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Lake James in North Carolina

Trip Overview

January 27th, last Friday was our fourth day paddle on Lake James in 2006 and our nineteenth day paddle there over the past couple of years. We keep a paddling journal and record put in, take out places and times, water temp, wildlife, distance traveled, philosophical reflections, photos taken, how the coffee tasted etc. If you don't do a journal start one on your next trip, it is fascinating to be able to look back a few years and relive a trip.

We put in at 10:00 am at a public access on the south shore called Hidden Cove just west of the bridge that bisects the lake. The put in has a metal dock and the usual concrete boat ramps. I rest my Kevlar Gulfstream on the dock to stash my gear in the holds, Lucy and Kate have plastic boats so they have a easier time putting their boats in. NRS mukluks sure are the ticket for keeping you feet warm and dry.

The air temp was 42 and rising and there was no wind. We set out across to the north shore and headed west. In this area of the lake the south shore is developed so we steered clear of the mc-mansions and headed for the wilds. I dropped a thermometer into the water and got a 45 reading. As we were paddling we formed a plan as to what we would do if any of us went for a swim, always good to have a plan.

There are a good number of large inlets on the north shore and we went exploring. I am a sculptor and I have been collecting fishing lures and floats to use as elements of a "Fishing God" mask I am carving and I found two lures that were exposed because of the annual draw down of water in the lake. In winter the level goes down 2-3 feet. There are three rivers that feed the lake and we paddle up them in the spring, I'll cover them in a future article. We saw gulls that are on the lake only in the winter, the cold weather must push them down to us. There were Great Blue Herons, Kingfishers, ducks, lots of otter sign, and a deer was swimming across a quarter mile inlet mouth. We gave the deer some space as the key to observing wildlife is to watch without disturbing.

We stopped at about four miles out on a great sand beach for food, right under the no trespassing sign. The fat cats are developing this part of the lake and we could hear equipment crashing through the woods to our north. In a couple of years the western end north shore will be developed so I ignore the keep off signs, like Janis Joplin sang you "got to get it while you can." When we stop at the state park north shore, I pick up trash and stow it in my forward hatch and the rangers don't give me any grief.

We went into inlets checked out the Wood Duck boxes that were back at the heads and just basked in the warming sunlight, the oil smooth water with the mountains in the background. What a glorious day to be alive!! I carry a dry box with a camera on my foredeck and I'm constantly trying to capture the moment, sometimes it works, the photos go in the journal. It got warmer as the day progressed and the second time we stopped the women laid down in the sand and just soaked up the sun. I went out in the middle of the lake and handlined for walleyes, no luck I'll have to buy supper.

After another mile or so and at 3:00 we slowly turned around and headed for a rally point that we picked out for coffee. If the weather allows we pick a beach on the way out about 45 minutes from the take out and stop and break out the stove and coffee pot. Good strong coffee works wonders for tired old folks. With everyone coffee cranked and bug eyed we had a sprint back to Hidden Cove. Our boats seem to load themselves on the hully rollers. We stopped at a little hole in the wall, GREAT Mexican restaurant I had tacos pescados. I bought.

The north shore of Lake James from the Linville public access in the east, west to the Cannel Bridge that bisects the lake is a newly acquired state park. The rangers are not allowing any access to that area because a study is underway to designate campsites ect. That's thirty miles of shoreline that will be off limits to the developers. Summer time the boat traffic is heavy on the western end. Look at you map. We even got into a Monarch butterfly migration stream about three miles down lake from the Linville access. The butterflies were heading 270 degrees ssw and we sat in the middle of Lake James and counted over 130 in twenty minutes. I have it all in our journal and We are going looking for them again this year, end of Sept.

I would be willing to show this great place to others, email me.


Stop in the Lake James State Park for a good map.

  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip