Richard Colgate, AKA Sarge, has been leading kayakers to the most picturesque lakes near Bryson City for years. He is also the bartender at The Fryemont Inn, and he’ll happily provide nearby kayaking recommendations or even be your guide.
Imagine gliding serenely through smooth, calm waters on a flatwater mountain lake trail with breathtaking scenery and a bald eagle soaring overhead amid the scents and sounds of nature. Sound good? Sarge can make that happen (he can’t actually promise a bald eagle, but he knows where the nests are!).
Within an hour’s drive of the Fryemont Inn are four gorgeous mountain lakes, and all are perfect spots to paddle. If you don’t have your own kayak or have never kayaked before, Sarge can provide you with all the gear you need, teach you how to paddle and hone your skills on either a ½ day or full-day tour of one of our nearby mountain lakes.
Fontana Lake: Paddling Nearby
Located just a few minutes from the Fryemont Inn, Fontana Lake is the perfect lake for a half-day kayaking trip. Fontana is bordered on the north by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and on the south by the Nantahala National Forest. Fontana’s tree-covered bluffs, steep rocky banks, and bald eagle nests will keep you dazzled. Kayakers can easily explore dozens of quiet fingers, some of which go back a mile or more into the wilderness.
You can also paddle under an active railroad bridge that carries passengers on the Great Smokies Railroad. If you’re out with Sarge, be sure to ask him about the doomed town of Judson, which lies submerged below your kayak.
Lake Santeetlah: Kayaking and Hiking
A full-day trip to Lake Santeetlah with Sarge begins with a ride in his private van to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. There you will hike both loops of the trail. This moderate hike will take you to the upper loop which has the tallest and oldest trees and one of the few remaining stands of virgin hardwood in the US. After a creekside picnic, you will head to Lake Santeetlah for a two-hour paddle. Eagles and ospreys abound, and the lake is famous for its exquisite reflections of the mountains in the clear, calm waters. Bring your camera!
Calderwood Lake: Boating and Beavers
Calderwood Lake is long and slender and meanders from Tennessee to North Carolina. Calderwood is a popular fishing spot and there is virtually no recreational boating, which makes it a great kayaking lake for beginners. From the water you’ll find a partially submerged old railroad tunnel. You can also shore up and detour at Slickrock Creek for a 2-mile hike to Wildcat Falls. Ask Sarge to introduce you to a colony of resident beavers who will likely swim out to say “hello”!
Lake Glenville: High Elevation Waterfall Hunting – by Boat
Drive past Western Carolina University on highway 107 and you’ll soon be climbing through a mountain rain forest along the Upper Tuckaseegee river towards Cashiers, Highlands and Lake Glenville. Boasting the highest elevation of any lake in the eastern US (3500 feet above sea level), Lake Glenville is a pristine reservoir with 26 miles of shoreline, 1400 acres of water, a white sandy beach for swimming, and multimillion-dollar mansions for eye candy. Three spectacular waterfalls plus an abundance of flowers, lush foliage and impeccable landscaping make for a most enjoyable day on the water.
Lake Kayaking Aftermath: A Cocktail and Cozy Retreat
Whichever lake you choose, a day on the water always ends with a drink at the Fryemont bar. Sarge will pour while you regale the other guests with your photos and tales of your kayaking adventure. Follow that up with dinner in the Fryemont dining room, and you have had the perfect day! If you’re interested in an NC mountain lake kayaking adventure with Sarge, please contact us so we can help plan your Western NC lake kayaking adventure in the mountains.