Carters Lake is the deepest lake in Georgia, with a depth of over 450 feet and an average depth of 200 feet. The lake is approximately 3,200 acres and has 62 miles of shoreline. The Army Corp of Engineers owns Carters Lake, so this lake has no private residences on the shoreline. The lake’s dam is the highest earthen dam east of the Mississippi River and was completed in 1977.
The Coosawattee River which forms Carters Lake was at one time revered as having the best whitewater in the southeast. In fact, it is the river that inspired, Tom Dickey’s novel Deliverance, which was later adapted into a screenplay and made into a movie.
This is a young, beautiful lake and fortunately not very popular. Though there are no private residences on the lake, there is a marina and a few campgrounds. From what we saw, the private campgrounds are more geared toward R/V use. We stayed in the boat in/Hike in primitive camping area on the north side of the lake, east of the dam.
The boat in primitive campground was our destination for this trip (you can also hike in). We chose to launch our kayaks from the public boat ramp near Woodring Branch Campground. There is a fee of five dollars per day for day use and camping. We stopped and paid our fee and off to the boat ramp we went. We saw some Mexican guys fishing there and gave them some advice about buying kayaks. The guy I was talking to said that he “needs to make a white friend because we are crazy.” Apparently, his buddy couldn’t swim and was afraid of the water. After a little more banter we got our kayaks packed with our gear, loaded up the dogs and launched the boats.
It was a nice and peaceful 1.5-mile paddle across the lake to the peninsula where the campground was. There were some power boats out on the lake and some other kayakers as well, but not an overwhelming amount of traffic.
We landed the kayaks at the first spot that we saw and explored the campground for possible sites. As it turns out, the one we landed at was the one most suited for us. There was one other person camping at the campground, and they were on the opposite side of the peninsula.
The campground here is very well kept and has twelve sites with great amenities. Each site is lakeside and has a lantern post, grill, picnic table, fire ring, tent pad and a trash can. There are also two outhouses stocked with toilet paper. Marcie and I refer to this as luxury camping. (we do a lot of backpacking) However, it was a challenge finding a spot to hang our hammocks side by side, but we made it work. If you don’t need to be side by side, disregard the last sentence.
This is a great place to get away if you have a kayak or canoe. You can also hike two miles into the campground on the Amadahy LoopTrail. I don’t know how much traffic this campground gets on the weekends because we got there on a Sunday afternoon. When we were checking out the other campsites, only a few looked like they had been used recently. Being that the only way in other than boat is a two-mile hike, I imagine that limits the number of visitors this place sees. It probably also helped that the kids were already back in school when we took this trip in late September.
Just A Nice Relaxing Place
If I had three thumbs, they would all be pointing up for Carters Lake Boat-In Campground. As I mentioned earlier, there was some traffic on the lake, but nothing obnoxious. Just people out fishing on pontoon boats and pulling the kids around on those things you pull kids on behind boats. We talked to some other kayakers who passed by about the campsites. They were in awe of the setup as well and said that they were definitely coming back to do their own little camping trip there.
Like most campgrounds, the availability of firewood was pretty lacking close to the campsites. I had to get in the kayak and paddle across the cove outside of the camping area to find some. The trip wasn’t long, just far enough away from where most people are willing to walk to gather firewood. Once I landed the kayak and got on the trail, (which is actually a service road) I didn’t even need to leave the path to find some suitable wood to cook our dinner. It did require a little sawing and chopping with my tomahawk and manual chainsaw to be able to load it into the kayak, but it wasn’t too much work. If you have the right tools, it really doesn’t take much wood to make a nice cooking fire.
After splitting the wood I had gathered, it was time to light the fire and make some dinner. Our camp dinner that night was Johnsonville cheddar and jalapeno sausages cooked over open flames. We brought some Bush’s honey beans as well, but after three sausages a piece, we had no room left for the beans.
Rest and Relaxation
By the time dinner was done and cleaning up, it was time for some serious relaxation. The time had come to lay in our hammocks and take in the sounds of Carters Lake along with some audio files from our phones.
