Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - North Carolina - Coast -

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
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lake Waccamaw

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Redbreast Sunfish
  • Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)
  • Sunfish

Lake Waccamaw Photo Gallery

    Lake Waccamaw Statistics & Helpful Links

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    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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    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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