Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina, USA
Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Waccamaw — 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 Waccamaw
- Things to Do
- Fish Species
- Where to Stay
- Vacation Planning Tools
- Lake Waccamaw Map
- Statistics / Weather / Helpful Links
- Shop Lake Waccamaw Gifts
Looking for Lake Waccamaw 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 Waccamaw
Lake Waccamaw in southeastern North Carolina is estimated to have formed around 250,000 years ago, although the exact origin of its formation is uncertain. One theory is that the lake basin was formed after a peat fire in prehistoric times. Old charred tree stumps have been found to support this theory. Another theory claims that meteorites formed Lake Waccamaw and a group of lakes known as the Bladen Lake Group, since all lakes are oval and angled in the same way. Lake Waccamaw is about 7 miles long, 5 miles wide, with 14 miles of shoreline. Fed by Big Creek, three smaller creeks, and the Friar Swamp drainage, Lake Waccamaw’s light caramel color is indicative of its rich plant and animal life.
A more fanciful theory for the lake’s creation can be found in a local legend which claims that Lake Waccamaw was once a huge mound of flowers, watched over by a beautiful Indian princess. One besotted Indian brave asked the princess to marry him – she refused, which unfortunately led to a war between the local tribes. Rather than marry the brave and give up her flowers, the princess chose to die on the spot and turned the flowers into a huge lake. A legend maybe, but locals claim that there is still a spot where no flowers will grow.
The lake covers almost 9,000 acres in sparsely populated Columbus County in the southeastern part of North Carolina, about 25 miles from the border with South Carolina. Part of the appeal of Lake Waccamaw and the surrounding area is its feeling of isolation. The nearest large town is Wilmington, about 40 miles away to the east. Several small towns lie along Highway 130 which runs north of the lake: Bolton, Hallsboro and Whiteville. Residential development dots the lake shoreline, except for the Lake Waccamaw State Park at the south end of the lake. The State of North Carolina owns the lake and the Lake Waccamaw Dam. The spillway dam, built by the State in 1926, prevents water levels from lowering to dangerous levels during periods of drought.
Lake Waccamaw is referred to as a Carolina Bay for the sweet bay, loblobby bay, and red bay trees growing around its shoreline. Most Carolina Bays have naturally high levels of acid that make the water unable to sustain diverse acquatic life. However, the limestone bluffs along Lake Waccamaw’s north shore neutralize the lake’s water, thereby supporting a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Because of its distinctive geology, Lake Waccamaw contains animals and plants found nowhere else in the world, including the Lake Waccamaw killfish and rare plants including the green-fly orchid, the water arrowhead, and Venus hair-fern. In nearby Green Swamp Preserve, you may be lucky enough to see the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, the American alligator, the eastern Diamondback rattlesnake, and the Bachman’s sparrow. And on certain hot summer days, you may see the natural phenomenon in which a blue wave advances across the lake, bringing a welcome cooling breeze.
Outdoor activities are plentiful at Lake Waccamaw and the 1700 acre State Park which borders the south end of the lake. Boating is popular from the two public boat launches that access the lake. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) operates one of the ramps; Columbus County operates the other. For the avid angler, the WRC stocks Lake Waccamaw with largemouth bass, bluegill, shellcracker, and redbreast sunfish. The lake contains 52 species of game and non-game fish. There are also four primitive campsites and several picnic spots dotted around the lake. The Lake Waccamaw State Park offers four hiking trails with varying levels of difficulty. The Sand Ridge Nature Trail is a .75-mile loop that begins and ends near the picnic area. The Loblolly Trail is a one-mile loop that begins and ends at the visitor’s center. The 2.5-mile Pine Woods Trail winds through diverse flora from the picnic area to the visitor’s center. The 5-mile Lake Trail begins at the visitor’s center and follows the shoreline to the Waccamaw River.
Lake Waccamaw and Lake Waccamaw State Park can be enjoyed year round. However, if the weather isn’t cooperating, there is one indoor attraction. The small, but fascinating Depot Museum is housed in an early 20th century railroad depot, a legacy of the railroad’s early influence. Apart from various railroad memorabilia, exhibits include fossils from the lake, artifacts from Indian and European settlers in the area, as well as a 300 year old Indian canoe.
Things to Do at Lake Waccamaw
- Vacation Rentals
- Wildlife Viewing
- State Park
Fish Species Found at Lake Waccamaw
- Black Bass
- Largemouth Bass
- Redbreast Sunfish
- Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)
Find Places to Stay at Lake Waccamaw
If you’re considering a Lake Waccamaw 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 Waccamaw Vacation
If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Waccamaw 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 Waccamaw Statistics & Helpful Links
Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed
Water Level Control: Lake Waccamaw State Park
Surface Area: 8,936 acres
Shoreline Length: 14 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 43 feet
Average Depth: 8 feet
Maximum Depth: 12 feet
Lake Area-Population: 1,500
Trophic State: Eutrophic
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