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Published August 30, 2018

The Underwater Ghost Town of Judson, North Carolina

Starting in the 1930’s, Swain County began giving up the majority of its private land to the US Department of Interior (Federal Government) for the creation of Fontana Dam, Lake Reservoir, and part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

With the creation of these places, many people were evicted from their homes in several towns and villages, but today we’re focusing on the town of Judson, North Carolina. Judson became submerged when Fontana Lake was needed to meet increasing electricity demands during World War 2.

Both Fontana Dam and Fontana Lake left devastating and life-changing consequences for the 600 people who called the Swain County town home.

There was an elementary school, barber shop, local stores, a sawmill, a post depot, anything you really needed to survive in a small town. The Tennessee River ran straight through the town, and many residents enjoyed their secluded, small town mountain life.

The Road to Nowhere:

When people were evicted, the federal government promised to construct a new road to replace the old highway 288 that was submerged when Fontana dam was created. This road’s purpose was for displaced residents to have access to the old family cemeteries where loved ones rest. The road was called Lakeview Drive, it was going to be built along the north shore of Fontana Dam, from Bryson City, to Fontana, 30 miles to the west.

Sadly, Lakeview Drive became a victim to an environmental issue and construction was stopped, with the road ending at a tunnel, around six miles into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The environmental issue was deemed too expensive, and construction was never continued. And the locals gave the unfinished Lakeview Drive, it’s infamous name, “The Road to Nowhere”. On weekends throughout the summer, the Park still ferries groups of Swain County residents across Fontana Lake to visit their loved ones gravestones.

The legal issue of whether to continue to build the road was finally resolved in 2010, when the United States Department of Interior signed a settlement agreement to pay Swain County $52 million instead of building the road. In 2018, the last payment was made in the settlement agreement.

Can a lake be a Ghost Town?

The State of North Carolina holds the money and the Swain County receives the interest each year. Even though Fontana Dam provided a tremendous amount of necessary power that’s still needed to this day, houses, businesses and even cemeteries are lurking beneath the surface of Fontana Lake Reservoir, it has been said this area and lake is almost like an entire ghost town itself.

Visitors have reported having strange feelings in the area, and many were ready to leave as soon as they arrived.

Locals tell of family cemeteries that lie beneath the seemingly calm waters, leaving this lingering question: are those unmoved graves still haunting the lake to this very day?

While many believe Judson has completely vanished, you can actually view the ghost town when the lake reservoir is extremely low. You can see foundations, gravestones, etc. With permission during drawdowns, you can access this creepy ghost town. Judson is a haunting place, and it’s viewable around one to three times per year.

For those who have been or witnessed it before, what were your experiences? When would you recommend others visit?

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  • Sarah

  • Sarah is a 6th grader in central North Carolina. She loves to write about anything and everything! Sarah's interests are baking, computers, and photography. Sarah also loves to read. All my articles.

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