The lake was pretty peaceful, although, there were a few boats out and I heard some music coming from the marina. The music wasn’t really loud and if I recall correctly, it was classic rock, and it stopped when I turned our lantern off. I’m guessing that whoever was playing the music was aware that we were out there camping and respected that we were trying to enjoy some quiet time.
While I was laying there in my hammock I could hear the occasional fish breaking the surface of the water. The splashes were pretty loud, so I imagine they were some pretty big fish. I just laid there and listened to the ripple of the water and occasional bird singing and eventually drifted off to sleep to the peace and quiet of the night.
A New Day
We slept in until about eight and rolled out of our hammocks to get the coffee going. I brought the percolator with me, so we actually got to have real coffee on this trip. We usually have to settle for instant on our backpacking trip. It gets the job done, but it tastes like, well, you know what it tastes like. After getting thoroughly caffeinated, I worked up an appetite by splitting a little more wood, so we could cook our breakfast.
For breakfast, I started a fire on the grill with the little bit of wood that I gathered the day before and split that morning. I got some good coals going and it was time to cook. The menu consisted of some chorizo, black beans, eggs, Mexican melting cheese, and tortillas. We love breakfast burritos!
While cooking breakfast I heard a motorized vehicle and saw that it was the maintenance crew on their Gator. They came by and emptied the trash and we spoke with them for a few minutes. They told us that they come out twice a week on Monday and Thursday to empty the trash, clean up and restock the outhouses.
After breakfast, we cleaned the dishes and, Marcie decided to do a little lounging in her hammock. While she was enjoying her relaxation time, I decided to practice a little tree identification with my Peterson Field Guide on eastern trees.
Unfortunately, the time came to pack up and leave our little paradise. We got everything packed up onto our boats and said goodbye to the campground. The paddle back to the boat ramp was super peaceful and there was almost nobody on Carters Lake that day. Hagrid even decided that he was going to walk the plank and take a dip.
Carters Lake is a great place to kick back and relax for a short overnight, weekend, or even a week. The primitive campground is open year round and with a fee of only $5 per day to park, you just can’t beat this place.
You can pack plenty of supplies into a kayak or canoe to make your stay as comfortable as you want. If you don’t have a boat, the two-mile hike makes it pretty easy to access for backpacking as well. Since the trail in is really a service road, I imagine that if you had one of those wagons with the big off-road tires, you could bring a lot more gear. (just a thought)
Carters Lake is pristine and is known for its clear blue water. If you are looking for a place to have a nice relaxing, low maintenance camping trip, this is the place to do it. Just don’t forget to bring your water filter because just about the only amenity this campground doesn’t have is running water.
So get out there and enjoy one of Georgia’s best-kept secrets and remember to leave this place cleaner than you found it, your kids will thank you one day. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to use the comment box below, or shoot us an email.
Thanks for reading.
Click the pins for directions.
The top pin is directions to hike in.
The bottom pin will take you to boat in.
The directions will get you to Woodring Campground. Pass Woodring and follow the signs to the boat ramp.
Nottely Lake is 20 miles long, 4,180 acres and has 106 miles of shoreline. There are a couple different ways we could have gone about camping at Nottely Lake. We could have camped at Poteete Creek Campground, (if you prefer having toilets, running water and electricity, this would be the obvious choice) however, we went the route of dispersed camping. Our goal for this trip was privacy and solitude.
While planning the trip with my map and satellite photos, I discovered Hyatt Bend island. I saw a cove that looked pretty nice and it appeared to have a beach, so we decided we were going check it out and see if we liked it when we got there. The island lies directly across from the beach at Poteete Creek Campground and just far enough away for privacy. We also wanted a spot where the dogs could roam free without having us having to worry about them
Neither, Marcie or I had ever been to Nottely Lake before, so we took a little extra time off of work to make it a three- day, two-night expedition. Our plan was to get an early start to get there early just in case the island wasn’t suitable. There are other islands to choose from, so we wanted time to explore those as well. Hyatt Bend Island is just offshore from Davenport Mountain, which has some ATV trails we wanted to check out and hike.
