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Windsurfing and Kiteboarding on Watauga Lake
Thanks to Gary Holt for the thorough description of this gem up in the Appalachians:
I've heard it said from several sources that Watauga Lake is the "fourth cleanest lake east of the Mississippi"...owing to being surrounded by national forest. The Applachain Trail, eg, apparently runs along the ridgeline on the lake's northern shore, and I'm pretty sure has trailhead access on Hwy 321 at the lake's western end.
Thanks to it's narrow length, and the ridges essentially lining both northern and southern shores, winds here often seem to defy the forecast....sometimes working against you, sometimes for. It's beyond my pay-grade to figure out all those dynamics, but luckily there is a handy [webcam] panning directly across the western portion of the lake allowing for a live look. This is the portion of the lake I've sailed and windsurfed, and definitely appears to be the lake's most open.
East and west winds are obviously the best on Watauga, but again...sometimes even when the forecast is light from either the north or south, the webcam will show east or west winds kicking through there nicely.
The lake is deep, and relatively cold in comparison to Hartwell and what I trust is similar on Lanier. I've not attempted any winter windsurfing there. Yet.
Pretty much the only launch I"ve used is Watauga Point Recreation area on the south shore (google maps will show it). Best for winds from the west, not bad for winds from the east, though there's an island just east of launch that may split the wind coming down the lake. It's also a great day-use spot; family friendly, and frequented on weekends by swimmers, kayakers, floaters, picnic'ers, etc. On off season weekdays, on the other hand, you might have it all to yourself. Plenty of parking and grass for rigging, and launching is through a couple of obvious walk-in spots between all the riprap at the parking lot's north-east corner.
On one occasion I drove to Watauga Dam Boat Ramp on the lake's northwest shore. The drive around the lake to that spot is quite circuitous, but fully paved. It's not as nice (has a small grass spot for riggging), and launching is just down the boat ramp (which wasn't busy at all that day). I probably wouldn't bother with this launch unless you had some definitive easterly winds to take advantage of. I did that day, and thanks to the open fetch to the east from there...I had a great ride over some clean little 'swells'.
There is an eastern lobe of the lake that I have no experience with...but it looks even narrower on the map...and I don't know personally of any access points.
For anyone inclined to camp in the area, Carden's Bluff Campground is a great little Forest Service campground. Its shorelines, however, are very steep, with many trees (standing, and not standing) so I couldn't really imagine anyone staying there daring to launch unless the water level was down revealing some more open shoreline. Still would be very tricky though. And Watauga Point Rec area is a quick, straight shot just a few miles down the road.
And here is a link to a 3+ minute video of a nice day sailing from Watauga Point this fall that should offer a clear sense of what can be on offer. When I get a windy day there...it absolutely is a treat!
Here's a screen grab of google maps showing the lakes western lobe, with a few notes from me in red summarizing all the notes above.
Recommended Wind Directions
Beginner Intermediate Advanced
Terrain to the north and south will severly limit wind from those directions or in some cases wrap it around to the east or west.
Map Key will be arriving shortly.
Maps in this Wiki
- Alabama Map
- Alabama North Tennessee Valley Map
- Allatoona Lake
- Atlanta Area Map
- Florida East Central Map
- Florida Panhandle East Map
- Florida Panhandle West Map
- Florida South Map
- Florida West Central Map
- Georgia Map
- Lake Lanier Map
- Lake Lanier Underwater Contour Maps
- Southeast Map
- TBC Map of North Carolina
- Tennessee East Map