The secret is out: Nottely Dam and its reservoir, tucked away in the mountains of North Georgia, provide some of the most gorgeous scenery and best fishing in the Southeast.
In the wooded mountains and valleys of the Chattahoochee National Forest, just over the border with North Carolina in the state of Georgia, you can find one of TVA’s hidden gems: Nottely Dam. The dam and its reservoir lie on the southeastern edge of the Tennessee River watershed, luscious waters hemmed in by gorgeous forests.
Nottely gets its musical name from the Nottely River in Union Couty, Ga. The river itself was named after the Cherokee village of Naduhli, which once lay along its banks. That name comes from the Cherokee word for “daring horseman.”
Before the construction of the dam, the upper Nottely River had been eyed numerous times by different companies as a possible dam site. After it came into being in 1933, TVA extensively surveyed the Hiwassee watershed, which was a major contributor to flooding in Chattanooga, and completed Hiwassee Dam in 1940. Looking for even more flood control, TVA, too, turned its eyes to the Nottely.
The following year, World War II created an emergency demand for electricity in order to power aluminum production operations in East Tennessee. Though it would not produce power, Nottely Dam was quickly authorized because of its strategic location and potential for pushing water downstream to power-producing Hiwassee Dam. Work began in 1941.
Building the dam required the purchase of almost 8,000 acres of land, the relocation of 91 families and the redesign of 21 miles of roads. Workmen formed the dam by building a rock and stone “crib” and filling the middle with earthen fill, a relatively simple design that could be completed quickly. The gates were closed in January, 1942.
A generator was installed in the 1950s, giving the dam capacity of 18 megawatts. During times of rainfall (in other words, when it’s a rainy night in Georgia), Nottely Lake varies about 20 feet from summer to winter.
Besides generating electricity and storing floodwater, Nottely is important to the TVA system as a popular recreational spot. The reservoir features a swim beach and camping area, and TVA-managed trails are popular with hikers and bikers.
The Nottely Dam Trail is a constant grade of about two miles, either uphill or downhill, depending on which end hikers choose. It forms a figure 8, and is mostly in the woods, with parts that veer near the shoreline. The Nottely Tailwater Trail is an easier hike that follows a creek and ends in a picnic area. Walkers can spot deer, wildflowers and plenty of birds, including wild turkeys.
Really ambitious hikers can connect to the Appalachian Trail, which crosses Union County just a few miles away.
Just two hours from Atlanta, the lake is a relaxing, deep-country experience for boaters, since most of the shoreline is federally protected national forest. The reservoir is 20 miles long, with clear water and plenty of fish, since the state of Georgia regularly stocks the lake. The most common fish are rainbow trout, crappie and several different types of bass, and bass fishing tournaments are regularly held on the lake.
Visitors looking for a fun vacation can stay in nearby Blairsville or Hiwassee, which offer concerts and plenty of other things to do.
Looking to the future, TVA Natural Resources employees are considering building a pavilion at the picnic area along with a kiosk showing photos of Nottely’s construction. The peacefulness of Nottely’s surroundings make it one of the best-kept secrets in the Southeast.