Lake Hiawassee in Cherokee County NC
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Hiwassee Lake and the Unicoi Mountains

To some it's a hidden treasure; to others it's a mystery. In the northern section of Cherokee County there's a place that most county residents aren't much aware of, a place where some visitors have never heard of, and to those living there full time or those escaping away to it's a secret location, it's a secret they'd rather keep amongst themselves.

To the mountain community residents of Cherokee County in the first half of the 20th century, it was a well-needed construction project, created by the Federal Recovery Program during the Great Depression. The Tennessee Valley Authority managed and developed the project. When completed in 1940, as a flood control and electric power dam, Hiwassee Lake would cover 6,090-acres, 22-miles in length, 180-miles of shoreline and as much as 200-ft deep in places. The waters of Hiwassee Lake are fed by the Hiwassee River, Valley River and Nottely River.

The lake is a long channel lake that's much broader in some areas than others. As a recreation lake the Hiwassee Lake is all about catching striped bass, yellow perch, bluegill, and muskie to boot. It's also about pontoon cruising, boating, canoing and kayaking on the quiet blue lake's gentle surface, or maybe just skipping a river stone counting the jumps. That's just about what an average day is like during the high water season.

Hiwasse Lake DamThe dam area on Hiwassee Lake near the northern end of the lake offers an impressive view of some of the lake's shoreline and surrounding mountains. The dam is 307-feet, a mammoth structure and is considered the highest overspill dam in the world.

One of the reasons for Hiwassee Lake's secrecy is its geographical location just northwest of the town of Murphy. The lake area is in a more wilderness land than most mountain lakes though it is populated and most of the roads are paved. Steep foothills clog this lake region where Hiwassee River flows in the northwestern parts of Cherokee County. Past the dam the Hiwassee Lake becomes a river again for a short distance then feeds into the much smaller Appalachia Lake before continuing on as the Hiwassee River in the Tennessee Valley. The Appalachia Dam is a stroll to the North Carolina, Tennessee border.

Hiwassee LAkes and Unicoi MountainsFrom the northeast to the northwest an enormous mountain range rises from the lake's surface to the highest mountains in the region. The Unicoi Mountains reach a height of 5,390-feet at Santeetlah along the Unicoi Crest. The mountains you see from the lake's surface are mere babes compared to the ones rising above your viewing point.

This mountainous region is the very back door to the Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains, a trade route that was even ancient to the Cherokee people's ancestors. The Unicoi Turnpike it was called by the white eyes, which first discovered it as a secret route. To the Cherokee it was the Trade Path, a trail that stretched across the width of the southern Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains from South Carolina to the Tennessee Valley, following it most of the way along the Hiwassee River from its headwaters in northwestern Georgia. A low gap along the western mountain range of the Unicoi Mountains on the western edge of Cherokee County was called the Unicoi Gap, a key link in the Trade Path or Northwest Passage trade route as it was also known. It was also well known as a direct route for Cherokee War Parties.

Unicoi Gap RoadToday, Cherokee County's Joe Brown Highway follows the old Unicoi Turnpike along the northwestern shoreline of Hiwassee Lake. Names like Hanging Dog Mountains and Boiling Springs don't nearly match the rugged terrain of these steep mountains and foothills. There's a beautiful, almost remote mountain valley community called Unaka near the end of the "paved" Joe Brown Highway/Unicoi Turnpike. The valley has seen travelers since prehistoric time. Unaka is the ancient Cherokee name that unifies nearly the entire eastern mountain ranges along the eastern Tennessee Valley.

Up ahead and beyond the picturesque community of Unaka Valley, just north of Hiwassee Lake Dam, is where Joe Brown Highway loses its pavement and becomes more like the old Unicoi Turnpike. If you don't mind some dust or some bumps in the road and if you're personally looking for a place to say to yourself, "where in the heck am I?" the Unicoi Turnpike could be calling your name.

