Fontana Dam and Visitor CenterThings To Do In The Smoky Mountains
Photo credit 828Vibes
Rising to 480 feet, Fontana is the tallest dam east of the Rockies
Fontana Dam, situated near Robbinsville, North Carolina, on the Little Tennessee River in Swain and Graham counties, is a hydroelectric facility of significant stature. It holds the distinction of being the tallest dam east of the Rockies, rising to 480 feet. At the time of its construction, it was ranked as the fourth tallest dam globally. This impressive structure was built by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in the early 1940s to meet the increasing electricity demands during World War II. The construction of Fontana Dam led to the establishment of a new town to accommodate the approximately 5,000 people who worked tirelessly in three shifts to complete the project. This town has since evolved into the present-day Fontana Village Resort, a popular year-round vacation and event destination nestled in the Nantahala National Forest’s pristine beauty.
The dam and the resulting Fontana Reservoir occupy a splendid location deep in the Great Smoky Mountains, providing multiple benefits to the region. These benefits include flood control and numerous recreational opportunities such as fishing, boating, and swimming. The reservoir is also a beloved spot for wilderness hikers and campers. Additionally, the Appalachian Trail, which spans over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, crosses Fontana Dam. This makes it a popular spot for hikers on the trail, who often stop to admire the view from atop the dam and enjoy the hot showers at a nearby trail shelter maintained by TVA, affectionately dubbed the “Fontana Hilton.”
The Fontana Dam Visitor Center is another point of interest. Open seasonally, it provides visitors with a wealth of information about the dam’s history and the surrounding region. The center’s operating hours vary, generally open from April through October. For those interested in experiencing breathtaking scenic views, the dam is accessible for driving or walking across throughout the year.