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11 Fantastic Lakes near Murphy, NC for Swimming, Fishing, and Kayaking

Murphy is probably the best town for lake recreation in the country. You can be fishing, swimming, or boating in just 10 minutes. There are stunning recreational lakes all around.

Murphy is probably the best town for lake recreation in the country. The options here are full-on recreational reservoirs that many cities in America would die for.

And the best thing is, you don’t have to travel far. All the eleven lakes are within an hour’s drive.

Read on to find out the best option for your trip.

Lakes near Murphy:

  1. Hiwassee Lake
  2. Apalachia Lake
  3. Lake Cherokee
  4. Lake Nottely
  5. Blue Ridge Lake
  6. Chatuge Lake
  7. Lake Burton
  8. Nantahala Lake
  9. Lake Santeetlah
  10. Fontana Lake
  11. Lake Ocoee
Lakes near Murphy North Carolina Comparison Table

1. Hiwassee Lake

  • Official Page: Hiwasse Lake
  • Distance from Murphy: 5 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Hiking, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing

Hiwassee Lake is a 6,275-acre reservoir just 10 minutes from Murphy. It’s the nearest recreational lake with excellent fishing and boating.

The lake has several recreational sites and marinas. The nearest and the largest of them is Hanging Dog. It offers a boat ramp, picnic tables, and miles of hiking and biking trails.

And the nearest marina is Dukes Hideaway, just 12 minutes from Murphy. Here, you can hire pontoon boats and slips. It’s a simple facility with reasonable prices.

Swimming is allowed at Lake Hiwassee; however, designated swimming areas are scarce.

Where the lake stands out is fishing. The bite is average, but the fish comes at a decent size. The reservoir holds two state records, one for an impressive 66-pound striped bass. 

Other water activities include kayaking and canoeing, which can be enjoyable even on windy days as the lake has plenty of narrow coves. And skiing and wakeboarding are allowed, too.

However, the lake’s biggest drawback is the lack of campgrounds. The one at Hanging Dog is permanently closed now, and other options are far from the lake.

Overall, Hiwassee Lake is a peaceful destination, free from crowds. It’s best for relaxing and unwinding.

2. Apalachia Lake

Apalachia Lake
  • Official Page: Apalachia Lake
  • Distance from Murphy: 22 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing

Apalachia Lake is 1,070 acres in size. It’s located directly downstream from Hiwassee Lake and offers remote fishing and boating.

Unlike other reservoirs on the list, Apalachia Lake is almost entirely undeveloped and untouched. It only has one access point, located under the Hiwassee Dam. It offers a paved launching ramp and a parking lot.

The unique thing about this lake is that you can catch brown trout here; it’s an experimental trout stocking lake. Other typical catches include largemouth and smallmouth bass. And the sizes are decent, too, probably because the lake isn’t overfished.

Another excellent thing about Apalachia Lake is that it has no restrictions on recreation. Swimming, paddling, and water sports are allowed here. However, the lake is more popular with kayakers and anglers.

Overall, it’s a remote, relaxing spot without any bells and whistles, best suited for seasoned adventurers.

3. Lake Cherokee

Lake Cherokee
  • Official Page: Lake Cherokee
  • Distance from Murphy: 12 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Hiking, Picnics

Lake Cherokee is a small 42-acre reservoir adjacent to Hiwassee Lake. It’s a highly-rated day destination with a unique overflow dam. 

The reservoir has one recreation area, which consists of picnic shelters, grills, restrooms, and a large fishing pier. It’s a hidden gem that not many know.

There is no boat ramp on the lake, so the boating activities are limited to kayaking and canoeing. And although swimming is allowed at Lake Cherokee, not many people swim here as the water is muddy-brown and uninviting.

Fishing is ok, however. The lake has various bass, crappie, and cats. Plus, you have access to Hiwassee Lake with its trout.

Another great thing about this location is the 2-mile hiking trail that loops the lake. It’s an easy, flat walk through serene woods.

Although Lake Cherokee isn’t as versatile as other options on the list, it has its charm. It’s a nice day-use spot close by.