Nottely Lake Execution
We loaded our gear and put the kayaks on the roof of the car the night before. This way we could head out fairly early in the morning. The next morning we got on the road at about nine am. and we arrived at Nottely Lake at around eleven-thirty. We chose to launch the kayaks from the boat ramp at Poteete Creek Campground. I had spoken to them a few days prior to confirm if we would be able to park overnight. The lady I spoke to said it would be a nominal fee of two dollars per night. I figured that was a bargain and decided that was what we would do. We didn’t want to take a chance at being towed or someone vandalizing the car.
We found the office, paid our six dollars for parking and talked to a gentleman about camping on the lake and asked if it would better to launch from the ramp or the beach. He told us the ramp would probably be a wiser choice to avoid walking a mile. Then he asked us if we needed ice and it just so happened that we did. He told us it was two dollars a bag, explained that it was an honor system and directed us to the ice machine, which we had conveniently parked right next to. We put four dollars in the slot on a locked mailbox and took our two bags of ice.
We drove over to the boat ramp, took the kayaks off the car and loaded our gear onto boats. It was time to launch!
Hyatt Bend Island here we come
We launched the kayaks from the ramp and off we paddled. It was a beautiful day to be out on the water. We headed toward the dam and around a little peninsula. At the tip of the peninsula, we took a right and followed the shoreline around the campground. From there we paddled into open water for a little less than half a mile. Hyatt Bend Island was in sight and so was our cove. The excitement was definitely starting to build as we got closer. We didn’t know what to expect of Hyatt Bend except what had seen on the satellite imagery.
We made it to our cove and landed on the beach and took the dogs out of the boats. They were just as excited as we were to be there. Unfortunately, this little beach was in plain view from the campground beach. It also wasn’t as nice as we had anticipated, so we decided to scout the island for another spot. We walked up the beach and into the woods to see what we could find. Hyatt Bend isn’t very big, maybe two thousand feet long by five hundred feet at its widest point.
We found an established campsite in the middle of the island and it looked pretty sweet but we decided to do a little more scouting. We found another spot on the west side of the island as well, but what we really wanted was a beach spot, so we pressed on. Once on the south side of the island, we found another cove with a perfect little beach. We assessed the area and found a spot for our shelter and our hammocks. This was it!
Our Beach Spot
After paddling around the western tip of the island, we landed at our little beach spot. It was time to unload and set up camp for the weekend. The only place to put our hammocks and hang our tarp was covered by vines with hellaciously gnarly thorns. These suckers were bad! One actually went right through the tread of my Olu Kai flip flops and stabbed me in the foot. I used my tomahawk to cut the vines back, which took about half an hour and yes they fought back. These things scratched, stabbed, scraped and poked me several times during this process but I prevailed the victor of this battle.
I set up the ridgeline and began to hang our tarp, while Marcie gathered stones from the beach to build a fire ring. By this time the wind had picked up and started to blow from the south. Remember, we were on the south side of the island, so it was blowing right into our little beach spot. This definitely made securing the tarp a little challenging, but I got through it and we wound up with a nice little shelter.
After we got the shelter built and Marcie built the fire ring, it was time to gather wood. There was definitely an abundance of the stuff on this island and we didn’t have to go far to get it either. All we really had to do was walk the up the beach where the sand met the tree line and gather as we went. The best part of it being so close and plentiful was that we didn’t have to dedicate much of our relaxation time to collect it. It was firewood city on Hyatt Bend Island!
Settling Into Relaxation Mode
We put on some afternoon coffee, started a fire and soaked in the fresh air of the outdoors. It was nice to just lounge and forget about the hectic pace of life we left behind in Metro Atlanta. Sitting staring out at the water and watching the dogs explore the beach gave me a great deal contentment.
Of course, hunger was starting to set in and we started thinking about the marinated chicken and all the fixings we brought to accompany it. I had spent the entire day before prepping food for the trip. I made pasta and potato salads then broke down an entire chicken and marinated it for twelve hours for our dinner for the first night on the island.
After dinner, we settled into our hammocks and let the sounds of the lake carry us off to sleep. I was raised from my slumber at one point by the sounds of a very large crash, and I can only assume that it was a blowdown. The wind had picked something fierce and was coming in from the north now, which made our decision to camp on the south side of the island seem more assuring.