Unicoi Gap RoadThe forestry road along the turnpike seems to twist and turn without end. Though the mountains to the north are large and impassable, the foothills to the south and west where the turnpike travels are low and steep making for a difficult terrain to maneuver through. It's as though the ancient mountains washed out here and left all this debris you have to climb over, not necessarily the forest road itself, I'm referring to it geographically and metaphorically difficulty, impossible without the roadway or well worn trail. To be more accurate, it's only a forestry road in the 21st century, not a narrow trading path of the 18th century.

You barely notice the gap when you cross over it from North Carolina and into Eastern Tennessee. A marker along side the road on the west side of the gap tells the history of the Unicoi Gap and Turnpike. This piece of the turnpike has actual historic trail sections, untouched since its discovery. Here the trail zigzags back and forth across the old forestry road. This ancient path shows what the trail really looked like and is being preserved and maintained on the Tennessee side of the Unicoi Gap.

You can hike these same short sections of the narrow path that took a company of roughly 200 British troops and others met their fate after being forced to leave Fort Loudoun in the 1757's. These rugged and preserved trail paths are in their natural state along this mountainous trade route, having seen a lot of fur trappers, explorers, frontiersmen, settlers shoes and boots along with centuries of Cherokee moccasins on either peace missions, trading expeditions, and sometimes on the warpath.

The ancient trade route eventually became the road that took the Cherokee people from their homelands, an era had ended, and a new one began.

Unicoi Gap Trail

The British troops are gone from the Unicoi Mountains now as the newly formed American settlers moved in to stay, so did some of the Cherokees who avoided roundup during the tragic Trail of Tears.

Just to the north of the county seat of Murphy, there are still lands within the Hanging Dog Mountain region that are owned by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee along with a section of land on the east side of Murphy. Cherokee County likely has the second largest population of eastern tribal members outside of the Cherokee Boundary in northeastern Swain County, North Carolina. It's their home and always has been, and is not a public attraction like parts of the Qualla Boundary in the town of Cherokee in Swain County.

The history of Cherokee County is still recording the lives of those Cherokee whose ancestors didn't take the long journey, rather stayed and took their chances here in their ancestral homelands, instead of risking their lives and happiness by going west, where the Western Band of Cherokee reside today.

Blue Ridge Highlander's Gallery

Highlander Fine Arts, Authentic Mountain Photography and Fine Crafts

The Highlander Gallery
When you are visiting the Blue Ridge - Smoky Mountains, a stop by the Highlander Gallery is well worth your time. The Highlander Gallery represents some of the finest artists in the mountains.  With a large assortment of Fine Art Photography and Fine Crafts as well.

Here are a sampling of the artists you will find....Anthony Abreu • John Mac Kah • Ruthanne Kah • Michael Bedoian • Keith Moore • Juanita Greenspan • Mike Lalone • Robert Levin • Tonya Fowler • Jason Fowler • Jo Kilmer • Les Smith • Chuck Waldroup • Joe Waldroup • Billy Reynolds • Bob Crisp • Thomas Payne • Sarah Long Dauchez • January Tiberius • Frances McCord • Neal Hearn • Nanci Leigh • Rita Poole • Clive Poole • Richard Cranford

Wednesday - Saturday 10:00 - 5:00
10079 Old Highway 64  •  Brasstown, NC  • 828.835.9982  •

World Renowned Folk School in Brasstown NC

Food & Drink in Murphy NC

Parson's Pub in Historic Downtown Murphy NC
Lunch •  Dinner • Great Beer

The Parson's Pub

We believe in old fashioned, face to face, friendly conversation. You will not find any televisions or loud music. Just a warm place to feel at home and enjoy...

We pride ourselves on our extensive beer menu (over 50!). Talk to one of our "Beervangelists" to help you try a new favorite! If you request a beer we do not carry, we will attempt to get it!

Monday - Saturday    11 am - 10 pm

19 Tennessee Street • Murphy, NC 28906 • 828-837-4151  •  Parson's Pub Web Site

Shopping in Cherokee County NC

Serenity Mountain Gift Shop

Serenity Mountain Gift Shop

Why us? Serenity Mountain is a unique gift shop specializing in Himalayan Salt Lamps and glowing ember baskets ( baskets filled with Himalayan salt chunks and fitted with a dimmer cord). We also carry zen home accents, "hippie" chic jewelry and clothing, featuring Jane Marie, Lenny & Eva, Soul Flower Eco-Friendly t-shirts, Umgee, She & Sky Clothing. At Serenity you will find quality incense, sage smudge, goat milk soap, Serenity Mountain Organic's all natural skin care products and organic essential oils, diffusers, oil burners,and many more great gifts with serenity living in mind. A unique little gem.

