The tallest dam east of the Rocky Mountains, Fontana Dam was built in 36 short months starting in 1942. Spurred by World War II, crews worked in three shifts 24 hours a day on the construction. Fontana is some 480 feet tall and required a mind-boggling 3 million cubic yards of concrete. Completed, it had a power-generating capacity of 293,600 kilowatts.
The Appalachian Trail passes over the top of the dam, and you can too. It is a mammoth concrete creation—equivalent to a 50-story skyscraper. The visitors center (daily 9 a.m.–7 p.m.) is open from May to November, but only when the U.S. Homeland Security threat level is below high (orange).
There are picnic tables and an overlook around the dam. Of note to hikers are the restrooms with hot-water showers, dubbed the Fontana Hilton by through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail.
Fontana impounds the Little Tennessee River. The resulting Fontana Lake is popular for fishing, boating, and swimming. Fontana Village in North Carolina offers shopping, dining, and lodging options.