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Fortunately mother nature cooperated for the most part and we enjoyed the scenic ride across the Cherohala Skyway from Tellico Plains on the Tennessee side of of the Unicoi Mountains over to Robbinsville, North Carolina. Allowing for stops it took about 2 hours to make the trip across the mountain into the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Joyce Kilmer was a poet, journalist, and World War I soldier, killed in action. He was best known for his poem, "Trees."
We arrived at the Cheoah Point campground late afternoon between thunderstorms and setup camp. Cheoah Point is a nice developed campground with 26 sites, most of which have lake views. None of the camp sites here allow easy direct access to the lake but you can see the lake through the trees. The campground looks relatively new or has been recently upgraded with new flush toilet and hot shower facilities. There is a marina nearby with a small store for the essentials you forgot. The campground also has a separate boat launch area and a nice swimming area.
If you prefer less developed campsite areas there are numerous primitive sites all around the lake which doesn't have much development on the west side. If you like luxury, you can rent cabins (check with the marina) or you can enjoy some very nice B&B's. We visited the Blue Boar Lodge while exploring the lake by car on a rainy afternoon. It's very attractive and has its own boat launch area on West Buffalo Creek. They have numerous canoes and touring kayaks for guest use. They also offer private cottages on the property. We decided to come back in the Fall and try a little pampering along with our canoe trip.
For the next two days we managed to get in some great paddling in between showers. It's a beautiful lake especially during the week when there are few power boaters. The lake is supplied by a number of mountain streams and springs. You could spend days exploring the creeks, fishing, and bird watching. We saw a rare Pileated Woodpecker and a beautiful Indigo Bunting on one of our morning paddles. The highlight of the trip was on our last day. After a rainy night and early morning, we decided to let the tent dry out while we took one last paddle up Avey Branch on the northwest side of the lake. At the very end of the branch where Avey Creek enters the lake we saw a very inquisitive River Otter. It popped up about 30 feet in front of us and spoke to us several times with its head high out of the water. My wife was thrilled. She often says that in her next life she wants to come back as a River Otter.
Apparently the otter thought we were interesting enough to bring the family to look at us. As we were lashing the canoe on the rack at the boat ramp, we took a look back at the creek and saw our little friend and two more otters just a few yards away. Unfortunately a pontoon boat came along and the group decided to scurry up the bank to hide. Still it was a rare glimpse of a beautiful creature.
We did a little fishing but not much luck. We were told there are good size largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and walleye. Apparently the fish don't bite; they just taunt you by jumping all around your boat. I saw a huge largemouth bass swim by within 5 feet of our canoe. I swear he looked like he was smirking at me when he went by. If he had fingers he probably would have given me the "Hollywood Howdy." He obviously didn't care that I am strictly a "catch and release" fisherman either or he would have been sporting enough to bite and give me just a moment of pleasure fighting him. Oh well, I guess that's why they call it "fishing" instead of "catching."
Weather not withstanding we had a great time and plan to go back this Fall to see the leaves change and try to find my wife's future family again.
You can also reach the lake from US 129 South from Knoxville or 129 North from Robbinsville.
Kayak Motor Kit
Classic Freestanding Rack