Beneath rapids of water lies one of North Carolina’s most distinct towns from the past. Although construction and renovation hides what was, the town still sits beneath the water. So is the case with Judson. Hiding beneath Fontana Lake, the town only peeps above water when the lake is extremely low.
Judson was a small town tucked away in the Smokies. Around 600 or so residents called this area home. It was simple, yet enough for the people – home to an elementary school, barber shop, local stores, a sawmill, a post depot….and anything else needed to survive. Many residents enjoyed a small town, secluded lifestyle along the The Tennessee River. Yet, that all changed somewhat quickly.
In the 1930s and ’40s Swain County sold an abundant amount of private land to the national government for the creation of Fontana Lake and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It wasn’t just the residents of Judson, but all who called this area home who were immediately displaced. There was a promise to complete HWY 299 that would allow residents access the few remainders of home, like family cemeteries and land. Yet, ‘The Road To Nowhere’ was never completed and for the majority, home had vanished, was unaccessible, or merely submerged.
Fontana Lake was created, taking over the area and town of Judson. Shops, houses, favorite spots and grave sites vanished. It’s both terrible to be displaced but also to lose complete access and even, with time, the memory of what was once home.
Today, Fontana Dam provides a tremendous amount of ‘necessary’ power but with an overlying negative stigma with an entire town lurking beneath the surface of the Reservoir. It’s claimed that the entirety of Fontana Lake and surrounding area is almost its very own ghost town.
When visiting here, some people claim a strange, eerie feeling while others opt to leave as soon as they arrive. While there’s a popular belief Judson has completely vanished, you can actually view the ghost town when the lake is extremely low. With permission from drawdowns, you can access the eerie ghost town.