Lake Santeetlah was created in 1928 when Alcoa dammed the Cheoah River as a means of generating hydroelectric power. The reservoir is surrounded by the Cheoah District of the Nantahala National Forest.
The lake boasts 76 miles (122km) of shoreline, and hosts a variety of fish including smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, crappie, bream, and lake trout. There are more than fifty primitive campsites scattered around the lake that include a picnic table and fire ring. These sites have no water or toilets but also require neither permits nor fees. There are over 200 miles (320 km) of hiking trails in the Cheoah District. Only an eight-mile (13 km) hike from Lake Santeetlah leads to access of the Appalachian Trail. Approximately a mile from the town of Lake Santeetlah is Cheoah Point Recreation Area, which offers swimming, camping, and picnicking facilities as well as a boat ramp.
The U.S. Forest Service provides the swimming, camping, picnicking, fishing and boating facilities. Of special note is the adjoining Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, which was set aside in 1936 as a memorial to poet-soldier Joyce Kilmer, and is perhaps “the most impressive example of original, old growth forest” in the Eastern United States.
Check with North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission at www.ncwildlife.org for fishing regulations specific to this river.