Mountain Island Lake, North Carolina, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - North Carolina - Piedmont -

Also known as:  Mountain Island Reservoir

Anyone looking for lakefront property in the Charlotte, North Carolina area will want to look at Mountain Island Lake. Lakes in the Piedmont area of the state are nearly all reservoirs, and Mountain Island Lake is no exception,. The large 3,300-acre reservoir sprawls across the Catawba River Valley and meanders up several inflowing stream beds to create a twisting, varied landscape along 61 miles of shoreline. Only 10 miles from downtown Charlotte, the exclusive housing developments along Mountain Island Lake are in high demand. Along with providing power for the surrounding area, this Duke Energy lake also provides much of the drinking water to Mount Holly, Gastonia and Charlotte.

Mountain Island Lake was created in 1924, when Duke Energy commissioned a dam to be built across the Catawba River downstream from Lake Norman. The lake takes its name from the top of a former ‘mountain’ that now exists as a large island in the western part of the lake. Mountain Island Dam stores the water to operate the Mountain Island Hydroelectric Plant and supplies cooling water for the steam-generating Riverbend Steam Station. In the past, the Island was often used for camping, but that has been phased out; no campgrounds now exist along the lake. The lake has no designated swimming beaches, but several public boat ramps provide access to the water. Residents of the housing developments can take advantage of two resident-only marinas. Warm weather activities include water skiing, jet skiing, sailing, power boating and paddle sports.

The public has plenty of access to Mountain Island Lake’s shoreline; the boat launch areas are regularly used by small boat owners such as fishermen and nature fans. The many coves along the irregular shoreline are a delight to explore from kayak or canoe. Fishermen enjoy angling for striped bass, smallmouth bass, catfish and white perch, along with smaller panfish. Bank fishing is possible in many areas of the shoreline, and a fishing platform is offered at the Tailrace below the dam. North Carolina’s Wildlife Resources Commission manages the Tailrace site and monitors all fish species in the lake.

Mecklenburg County owns one county park along Mountain Island Lake’s shores. Latta Plantation County Park is a part of the 1,351-acre Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, a former cotton plantation property that holds miles of walking and cycling trails. Home to picnic grounds, a boat ramp, the Carolina Raptor Center, historic Latta Plantation restored home and an equestrian center, the Nature Center occupies a large peninsula on Mountain Island Lake that protects several species of rare and endangered plants. The Raptor Center is the Southeast’s largest eagle aviary and is dedicated to rehabilitation and education about these glorious birds of prey. The Preserve is a part of the Audubon Society’s Mountain Island Lake Important Bird Area because of the habitat provided to migratory and nesting songbirds, wintering waterfowl, and the threatened natural community of bottom land hardwood forest which shelters them.

Miles of walking trains meander throughout the Preserve’s peninsula. The equestrian center offers riding lessons, riding trails, pony rides, horse shows and a tack shop. The restored Federalist-style plantation house offers guided tours and educational field trips for school children. Roads exist between the various focal points of Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, but visitors are strongly encouraged to bring their bicycles to keep vehicle traffic to a minimum. The County Park area contains a ‘sprayground’, basketball court, multipurpose fields, tennis court, volleyball court, playground, soccer fields, picnic shelter and a recreation center offering summer day camps for children, athletic programs for youth, tennis academy, piano lessons and other enrichment programs. Multipurpose rooms, activity rooms and gymnasium provide space for a variety of adult and children’s activities.

Two additional nature areas are available along Mountain Island Lake’s extensive shoreline. Rural Hill Nature Preserve and Stephens Road Nature Preserve abut the lake and the inflowing creeks. Mecklenburg County also maintains Cowan’s Ford Wildlife Refuge along the shore. Although close to Charlotte and Mount Holly, Mountain Island Lake maintains an aura of natural shorelines, heavily wooded margins and surprising solitude much of the time. Housing is set back some distance from the water itself, although many residents have their own docks, constructed via a permit process. Many of the residents are commuters from Charlotte and the lake can seem quite empty many weekdays, although considerably busier on the weekends.

The convenience factor is a huge attraction for homeowners at Mountain Island Lake. Charlotte’s Bechtler Museum of Modern Art displays the work of notable 20th century artists. Nearby Discovery Place presents hands-on learning labs, an aquarium, rain forest and IMAX theater. Kids of all ages will love Carowinds Amusement and Water Park just south of the city near the South Carolina state line. The U.S. National Whitewater Center offers zip lines, whitewater rafting, hiking, mountain biking and a number of just plain fun outdoor-themed activities. NASCAR fans will love the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The Charlotte area also offers golf courses and all types of shopping venues.

Duke Energy has faced mounting criticism and lawsuits over recently-discovered leakage from unlined coal ash pits on their many coal generation properties. Some of these legacy storage pits are near Mountain Island Lake’s shoreline, leading to concerns about ground water and lake pollution. However, residential areas along Mountain Island Lake are supplied with city water and sewer. Duke Energy is working with the EPA to eventually have all remaining coal ash removed from these old unlined pits. The problem developed over a period of years and it will likely be several years before all pollution issues can be mitigated. In the meantime, the Cities of Charlotte, Gastonia and Mount Holly are carefully monitoring their water quality and are assuring users that the water is safe to drink.

Visitors to Mountain Island lake will find a few guest rentals on the lake itself, usually in the form of private homes. Regular hotel lodgings are available along the nearby highways. Campgrounds are found nearby, including along the Catawba River and near Lake Norman upstream. Charlotte offers a wide variety of amenities such as bed & breakfasts, varied restaurants, and plenty of nightlife. It’s no wonder that in 2014, Money magazine selected Mountain Island Lake as one of the best-value, big-city neighborhoods in the USA.

*Few statistics for depths and water volume are available.

Things to do at Mountain Island Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • NASCAR
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Mountain Island Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Perch
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Striped Bass
  • White Perch

Mountain Island Lake Photo Gallery

Mountain Island Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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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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