We were awakened once again at about 2 am from the sound of a loud boat cruising very slowly across the lake shining a spot light into the woods around Davenport Mountain. This boat was loud and sounded like an old jalopy powered by a lawnmower engine that smoked too many cigarettes after a long night at the bar. What these guys were doing out there in the middle of the night is a mystery to me. I thought that maybe they were poaching. But who on God’s green earth would be stupid enough to commit such a serious felonious act driving what sounded like a piece of broken down lawn equipment on a quiet lake in the middle of the night? They soon moved on and we fell back to sleep.
Good morning Nottely Lake
I woke up before the sunrise and started a pot of coffee to get me moving and warm me up. The temperature dropped into the high forties and with the humidity from the lake, it felt pretty chilly early in April. Thankfully, the coals were still burning from the fire the night before and it didn’t take me long to have a nice fire burning again. I drank my coffee, read my book and watched the sun start to rise over the shoreline of Nottely Lake. It was already shaping up to be a great day on a beautiful lake setting in the north Georgia mountains.
Once the sky was illuminated a little more by the morning sun, I decided to go for a paddle across the lake and check the shoreline across from Hyatt Bend Island. Reaching the bank of the island I landed my boat on the beach. I walked up the hill and found a campsite directly in the middle of the small island. I say the island, but it is actually attached to land by a small sliver of beach that extends about one hundred yards off the shore line. You can tell, though, that at some points during the year this sliver of beach submerged.
The campsite in the middle of this island is nice and there even a toilet constructed with 2x4s and an old toilet seat. Needless to say, I had to take that sucker for a whirl and give it my seal of approval (it passed the test). I thought about strapping to my kayak and hauling back over to our island, but after some calculated cyphering, I decided it would have been too much work. But what a sight that would have been to someone in the distance, me hauling a make shift toilet across a lake strapped to my kayak. It makes me chuckle just thinking about it. After my exploration was over, I paddled back to Hyatt Bend and started contemplating breakfast.
Let’s get this day started
About this time, Marcie was stirring and rising from her slumber. As she slowly got up and got her coffee on, we talked about being woken up by the old jalopy and I asked her if she had heard the sound of the blowdown (she did not). She asked me what I had been doing all morning, so I told her of my boat ride and the tale of the make shift toilet. Immediately she was intrigued by my discovery, and we decided that after breakfast she would have to see it for herself.
The fire I had started earlier in the morning had burned down into perfect cooking coals and it took little to no effort for me to start the cooking process. I don’t know about you, but I love a good campfire breakfast. I started with potatoes cooked with garlic, onions and red bell peppers. Then, of course, some nice thick cut bacon and finally scrambled eggs cooked in the left over bacon grease. A meal fit for two lake explorers with left overs could have probably fed a small tribe in Africa.
After digesting our small meal, we decided to load the dogs onto the kayaks and go check out Nottely Lake and recon campsites for future visits. Our first stop was Toilet Island, or as, Marcie calls it Island Number One. I personally think that Island Number Two would be more appropriate, given earlier events, but whatever. We stormed the beach of Toilet Island and released the hounds to roam the shoreline. I led, Marcie and the dogs to the center of the island and showed her the one fire ring/one bathroom campsite that could quite possibly be our next camping adventure on future visits to Nottely Lake. After viewing this potential future destination, we got in our kayaks and moved to another spot I had picked out on the map to explore.
Island Number Two
We paddled about half a mile south on Nottely Lake and found Island Number Two, we beached our kayaks and started to survey the island. There are a couple of campsite on this island and they were pretty nice. As we walked the beach the dogs found some Canadian geese sitting on their eggs. This did not go well for the dogs. The geese chased them across the beach until I intervened and chased the geese into the lake. We walked around to the south side of the island and found another family of geese but this time we kept the dogs far away.
Island Number Two is awesome and has great potential for our next trip to Nottely Lake. There is a floating dock on the North side of the island and on the west side, there is a gigantic log that was carved out to make a bench. One of the campsites on the island has a small fish cleaning station as well made from plywood attached to one of the trees.
