According to the Cherokee tradition, hidden deep within the Smoky Mountains, there is an enchanted lake that humans cannot see. Known as Atagahi, this magical lake is an oasis for animals of every kind, with thousands of water birds, fish, reptiles, and bears enjoying its water.
In one story, the enchanted lake reveals itself to a young Cherokee man after days of fasting and continuous prayer. Having proven that he has no intention to hunt at Atagahi, the pure hearted man is permitted to see the lake’s stunning violet water and teeming wildlife. When his vision ends, the man marks the location of the secret lake with a pile of rocks.
A short time after this discovery, a terrible winter brings the Cherokee to the brink of starvation. Faced with no other choice, the young hunter returns to Atagahi to bring food back to his family. When he shoots a bear with his bow, however, the animal falls into the purple water and emerges unscathed. The bear tells the trespasser that he has betrayed them and the young man is attacked by a furry horde.
After the snowstorm passes, the Cherokee find the body of the young man, but there are no tracks from the bears who mauled him. Although Atagahi was forever sealed off from human intervention after the young hunter’s treachery, legend has it that you can still see morning mist rise from the magic lake when you stand at the top of Clingmans Dome.
Clingman’s Dome is a sacred mountain to the Cherokees, where the “magic lake” was once seen. The Great Spirit told the Cherokees that “If they love me, if they love all their brothers and sisters, and if they love all the animals of the earth, when they grow old and sick, they can come back to the ‘magic lake’ and be made well again.”