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Nantahala Lake

Nantahala Lake was created in the early 1940s, when a dam along the Nantahala River was used to create a reservoir. The 1,600 acre lake has 29 miles of shoreline, and sits at an elevation of over 3,000 feet, above the rugged Nantahala River Gorge. Best known for its pristine surroundings and crystal clear waters, it's not unusual to be able to the the lake bottom through up to 15 feet of water. The lake ends in beautiful waterfalls, spectacular cascades, and any number of rivers and streams, perfect for rafting, kayaking, and fly fishing.

You can enjoy a variety of activities at Nantahala Lake. Two of the most popular are fishing and boating.


Nantahala Lake is unique in that it's the only location in the Southeast with Kokanee Salmon. However, numerous other fish species populate the lake, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, catfish, bluegill, and yellow perch. Trout varieties are brown trout, brook trout, and rainbow trout.

Fishing can be from the shoreline or by boat. Fishing from canoes and kayaks is popular at the lake.

  • For salmon fishing, your best bet is head out in a boat and troll.
  • For shoreline fishing, try live bait, such as night crawlers, crickets, and minnows.
  • Winter is a great time to fish the lake, due to the cooler water temperatures.
  • Early in the morning, fish the creeks surrounding the lake. Cooler water temperatures in these areas can improve your luck.



Nantahala Lake offers boaters spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding areas. And, with 20 miles of shoreline, you'll have plenty of opportunities to dock for a picnic or hike along the lake. Note that, while most of the Nantahala Lake area is open to the public, some of the shoreline is privately owned, so just make sure you're in a public area before docking. Nantahala Lake has two public boat launches: The Big Choga Access Area, and the Rocky Branch Boat Ramp.

Big Choga Access Area is on the western shoreline. Besides boat launching facilities, it has handicapped-accessible parking and restrooms, plenty of lighting, and a bank fishing area.
  • 3360 Big Choga Road
  • Topton, North Carolina
  • 35'10.766 x 83'41.170

Rocky Branch Access Area is on the eastern shoreline. Similar to Big Choga Access Area, it has a paved parking lot and concrete boat launches. Water levels are relatively stable, so you can typically launch year-round.
  • 28 Alpine Shores Lane
  • Topton, North Carolina
  • 35'10.766 x 83'41.170

For boat rentals go to Lake's End Restaurant and Marina's website at  There you can rent by day or week.  They rent powerboats, pontoon boats, canoes, paddleboards, kayaks, and more.