We said goodbye to Island Number Two and paddled back to Hyatt Bend to have some lunch and plan a hike on Davenport Mountain in the evening.
Exploring Hyatt Bend Island
We got back to Hyatt Bend about mid afternoon and it was definitely time for lunch. We got the fire going, grilled some hot dogs and made some baked beans to fuel us up to explore the island.
The trip took us to a jetty that connects the larger portion of Hyatt Bend with a smaller piece when the water is low. As we observed the landscape, it was easy to tell that Hyatt Bend was once the ridge of a knob in the years before the valley was flooded to make Nottely Lake.
While we were on the jetty our dog, Hagrid spotted some geese and chased them into the water. Hagrid decided he was going to wade into the lake and bark at the geese. He’s pretty tough when he gets some distance between himself and a threat.
We ended our exploration and headed back to camp to do some planning for the hike we wanted to do later on Davenport Mountain.
The plan was to paddle past Toilet Island, land on the beach early in the evening, walk up an old jeep trail and hike a lollipop loop along with some ATV trails that I found on the map. This sounded like a great plan to end our day.
After lunch and a little mapping, we launched the boats and paddled over to the beach that we planned on landing. We made our way through some brush and lite forest until we found the jeep trail. When we found the jeep trail we headed west toward Davenport Mountain.
The trail was pretty grown over most of the way until we came to an intersection to the next jeep trail. At the intersection, we made a right and there was a sign on our left stating that the area off the trail was being revegetated and to stay off of it. We walked for a few minutes and the trail came to another intersection and we made a left.
The trail continued on for a bit and we came to the tail of the lollipop there, we made a right. We headed north and eventually we came to the loop and there was a choice to go left or right(we chose right). We made our way about half around the loop and somehow we lost the trail. I went to the top of the ridge to see if I could spot and reclaim the trail. After stomping around for a bit on the ridge I decided to stop looking. Then we decided to turn around and start the way back to the boats.
Settling in for the night
By the time we made it back to Hyatt Bend it was getting late into the evening. We collected some firewood for the night and explored the beach a bit and it very peaceful on Nottely Lake. Aside from a few fishermen, there was no one else on the lake all day.
I got the fire going and put burgers on the grill for dinner. We ate our burgers along with the rest of the potato and pasta salads. After dinner, the wind was picking up again and the temperature was already starting to drop.
As the sun set, we relaxed and listened to the sounds of nature for a bit. It had been a full day, so we retired to our hammocks for the night and read for a bit before we fell asleep.
Saying goodbye to Nottely Lake
We woke up the next morning and had our coffee while we talked a bit around the fire. It was another cold April night on Nottely lake and we were warming up with the fire while we waited for the heat of the sun to take hold. After we warmed up a bit I decided to make our farewell breakfast.
After breakfast, we lounged around a bit and started to pack up most of our gear. I left the shelter for last, so we could hang out for an hour or so before we had to make our way back the campground and head back to the city.
Reluctantly we got into our boats and paddled back to the boat ramp at Poteete Creek Campground. It was a nice day for a paddle and we took our time heading in.
We got back to the boat ramp, unloaded the boats and packed up the car. Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to Nottely Lake.
Nottely Lake was a wonderful place to spend some solitary time. The lake was peaceful and serene and there are plenty of ways to enjoy Nottely Lake. If dispersed island camping isn’t an option for you. Poteete Creek Campground is always another way to enjoy this lake. The hosts there seemed very nice and accommodating. There is also a day use area and I believe they only charge a parking fee of two dollars to use the facilities.
With the small amount of exploring we did, we found four dispersed campsites and I’m sure there are plenty more out there. However, I’m not sure if I can recommend camping there in the summer. In the beginning of April, it was already quite buggy with biting flies out in full force during the heat of the day.
We definitely plan on going back to spend a couple of nights on Island Number Two this fall when it starts to cool down for the season. I also plan on going back to Davenport Mountain to explore the trails up there.
I highly recommend spending some time on Nottely Lake. I guarantee you won’t regret taking the time to acquaint yourself with this lake.
Stay tuned, I plan on making Nottely Lake posts a series as we explore the area more.