There are three major lakes in our area – Lake Blue Ridge (Blue Ridge), Lake Nottely, (Blairsville), and Chatuge (Young Harris/Hiawassee). There is also a beautiful little lake north of Ducktown, Tennessee, called Campbell Cove Lake, and a lake northwest of Murphy called Appalachia Lake.
Lake Blue Ridge has about 100 miles of shoreline. About 80 miles of this are national forest, which severely limits the availability of property and drives price. It’s well over 100 feet deep in the river channel, and the thrill for the lake fisherman is walleye. Years ago, it was a destination for muskellunge, and some say there is still a small population. Many people consider it the finest lake in Georgia. Lake Nottely is more narrow and shallow, and it is also developed to a greater extent. Chatuge is the largest in terms of shoreline, with about 130 miles of shoreline. There is some public property on Chatuge, but most of the lake is developed. Chatuge lies partly in North Carolina, and the closest town in North Carolina is Haysville.
All three of these are TVA lakes, which has considerable implications.
First, the TVA is in charge of dock permits. Anything you want to buy that has an existing dock has to be investigated to make sure the dock permit exists and is valid. There are quotas on dock permits in most cases, and it isn’t easy to get a new one issued. This is probably the major due diligence issue. (The other is the validity and adequacy of the septic permit for existing construction or the ability to obtain one for a suitable number of bathrooms on a vacant lot. The septic permit should state the correct number of bedrooms.) There is no way I would buy a piece of property on any lake without making absolutely certain about these two things.
Second, the TVA pulls these lakes down in the winter for flood control. The TVA has recently agreed to keep the lake levels higher all winter and wait longer to begin the drawdown, but there are no guarantees with the TVA. Because of the drawdown, docks may not be usable in the winter, depending on the lake and location. In very dry summers, like the one we’re having now, most docks may not be usable. So you’ll see talk about “deep water” lots and so forth, implying that the dock is usable year round, which may or may not be the case. Sometimes, what you have is a creek in the winter and a lake front when the lake is full. Some coves only have water at full pool. There’s very little underwater structure in these lakes, and the lake at winter pool isn’t nearly as attractive as it is at full pool, because you see the muddy bank all around the lake. However, this doesn’t seem to diminish their appeal. The property on all of these lakes has appreciated considerably – in most cases incredibly – in the past ten years.
Third, in most cases, the TVA actually owns to a certain contour line on the lot. If the water level on a particular lot is below this line, you don’t actually “own” the lake frontage. This can mean that the TVA will not allow you to cut trees to improve your view, for instance, if they’re on the part they own. In theory, it means that someone could come in a boat and camp there, although I’ve never actually heard of that happening.
Campbell Cove Lake, north of Ducktown, Tennessee, is a smaller lake that is not a part of the TVA system. It’s very beautiful, and is quite peaceful because no gasoline motors are allowed. It is the water source for Ducktown. Fishing, swimming, and boating are permitted, and there is some very nice property on this lake.
Appalachia, which is between Murphy, NC and Farner, TN, is a TVA lake, but it enjoys special status as a designated wilderness lake. While there is no building on the actual lake frontage, this lake enjoys a full pool all year long.