Kerr Lake, North Carolina & Virginia, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - North Carolina - Piedmont - Virginia - Southern Virginia -

Also known as:  Kerr Reservoir, John H Kerr Reservoir, Buggs Island Lake, Buggs Island Reservoir

The 48,900-acre John H. Kerr Reservoir straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border. This impoundment of the Roanoke and Dan Rivers, completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1952, was created originally for flood control and for generation of hydroelectric power. Kerr Lake has become a recreational wonderland since then, with excellent fishing, boating, sailing, skiing, swimming, and camping opportunities.

The original name of Kerr Lake was Buggs Island Lake, named after an island in the Roanoke River just below the dam site in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Samuel Bugg was an early Virginia settler, and locals still call the reservoir Buggs Island Lake. However, the lake’s official name is the John H. Kerr Reservoir, named after the U.S. Senator from North Carolina – a strong supporter of the federal project. Waters from Kerr Lake Dam flow into Lake Gaston, another reservoir straddling the borders of Virginia and North Carolina. Kerr Lake is conveniently located to I-85, 45 miles from Raleigh, North Carolina and 110 miles from Richmond, Virginia.

Kerr Lake’s full pond level is 300 feet above sea level, covering 76 square miles at this elevation. Lake levels usually fluctuate about 15 feet during each year. The Army Corps of Engineers owns to the 320 foot elevation, so there is little lakefront development. Kerr Reservoir is over 100 feet deep at the dam with an average depth of about 30 feet. It is Virginia’s largest lake by surface area; upstream Smith Mountain Lake is Virginia’s largest by water volume.

Kerr Lake invites you outdoors to enjoy the beauty of nature, the calm of the water, and all the fun that can be had while basking under a golden sun. Begin your trip as many do, enjoying the lake by boat, whether rented at a local marina or brought from home. There are boat launches located all around the 800-mile lake shoreline, so be sure to check for the one closest to your lodging. Powerboats enjoy the openness that its nearly 50,000 acres provides. Sailboats drift along, waiting to catch the perfect wind that will take them flying down the channel, testing their crews’ skills as they pass green shores and interesting rock formations. The perfect follow-up activity to boating is a dip in the cool Kerr Lake waters. Though there are many defined swimming locations around the lake, most often found in the recreation areas, many boaters choose a quiet spot to drop their anchor and dive in. Whatever your pleasure, you’ll surely enjoy the deep blue water’s effect on your sun-drenched skin.

Eager anglers know Kerr Lake as one of the best fishing lakes in the eastern United States. Largemouth bass are the most popular catches at Kerr Lake. Crappie are the second most popular catches; the lake has one of the best crappie fisheries in the southeast. Kerr Lake is just one of the few lakes in the country where striped bass (stripers) reproduce naturally. Other popular catches include catfish and white perch. Drop in a line from your boat or head to one of the lake’s fishing piers. Anglers can use either a Virginia or North Carolina fishing license on either side of the state line.

Facilities available at the Kerr Lake State Recreation Area near Henderson, North Carolina include boat ramps, camping, RV hook-ups, fishing piers, swimming, hiking trails, picnic areas, and a community building for group events. Henderson is also an auto-lover’s new favorite place, boasting the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame; the Show, Shine, Shag & Dine Car Show; and the Corbitt Truck show. These annual events bring classic cars, nostalgic drag cars, powerful muscle cars, and classic trucks to Henderson, providing endless entertainment and education.

Clearly, Kerr Lake can be a place to kick back, put your feet up, and enjoy a picnic to the background music of a lake lapping at the shore. It can also be your home base for a vacation featuring classic cars, fine dining, and explosive entertainment. Lakeview vacation home rentals are ideal for week-long stays, nearby hotels are convenient for shorter visits.

Things to do at Kerr Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking

Fish species found at Kerr Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Striped Bass
  • White Perch

Kerr Lake Photo Gallery

Kerr Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: US Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 48,900 acres

Shoreline Length: 800 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 300 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 268 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 320 feet

Average Depth: 30 feet

Water Volume: 3,364,500 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1952

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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