Roanoke Rapids Lake, North Carolina, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - North Carolina - Piedmont -

Often overshadowed by its better-known neighbor Lake Gaston, Roanoke Rapids Lake offers a quieter and less crowded spot for recreation. The third reservoir in the Roanoke River system, the Roanoke Rapids Dam was the second dam in the series to be built. Located just south of the Virginia-North Carolina border in North Carolina’s Piedmont Region, Roanoke Rapids Dam and Power Station contains and re-uses the water released by the Lake Gaston Dam directly upstream. In fact, Roanoke Rapids Dam was built before the Lake Gaston Dam was installed to power a large number of North Carolina homes and businesses.

Small pockets of residential development appear along the heavily wooded 47-mile shoreline, but Roanoke Rapids Lake has no commercial development or marinas. The shoreline skirts the City of Roanoke Rapids to the south of the dam and the town of Gaston on the north side. Both towns are primarily industrial with businesses that have flourished since the advent of plentiful hydro-power. The two cities have suffered in recent years from the loss of American textile manufacturers to cheaper imports from overseas. They are now attempting to promote tourism and their lake to offer advantages to a wider range of visitors.

Roanoke Rapids Lake is a fine place to enjoy swimming, water skiing, sailing and enjoyment of nature. The Roanoke Rapids Lake Day Use Park offers a swim area, picnic grounds, concession stand, restrooms, playground, ball fields, reserve-able picnic shelters, a Frisbee golf course, handicapped-accessible fishing pier, a boat launch and a boat dock. The park is a popular place for hiking; the Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail adjoins the park area. The 7.5-mile trail meanders along the course of the old navigation canal through a wooded natural area with kiosks and information boards detailing the history of the canal and its features. The museum provides a detailed look at the old canal, its uses and its demise through a number of exhibits and mediums. The trail follows the old tow path from the Museum to the Town of Weldon and is a North Carolina Coastal Plains Birding Trail location for bird and wildlife watching. Parts of the trail are popular for mountain biking.

Public access to Roanoke Rapids Lake is available at the Day Use Park, North Side Bank Fishing Area, Roanoke Rapids Dam North Side Bank Fishing Area, Vultare Boat Landing, Thelma Boat Landing and Bank Fishing, 5th Street Boat Landing, Roanoke Rapids Overlook and Roanoke Rapids Tailrace Bank Fishing Area. The lake is very popular for fishing, with an emphasis on striped bass, largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie and walleye. There are several bass fishing clubs in the area, and tournaments are sometimes held on the lake. Fishing guides can be found nearby and are particularly useful for out-of-town anglers who are unfamiliar with the lake and its rapidly-changing water levels. Depending on water releases from Lake Gaston Dam, some of the channels at the west end of the lake can develop shallow spots dangerous to the unsuspecting boater. The many coves and arms of the reservoir can be particularly productive fisheries if the angler knows where to look.

Whitewater rafting is popular below the dam, with water being released on weekends for the benefit of the rafting sport and for fish habitat along the river. All would-be whitewater users must avail themselves of the current water release schedules and regulations before engaging in the sport. In recent years, fish ladders to assist the migration of American eels upstream into the lake have been added at the dam.

Although Roanoke Rapids Reservoir is the smallest of the three man-made lakes along this stretch of the Roanoke River, the Roanoke Rapids Dam has been producing power since 1955. A short shipping canal with locks first provided boat navigation around the actual rapids. Later a power canal was constructed and a low weir dam diverted water into the power canal. Although railroad access reduced the need to ship goods by water, the new power canal allowed mills and water-powered facilities to be built in the area. A later version of the power canal allowed the first Kraft Paper Mill to start business in the North Carolina area and facilitated the development of the region’s textile industry. Today, the Kraft Paper Mill still draws 24 million gallons of water a day from the old power canal.

Although Roanoke Rapids Dam provided hydro-electricity starting in 1955, another dam built in 1963 just west of the dam created Lake Gaston, and this new reservoir filled with power-producing water. Water levels in Roanoke Rapids Lake are primarily controlled by the larger Lake Gaston Dam. Lake Gaston is a more popular tourism lake with water sports facilities and year-round and vacation homes. Roanoke Rapid Lake is quieter than its western neighbor, and lucky visitors can often find a private home rental available on its serene waters.

Several major hotels on the highway just east of town provide commercial lodgings, while a few local bed & breakfasts offer quaint settings in keeping with historic Roanoke River living. No commercial campgrounds are located on Roanoke Rapids Lake, but a modern new RV Resort is located outside of town off I-95. The RV resort was part of the planned Carolina Crossroads Entertainment Complex that has temporarily stalled development due to the recent recession. Listed on the Good Sam group of campgrounds, every amenity is provided to RV campers, making it an excellent place from which to explore the region and Roanoke Rapids Lake. Other small campgrounds are located nearby. The city and its surrounding areas hold a number of excellent restaurants, with gift shopping and supplies sold in several locations. And, come fall, the striped bass keep the angling action hopping. So, hitch the boat trailer and stow the gear in the trunk. All kinds of water-based fun await at Roanoke Rapids Lake.

Things to do at Roanoke Rapids Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Roanoke Rapids Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Eel
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Striped Bass
  • Walleye

Roanoke Rapids Lake Photo Gallery

Roanoke Rapids 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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