lake, North Carolina – 308 feet
  • Watauga Lake, Tennessee- 305 feet

Where Is Carters Lake Located on a Map?

Carters Lake is a man-made reservoir tucked away on the Coosawattee River in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the state of Georgia. It is also the deepest lake in the state.

Here is Carters Lake on a map.

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About the Author

Mike is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on geography, agriculture, and marine life. A graduate of Cincinnati Christian University and a resident of Cincinnati, OH, Mike is deeply passionate about the natural world. In his free time, he, his wife, and their two sons love the outdoors, especially camping and exploring US National Parks.

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