Ranging in size from Wolf Creek's 49 acres and Bear Creek's 476 acres, these reservoirs were created by Nantahala Power and Light during the Korean War and are now owned and operated by Duke Power.
The upper lakes, Tanasee and Wolf, were completed in 1955 and are the smallest of the four impoundments at 183 and 49 acres, respectively. Both are located within a half-mile of each other and are joined by an underwater tunnel so water levels in the two lakes remain at the same elevation. Water from the tunnel is piped to a powerhouse where electricity is generated, and water is then released into Bear Creek Lake, and from Bear Creek into Cedar Cliff.
Bear Creek was completed in 1954 and is the largest at 476 acres. While all four have good habitat for black bass species, the upper three lakes are managed by N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission as hatchery-supported trout lakes. Cedar Cliff covers 121 acres and is the lowest-elevation lake of the impoundments. It was completed in 1952 and discharges into the East Fork about a mile upstream from where the East and West Fork combine to form the Tuckasegee. From there, the Tuckasegee eventually winds up at Fontana Lake, owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The Cedar Cliff access area is part of a rare mountain wetland area. They are typically small but important features of the landscape, providing wildlife habitat, filtering runoff water, storing flood waters and maintaining surface-water flows during times of drought.