4. Lake Nottely

Lake Nottely
  • Official Page: Lake Nottely
  • Distance from Murphy: 14 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Hiking, Camping

Lake Nottely is a 4,180-acre reservoir in Georgia, just 25 minutes from Murphy. It’s a gorgeous lake with clear blue water and no limits on recreation.

The reservoir has nine access areas like boat ramps and marinas. Plus, there are several lakeside campgrounds with RV sites and cabins, giving you plenty of choices.

Swimming is allowed at Lake Nottely, and its clear water is always inviting. However, there is just one designated swimming area (Poteete Creek).

Fishing is fantastic here, too. Although the reservoir doesn’t have any state records to its name, the fish size is pretty good. And if you’re struggling with a bite, look for fish attractors.

The nice thing about this lake is that you don’t have to own a boat to enjoy it. The marinas offer kayak and pontoon rentals, making it an accessible lake for everyone.

Overall, it’s a hugely versatile reservoir that can easily accommodate anyone for any duration, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

5. Blue Ridge Lake

  • Official Page: Blue Ridge Lake
  • Distance from Murphy: 23 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Hiking, Camping

Blue Ridge Lake is another superb destination just 30 minutes from Murphy. This 3,290-acre reservoir is known for fantastic fishing and a wide selection of water activities.

The shoreline here is a mix of private and public land, which provides all types of access areas, from quiet primitive sports to buzzing marinas.

The nearest recreational area is Morganton Point. It has a campground, a boat ramp, and kayak rentals. But if you’re planning on hiring a pontoon boat or need a fishing guide, Lake Blue Ridge Marina is the nearest spot.

Talking about fishing, it’s absolutely fantastic here. The reservoir has a wide variety of species, including trout. Fish comes in decent sizes, and the bite is excellent, too. And to prove it, the lake boasts a state record for a whopping 38-pound muskie.

And when it comes to recreation, there are no limits here at all. Blue Ridge Lake is a full-on lake with activities that range from swimming and snorkeling to wakeboarding and jet skiing. And on land, there are hiking and camping to do.

Also, the reservoir is one of the cleanest in the area. Its clear aquamarine water attracts visitors from far and wide, making it a busy place during summer weekends. So time your visit accordingly to avoid queues at the boat ramps.

6. Chatuge Lake

  • Official Page: Chatuge Lake
  • Distance from Murphy: 19 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Hiking, Camping

Chatuge Lake is another excellent recreation reservoir near Murphy. The 7,000-acre lake straddles the border with Georgia and can be reached in just 25 minutes.

What makes this reservoir unique is the selection of access areas. There are 19 spots where you can take a dip, kayak, and launch a boat, more than any other lake in the area.

And just like many other reservoirs around Murphy, Chatuge Lake has no limits on recreation. You can swim, fish, paddle, boat, hike, and camp to all your heart’s desire. And the water is crystal clear, too.

Another fantastic fact about the lake is that it’s excellent for fishing. The reviews are high, species selection is impressive, and the bite is decent. And when it comes to the fish size, Chatuge Lake has nothing to be shy about. It holds two state records in Georgia and two in NC.

Overall, the reservoir is very versatile and can accommodate any visitor, from seasoned anglers to first-timers.

7. Lake Burton

Lake Burton
Photo: ESwift/ CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Lake Burton
  • Distance from Murphy: 43 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Hiking, Camping

Lake Burton is a 2,775-acre reservoir in Georgia. It’s another incredible destination with unique features and no limits on recreation.

The reservoir has several access areas, including marinas and boat ramps. But one that stands out is the Moccasin Creek State Park

It has campsites, a fishing pier, a boat ramp, kayak rentals, and 4 miles of hiking trails. And with state parks, you know you are always getting a fair service at a fair price.

Another unique thing about Lake Burton is that it’s a trout fishery. Every fall, the lake is stocked with 20,000 ten-inch brown trouts that quickly grow in size, and there are reports of 11-pound lunkers taken from the lake. 

To learn more about fishing at Lake Burton, check out this report.

Overall, it’s a fun and versatile reservoir. Start with the state park and take it from there.

8. Nantahala Lake

Nantahala Lake
  • Official Page: Nantahala Lake
  • Distance from Murphy: 27 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Lodges, Cabins

Nantahala Lake is a charming 1,600-acre reservoir 40 minutes from Murphy. It’s the best option for romantic getaways and lakeside lodging.

