Take a Boat Ride on the Highest Lake East of the Mississippi River at Lake Glenville, NC

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You can explore Lake Glenville, the highest elevation lake in the Eastern US, in Jackson County, North Carolina by boat with Lake Glenville Scenic Scenic Waterfall Cruises. We did the beautiful boat tour and will tell you all you need to know to enjoy the scenic lake.
We have information about Lake Glenville, including:
What you’ll see on the waterfall tour
Tips for your boat trip
How to book your waterfall tour

Lake Glenville in Jackson County, North Carolina

Thanks to Jackson County, North Carolina for hosting us and providing the opportunity to take the boat tour.

There’s something really special about mountain lakes. Maybe it’s that crisp mountain air, the ancient hills that loom in the distance, that clear water – whatever it is, that’s where I want to be. So when I had the opportunity to take a boat tour with Captain Mark and his scenic boat cruise on Lake Glenville – the only boat tour company that operates on the lake – I was all in. We got to see waterfalls, a bald eagle nest, and enjoy the beauty of the lake. Plus, it’s only a short drive from Cashiers, so you can add it to your itinerary when visiting the area.

Man fishing on Lake Glenville

History, Biodiversity, and a Sandy Beach: Lake Glenville

Lake Glenville was formed by the damming of a portion of the Tuskegee River in 1941 and served as a power source to make B17 bombers under President Franklin Roosevelt’s direction. Not only that but it also served as the power source for our nuclear operations under the Manhattan Project. It also brought electricity to the Cashiers/Highlands area for the first time.

When the lake was created, it flooded the local town of Hamburg and many structures still remain under the water except for the gravesites, which were moved to a hill overlooking the lake. The lake bottom plunges quickly, to depths of over 130 feet in some places.

A Temperate Rainforest, here? Yep!

The lake sits at 3,494 feet above sea level and is clean and cool. The lake has 26 miles of shoreline, a couple of public boat ramps, and a pretty sandy beach swim area accessible at the Pines Recreation Area. It’s also part of the only temperate rainforest in this part of the country. There are only three in the country. If you’ve been to Lake Jocassee, that is also part of this same temperate rainforest.

Why is this so cool? Because it provides exceptional microclimates for thousands of species of plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world. It’s a desired place for research for botanists, ecologists, geologists, and many other sciences. 

Also, because of the diversity of flora and fauna, the fall colors on Lake Glenville are spectacular because there are so many different kinds of trees that change color. Captain Mark told us that astronauts have said they can see the colors of the leaves from space some seasons – that’s how magnificent and bright they are. 

About the Lake Glenville Scenic Waterfall Tour

Captain Mark Wise is a licensed sea captain with more than 40 years of boating experience. The boat is fully insured and very safe with plenty of lifejackets and other protective safety measures. He’s been doing cruises on Lake Glenville for the past five years and is currently rated on TripAdvisor as the number one outdoor attraction in the area.

Lake Glenville Boat Tour in Western North Carolina

Captain Mark is also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Lake Glenville, which makes the boat tour even more interesting. The boat is a luxury pontoon boat that is very comfortable. It can hold up to 14 guests and cruises are two hours. The boat is available for private charter cruises. 

While you’ll see waterfalls and a lot of cool things on Lake Glenville, you won’t be getting out to swim. 

Things You’ll See on the Boat Tour

There are three waterfalls you’ll get to see on Lake Glenville and you can only get to them by boat because they are on private property. Hurricane Falls was my favorite because it’s multitiered and easy to see the whole thing. It’s tucked away in a little cove that I would have never found otherwise! 

Hurricane Falls on Lake Glenville

A pair of bald eagles live on Lake Glenville and Captain Mark will show you where the nest is and tell you all about it. We learned all sorts of neat information about the bald eagle and got to see the enormous nest, which is bigger than any other bird’s nest and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds! 

You’ll also get to see the dam that is used for hydroelectricity and admire all the beautiful lake houses, which we learned cost an average of around $2 million. You can dream, right? 

We saw lots of birds, including the Kingfisher. And my kids fed geese and ducks as they landed by water skiing next to the boat. So cute. 

Best ages for the tour

Literally, anyone will enjoy this boat tour. Any age and ability are welcome. The boat is handicap accessible. 

Captain Mark told us about a family he had on a tour recently where one of the teenagers was in a wheelchair. He had said that the kid felt like he was always holding his family back from doing things. Well, he enjoyed the boat tour immensely and was so happy. His mom came up afterward and started crying, telling Captain Mark that he had no idea what the experience meant for her family and her son. It was so special. 

Lake Glenville Boat Tour in Western North Carolina

Tips on going on the tour 

The pontoon boat is very comfortable and spacious and Captain Mark allows you to bring food and drink on the boat, which is awesome because kids always need snacks. So don’t forget the water and snacks. We ended up bringing our lunch on the boat since the tour lasted for two hours and was at lunchtime. 

Bring a jacket. Even in warmer weather, the wind from the speed of the boat will be cool. 

Bring sunglasses, a secure hat, and sunscreen. While the boat is covered, sunscreen is never a bad idea while doing outdoor activities. 

Go to the bathroom beforehand. There’s no bathroom on the boat and you won’t be stopping anywhere on the lake to do so. 

Leave your dog, cat, or baby goat at home. No pets are allowed on the boat. 

Booking Your Lake Glenville Scenic Waterfall Cruise

Boat tours run from March through November 1 and you can either book a ticket on the regular group tours or charter a private tour. Since Captain Mark’s boat tours are the only ones that operate on the lake, it’s best to book your spot when you figure out the dates that you’ll be on the lake, especially during the busier seasons of summer and fall foliage in October. Cruises operate March-November. 

Tickets are $85/person plus a 3% service fee and you can book a Lake Glenville Scenic Waterfall Cruise. Gratuity is always appreciated. 

You’ll park at Pine Creek Access Area (2799 Pine Creek Road), drop off your party, and then Captain Mark will help you move your car to a small lot a minute down the road. Be sure to arrive early! Cruises happen rain or shine unless there is thunder and lightning. 

Lake Glenville Scenic Waterfall Cruises
2799 Pine Creek Road, Cullowhee, NC 

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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