Lake Hickory, North Carolina, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - North Carolina - Piedmont -

Lake Hickory, situated in west central North Carolina near the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, is one of several man-made reservoirs in North Carolina’s largest river system, the Catawba River Basin. The Catawba River originates in the eastern slopes of the mountains and flows 225 miles through North and South Carolina. Lake Hickory is located a few miles north of the town of Hickory in North Carolina’s Piedmont tourism region.

The lake was formed in 1927, when Duke Energy completed the construction of Oxford Dam – 1200 feet long and 122 feet high – and takes the name of Hickory, the nearest city. Lake Hickory covers 4,223 acres from Oxford Dam to Rhodhiss Dam of the neighboring Rhodhiss Lake and reaches 935 feet above sea level at full pond. It has a shoreline 109 miles long. Lake Hickory, located in Alexander County and touching Burke, Caldwell and Catawba Counties, supplies electricity and water to the cities of Hickory and Longview.

Duke Energy continues to control and manage the reservoir and along with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, offers 5 public access areas: Gunpowder, Lovelady, Wittenburg, Dusty Ridge, and Oxford Access Areas. There are also 16 marinas scattered around Lake Hickory.

Popular water activities on the lake include sailing, boating, swimming, water skiing, tubing and fishing. Though there are no public swimming areas on Lake Hickory, residents with lake access may swim. Common fish in Lake Hickory are largemouth bass, striped bass, crappie and channel catfish. Fishing tournaments are both plenty and popular during North Carolina’s busy summertime.

Possibilities for more recreational opportunities are currently under deliberation. In 2006, Duke Energy received final signatures from participants in its proposed Catawba-Wateree Relicensing. The plans in the agreement will impact Lake Hickory’s water levels, which currently fluctuate from 94 to 100 feet (Duke Energy’s target levels are from 96 to 97 feet). Other plans will affect shoreline management; public access to information; new facilities for fishing, canoeing, paddling, kayaking, swimming, camping and picnicking; and management of growing water demands.

Duke Energy, the North Carolina Division of Water Quality (DWQ) and groups such as the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation monitor the water quality of Lake Hickory and its watershed. Water samples during the 1980’s and 1990’s found decreased water quality in areas of municipal wastewater discharges and rural runoff. Efforts have been implemented to support all uses of Lake Hickory, including aquatic life, recreation, and drinking water supply.

Lake Hickory is home to a variety of native North Carolina species of plants and animals. Bald eagles and ospreys can be sighted in the area. About 20 miles of shoreline are still undeveloped, providing areas for wildlife to thrive and for visitors to enjoy the natural environment. The rest of the shoreline is largely spotted with private homes and docks.

There are countless things to do in the Lake Hickory area. The nearby all-American, Southern hospitality town of Hickory is cited by its residents as one of the best places to live. Community values, low taxes, and the diversity of activities all in one place are among the top reasons for making Hickory such a prime location. Hickory is known world-wide for its furniture, so if you have a weakness for home decorating, you should head for a first-class furniture experience. The Hickory Museum of Art (second oldest in the state) and the Catawba Science Center are just a couple of opportunities of interest. The Hickory Choral Society’s classical performances, Hickory’s 14 award-winning golf courses, and a plethora of other artistic, cultural and sporting events make Hickory an exciting place while still keeping its small-town charm.

Featured museum and artistic exhibits; arts, folk, pottery and antique festivals; and visual and performing arts are all offered in surrounding counties of Lake Hickory. The nearby Blue Ridge Mountains offer a whole other world of intrigue and fun. Take a trip along the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, go snow skiing, or mountain rafting. Alexander County has a number of public parks with facilities for tennis, volleyball, horshoes, basketball, jogging, picnicking and other sports and activities. Alexander County’s Hiddenite area is a delight for rock enthusiasts who may dig for sapphires, emeralds, quartz and other precious stones.

Options for dining and lodging in the Lake Hickory area are plenty. There are two lakefront restaurants and a wide selection of dining from pizza to steaks, fish camps to coffeeshops in nearby cities. You can also find a modest variety of bed and breakfasts, hotels, inns and suite options. Camping is an attractive possiblity on or near the lake. Real estate options both near and on the lake range from the warm, cozy and rustic to luxurious gated communities and include historic sites for the nostalgic.

Lake Hickory’s desirability lies in its beautiful waters and charming location offering a diverse coming together of Southern antiquity, wilderness adventure, and artistic and cultural sophistication.

Things to do at Lake Hickory

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Antiquing

Fish species found at Lake Hickory

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Striped Bass

Lake Hickory Photo Gallery

Lake Hickory Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Duke Energy

Surface Area: 4,223 acres

Shoreline Length: 109 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 935 feet

Average Depth: 33 feet

Maximum Depth: 100 feet

Water Volume: 137,821 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1927

Water Residence Time: 33 days

Drainage Area: 1,310 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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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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