White Lake, North Carolina, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - North Carolina - Coast -

A rare treasure in the North Carolina Coast region, White Lake invites visitors to its sandy shores. One of only a few intact ‘Carolina Bay’ lakes, White Lake’s exceedingly clear waters allow observers to see the white sand bottom in nearly all areas. Its waters are prized for swimming, boating, personal watercraft and fishing. The lake is shallow* with wide expanses of sandy bottom for safe child swimming. With no boating restrictions, the 1,065-acre surface offers an excellent expanse of water for water skiing, sailing, wakeboarding, sail-boarding and tubing. White Lake itself belongs to the North Carolina State Parks system, but the entire shoreline is in private hands. Luckily, a number of those private lands are campgrounds, lakefront resorts, and a marina with a pay launch dock and parking. Although the Town of White Lake has only 500 permanent residents, the wide variety of resort and recreational opportunities welcome 400 times that number to the lake annually.

Located 50 miles northwest of Wilmington in the Cape Fear River Basin, White Lake is one of the geologically-unique Carolina Bay lakes: a series of inland lakes along the Atlantic Coast from New Jersey to Florida. All oriented in a northwest-to-southeast direction, the lakes are primarily oval in shape and don’t exceed ten feet in depth. Geologists aren’t sure what caused these lakes to be created, and many have either been drained for additional farmland or eventually became bogs or marshes. Local legend describes these lakes as formed by long-burning peat bogs that left a depression, but that does not explain all of them, nor the existence of those that show little evidence of peat deposits such as White Lake.

While Lake is unique even within these Bay lakes as having neither an inlet nor an outlet. The water comes primarily from an underground aquifer via springs. The lake has few nutrients so few aquatic plants grow along the bottom, keeping the water clean and clear. Because of this lack of weed cover, fishermen often overlook the lake and consider it a poorly-producing fishery. However, the lake has some whopper yellow perch, a fish that seldom thrives in muddy southern lakes. Largemouth bass exceeding eight pounds are sometimes caught here, although they are not plentiful. Bluegills grow to a nice size. It’s a great lake for taking children fishing, because they can often see the fish nibbling at their hooks, keeping them excited and interested.

The community that has grown up around White Lake is focused commercially on entertaining lake visitors desiring a resort-style experience. A seven-mile drive encircles the lake, along with a full-featured water park, an amusement park, numerous motels and resort cabin complexes, and several campgrounds. Streets near the shoreline feature arcades, restaurants, and small galleries and shops catering to the visiting specialty shopper. Most of the resort cabin complexes and campgrounds offer their own swimming beaches and often rent boats and small watercraft. Several housing developments along the shore offer private housing and condos increasingly popular as seasonal homes.

As with any good resort community, White Lake produces a number of activities designed to keep both residents and visitors occupied. The White Lake Water Festival, held in May, includes a beauty pageant, parade, music, food, and crafts. Classes in wakeboarding and ‘wake-skating’ are offered at the marina. White Lake Triathlon attracts over 400 athletes yearly to compete in swimming, biking and running. The annual Cardboard Boat race is one of the high points of hilarity each year as the spectators get into the act trying to swamp the elaborately-constructed cardboard boats with buckets of water. Fun at the lake is the by-line of the informal White Lake community, and they certainly know how to make lots of it.

Resort visitors spending a week or more at White Lake can expect to find other off-water activities in the surrounding area. Elizabethtown is only eight miles to the west on the Cape Fear River. The US Army Corps Lock and Dam #2 is a respected fishing spot for shad. Tory Hole Park in Elizabethtown is the site of a Revolutionary War battle. Picnic areas, a playground, a fitness trail, and an amphitheater are part of the park. Less than 15 miles to the northwest, the Harmony Hall Plantation provides a museum complex filled with buildings of historical significance; the main house predates the Revolutionary War. Nearby Jones Lake State Park allows for hiking trails, camping, and examination of two Carolina Bay lakes in their natural state, surrounded by the sweet bay, loblolly bay and red bay shrubs that give the lakes their name.

About 50 miles southeast along the Cape Fear River, the old city of Wilmington greets visitors with a wealth of museums, historic sites and several excellent Atlantic beaches. Revolutionary and Civil War battles were fought here, and the USS North Carolina reminds visitors of the battles fought in the South Pacific during WWII. Self-guided walking tours of the battleship are available during scheduled hours, while the Carolina Living History Guild produces historical exhibits commemorating yet another battleship, the CSS North Carolina form the Civil War period. The Cape Fear Museum has ongoing and special exhibits detailing historical items and events from the region’s rich history. The Children’s Museum of Wilmington is a must-see for families traveling with children, while the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher will delight young and old alike. Wilmington holds a full complement of restaurants, nightlife and cultural venues. The Cape Fear Passport website will help visitors select those that meet their interests.

With plenty of lodgings available, White Lake can offer the best of a southeastern North Carolina vacation. White Lake forms the perfect home-base for both local and regional side-trips. Lazy days on the boat or historical excursions spanning the history of North Carolina are available within an hour’s drive. The best of North Carolina can be experienced from either your resort cabin or seasonal summer home at White Lake. Real estate is available, sometimes directly on White Lake. Other properties can be found in the surrounding area. So bring the boat and the water toys and settle down at White Lake for a week or two-or maybe more.

*Depth not recorded, but most Carolina Bay lakes are six to ten feet in depth.

Things to do at White Lake NC

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • State Park
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Amusement Park

Fish species found at White Lake NC

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Shad
  • Yellow Perch

White Lake NC Photo Gallery

White Lake NC Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 1,065 acres

Shoreline Length: 5 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 66 feet

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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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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