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:
- All About Lake James
- Things to Do
- Fish Species
- Where to Stay
- Vacation Planning Tools
- Lake James Map
- Statistics / Weather / Helpful Links
- Shop Lake James Gifts
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
- Wildlife Viewing
- State Park
Fish Species Found at Lake James
- Black Bass
- Largemouth Bass
- 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.
- Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com 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.
- Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com 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
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Shop Lake James Gifts
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