When it comes to access, the lake offers a couple of public boat ramps, two marinas, dozens of lodges and cabins, and even a wedding venue. Everything but the campgrounds, unfortunately, there aren’t any at this lake.

But when it comes to water activities, there are no limits whatsoever. Like other lakes around Murphy, you can swim, kayak, fish, and boat as much as you like.

One unique thing about this destination is that you can catch kokanee salmon here; it’s the only lake in NC that stocks these species. The biggest one caught was just over 4 pounds, a decent size. 

However, the overall fishing experience is below average. You will have to learn the lake well before it will pay back.

9. Lake Santeetlah

 Lake Santeetlah in North Carolina
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Lake Santeetlah
  • Distance from Murphy: 40 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Camping, Lodges, Cabins

Lake Santeetlah is a gorgeous destination. It’s a 2,800-acre reservoir nestled by the Blue Ridge Mountains, frequently described as the most beautiful lake in the country.

The reservoir has a good mix of developed and wild. There are options to stay at primitive campsites, use campgrounds, or rent luxury lodges. The choice is yours.

The shoreline is dotted with boat ramps, so the access is easy. And if you want to rent a boat or a kayak, there is a marina at Lake Santeetlah town and a couple of other boat rental places.

In addition to modern facilities, this reservoir also offers remote and wild experiences. For example, boat-in camping is possible thanks to the dispersed campsites managed by the national forest.

Fishing is average at Lake Santeetlah. The good thing is that the range of species is diverse. You can catch both warm and cold-water fish, including various trout. But the bite is nothing to write home about. 

Overall, it’s a gorgeous and versatile spot. It will suit seasoned adventurers as much as first-timers.

10. Fontana Lake

Fontana Lake in North Carolina
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Fontana Lake
  • Distance from Murphy: 40 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Hiking, Camping

Fontana Lake is a vast 10,230-acre reservoir northeast of Murphy. It’s the largest and most versatile lake on the list.

The northern shore of Fontana Lake is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It has several primitive campsites, making boat-in camping possible, but you need a backpacking permit.

The southern shore is a mix of marinas, resorts, boat ramps, and recreation areas. For example, Fontana Village is an all-in-one destination with lodging, dining, and boating.

When it comes to activities, Fontana Lake has no limits. Tubing, skiing, and wakeboarding are fantastic here. Plus, there are plenty of spots for swimming and putting a kayak in. And due to the lake’s size and remoteness, it rarely feels crowded.

The only concern for boaters is that TVA drops water levels in winter, making launching difficult.

Also, fishing is challenging at Fontana Lake. Although it has a diverse range of species, the bite is relatively poor. Learning the lake will take time, so hiring a fishing guide could be the fastest way to catch something.

With the Great Smoky Mountains as a backdrop, the reservoir is absolutely stunning. And if you want to add some serious hiking to your lake trip, this is the best option.

11. Lake Ocoee

Lake Ocoee
  • Official Page: Lake Ocoee
  • Distance from Murphy: 41 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Hiking, Camping, Rafting

Lake Ocoee, also known as Parksville Reservoir, is a 1,930-acre lake in Tennessee, just 41 miles west of Murphy. It’s a charming destination surrounded by beautiful mountains and hills.

The cool thing about the lake is the Oconee Scenic Byway that runs along its northern shore. It has plenty of pull-offs for enjoying the views and provides easy access to the lake’s facilities.

The reservoir offers a little bit of everything. It has a campground, a beach, a couple of boat ramps, and a marina with lodges and cabins – everything you may want from a lake.

You quickly realize that rafting is big here when you visit the area. Ocoee River is in the top 10 for white water in the country. Several companies organize rafting expeditions, so you can easily add this adventure to your lake trip.

And when it comes to fishing, it’s excellent at Lake Ocoee. The species selection is fantastic, and the sizes are good for a lake of this size. The state frequently stocks the reservoir to support gamefish numbers; you can read their fishing report here

Overall, Lake Oconee is a solid choice that rarely disappoints, and the stunning views make this destination even more special.

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