Lake Hickory, North Carolina, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Lake Hickory.

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Lake Hickory visitor and community guide

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.

Custom Lake Hickory house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

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

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Lake Hickory

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Lake Hickory photo gallery

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Lake Hickory statistics & helpful links


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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