Land Of The Noonday Sun
The Nantahala National Forest contains many deep, narrow gorges where the sun reaches the ground only when it is directly overhead at noon. Thus the word, Nantahala, Cherokee for “land of the noonday sun”, is appropriate for the river, gorge, and national forest of the same name. This huge forest stretching east to west for 75 miles to the Tennessee border, and north to south from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Georgia, is one of the five national forests in the beautiful southern Appalachian Mountains.
The Nantahala River bisects the national forest nearly in half, beginning just north of the Georgia border northwest of Dillard, Georgia, passing the Sanding Indian Recreation Area, then going between the Nantahala Mountains to the east and the Tusquitee Mountains to the west and finally being dammed to form Nantahala Lake. Northwest of Nantahala Lake, the river enters the spectacular 9 mile long Nantahala Gorge on either side of U.S. Highway 19 and finally converges with the Little Tennessee River where the two rivers form Fontana Lake. Standing Indian Mountain, at 5,499 feet is the highest ridge around the basin.