At Serenity Mountain, we are focused on providing you with a wide selection of unique gifts  to support a serene lifestyle. We pride ourselves in giving you the highest levels of customer satisfaction & we will do everything we can to meet your expectations. If we don't carry something you're looking for, we will do our best to get it!   With a variety of gifts to choose from, we're sure you'll be happy working with us.  We hope to see you soon!

Tues - Fri 10:30am - 5:30pm  •  Sat 10:00am - 5:00pm  •  Sun and Mon CLOSED
35 Tennessee St  •  Murphy, NC 28906  •  828.361.7543  • 

Boating & Marinas in the Mountains

Mountain View Marina at Bear Paw Resort in Murphy NC

Mountain View Marina at Bear Paw Resort in Murphy North Carolina
Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Lake Hiwassee is one of the most picturesque lakes in the southeast, with most of its 163 miles of shoreline preserved by the Nantahala National Forest, its breathtaking beauty remains unspoiled.   To enjoy Lake Hiwassee, visit Mountain View Marina, our full-service marina offers boat rentals, paddle board rentals, long and short term slip rentals, gasoline, boat ramps, fishing licenses, bait, boating supplies, snacks and drinks.

Open Daily 9 am to 7pm  •  •  828.644.5451

200 Dean Aldrich Drive  • Murphy, NC 28906  •

White Water Rafting Mountains

Rafting on the Ocoee River

White Water Rafting on the Ocoee
The Ocoee River is often described as the roller coaster of the southeast. Come experience what has been called the greatest white water center in the world.

Professional river outfitter with over 30 years experience. Our safety record is unsurpassed in the industry. We believe our staff is simply the best in the business. Guides are chosen for their character and enthusiasm for sharing the outdoors with you.

Call today to start your adventure...828-835-3275  •

Rafting on the Nantahala River

White Water Rafting on the Nantahala

Experience this unforgettable whitewater adventure through the gorge. The Nantahala is exciting, and a great time, but not as wild as the Ocoee.  This is a river that you can bring children on as young as seven years old.

Experience the excitement of Patton's Run, the fun and splash of Tumble Dry, the rush and roar of riding Class III Nantahala Falls. For a bigger thrill, try taking one of our Duckies down the river!

Call today to start your adventure...828-835-3275  •

Zipline Canopy Tours

Zip Line Canopy Tours...Nantahala Gorge • Chattooga Ridge • Asheville • Pigeon River

Canopy Tours on the Nantahala Gorge, Chattooga Ridge and Pigeon River

Whichever course you choose you are sure to enjoy the newest outdoor adventure to hit the US.

All our courses offer a soaring and gliding experience naturally fueled by a gradual drop in elevation. All trips offer fully guided tours with 2 or more Rangers on at least 10 zips, 4 bridges beginning with a training course at each location.

Call today to start your adventure...828-835-3275  •


Adventure Camps in the Mountains

Guided Fishing Trips

Real Estate & Property Management in Cherokee County North Carolina

Property & Cabin Rental Management

Great Mountain Properties & Cabin Rentals in now accepting additional cabins in Murphy North Carolina

Great Mountain Cabin Rentals

Whether you purchased your mountain home as an occasional getaway, an investment, or the destination of your future retirement, we realize the importance that it be respected as your home first and foremost.

It is our objective to provide you with both quality property management as well as a rental program to help offset some of the expense of owning a 2nd home. Through the combined knowledge of all of us at Great Mountain Cabin Rentals, we have the expertise to help you understand and create a Great Mountain Cabin Rental.

46 Valley River Ave  •  Murphy, NC  • 828.835.3275  •

Cabin Rentals & Lodging in Cherokee County North Carolina


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