Lake James, North Carolina, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake James — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Lake James cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Lake James

Nestled into the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake James is a 6,510 acre lake in western North Carolina with 150 shoreline miles. Duke Power constructed three dams between 1916 and 1923 to create the lake: Catawba, Linville, and Paddy Creek. Lake James is the first in the Catawba River chain of lakes with an elevation of 1200 feet above sea level. Although built by Duke Power to provide hydroelectric power to the surrounding region, Lake James has become one of the area’s premier recreation destinations. Development on the lake is mostly low-density housing.

When you visit Lake James, boating will be at the top of your list of things to do. The lake does not have a speed or horsepower limit, so you can choose to whiz around in a powerboat, test the winds in a sailboat, enjoy the views from a pontoon boat, or take your time in a canoe. Duke Power owns five public recreational access locations, including four boat ramps and one fishing and canoe access area. Lake James State Park leases two boat access locations, Hidden Cove and Canal Bridge, from the power company. The other two boat access locations, Black Bear and Linville, and the Bridgewater fishing/canoe area are managed cooperatively by Duke Power and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. In addition, four commercial marinas provide public boat access.

Average water variance on Lake James is about six feet. However, water levels can drop nine to 10 feet during periods of drought. The maximum drawdown is 17 feet. Lake James is a deep water lake with a maximum depth of 115 feet and an average depth of 65 feet.

Lake James State Park, 565 acres located in the central part of the lake, offers campers twenty campsites complete with firepit, picnic table, and tent space. Running water, restrooms, and hot-water showers are available. Though the campsites are somewhat rustic, sleeping under the stars and listening to water lapping along the shore certainly makes up for the lack of a bedroom with walls.

Lake James is home to many sport fishing opportunities, owing to warm surface waters and cool depths fed by chilly mountain rivers. Largemouth bass are the most sought-after fish, though bluegill, catfish, crappie, muskellunge, walleye, and white bass have garnered records, as well.

Lake James and the surrounding acres lend themselves quite nicely to the whims of hikers. Walking paths dot the area, and depending on the season, you can enjoy the beautiful azalea and rhododendron, towering white pines, blooming magnolias, autumn-painted trees, and snow-covered branches. Nature lovers enjoy the unobtrusive footpaths that allow a glimpse into the nature, as small animals run across the trail and larger animals grace the forest around.

On a hot day, nothing satisfies like a dip in the lake, and the sandy beach at Lake James State Park is the perfect location to throw down your beach towel. Restrooms are available nearby, as well as a park owned picnic area equipped with outdoor grills. After a morning of swimming, enjoy a peaceful picnic lunch while communing with nature.

Lake James is not the largest lake in North Carolina, but it certainly offers its visitors a wide range of activities. An ideal location to really get away from it all, the lake is peaceful and quiet, while still providing amenities, so pack your suitcase and get ready for a truly relaxing vacation.

Things to Do at Lake James

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park

Fish Species Found at Lake James

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • White Bass

Find Places to Stay at Lake James

If you’re considering a Lake James lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Lake James Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake James lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Lake James Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Surface Area: 6,510 acres

Shoreline Length: 150 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,200 feet

Average Depth: 65 feet

Maximum Depth: 115 feet

Completion Year: 1923

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

Shop Lake James Gifts

Custom Lake Tumblers

Captain / First Mate Custom 20 oz Tumbler

Custom Lake T Shirt

Personalized My Boat My Rules Unisex T-Shirt

Custom Lake Coffee Mug - On Lake Time

On Lake Time Custom Coffee Mug – 11oz or 15oz


Advertise Your Lake James Business or Vacation Rental

LakeLubbers will soon offer businesses the opportunity to advertise and homeowners and property managers the ability to showcase their vacation rentals to the thousands of lake lovers searching our site daily. If you would like additional details, please contact our advertising team.


Looking for the Lake James Forum?

LakeLubbers previously offered visitors the ability to create accounts and participate in lake forums. When we overhauled the site’s content management system in 2021 we had to disable those features. We’re evaluating options and welcome your comments and feedback here. We also encourage you to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

Lake James Photo Gallery

New photos coming soon!

Spread the word! Share our Lake James article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!