Lake James State Park

Quick Facts

Lake James State Park

North Carolina

(828) 652-5047

Map Directions

Things To Do


Tucked away in rolling hills at the base of Linville Gorge is Lake James, a 6,510-acre lake with more than 150 miles of shoreline. This impressive waterway is the centerpiece of Lake James State Park. Here, nature offers scenic vistas of the Appalachian Mountains and beckons to those with an appetite for recreation.

Bring family and friends to one of North Carolina's newest state parks for a variety of activities. Try swimming and sunbathing or enjoy a picnic along the lakeshore. Boat, water ski or fish in cool mountain waters, or take a walk and enjoy an abundance of wildflowers and wildlife along park trails. Lake James offers a variety of ways to enjoy the outdoors.

Map of Lake James (NC)

Latitude, Longitude: 35.735352, -81.890389



  • Boating

    Two boat ramps, Hidden Cove and Canal Bridge, offer access to Lake James where power boats, sailboats and smaller craft have ample room to enjoy the water. Nearby, a number of other launching sites and marinas offer boats and motors for rent. Fishing tackle, bait, ice and snacks are also available.

  • Bicycling

    In all parks, bicycles are permitted only on those trails or other park areas specifically designated for their use.

  • Camping

    Twenty backpack campsites are located 150 to 300 yards from the parking lot. Two of these sites are reserved for persons with disabilities. Each campsite provides a firepit, picnic table and tent space. Approximately every five sites apart, a water faucet is located, and a washhouse with hot showers is accessible near the parking lot. Campsites are available from March 1 through November 30.

  • Climbing

    Many rare plants live on thin soils and wet rocks, and are vulnerable to damage from climbing, trampling and scraping.

  • Fishing

    Largemouth bass and walleye are the most sought-after fish in the lake. White bass spawn in May, and crappie fishing is best during May through July. Bluegill and catfish are available year round, and record specimens of muskellunge have been caught in the lake. Other fish include bream, sunfish and perch.

  • Hiking

    Two one-way footpaths travel along the shoreline of Lake James. A half-mile trail leads to Sandy Cliff Overlook, and a 1.5-mile trail leads through the campground to Lake Channel Overlook. Fox Den Loop Trail is the park's longest trail at 2.2 miles. Like the other park trails, it allows visitors to enjoy a variety of the park's wildlife and vegetation en route.

  • Historic Sites

    The lake was created between 1916 and 1923 with the construction of dams across the Catawba River and two tributaries, Paddy Creek and Linville River. These impoundments were connected by a broad canal to form a 6,510-acre body of water. Named for James B. Duke, founder of Duke Power Company, Lake James has been a hydroelectric unit for the power company since the early 1900s.

  • Off Highway Vehicles

    Motorized vehicles are permitted only in designated areas and not permitted on park trails.

  • Water Sports

    A sandy beach for swimming and sunbathing is located near the park office. A refreshment stand open June through Labor Day, restrooms and a public telephone are located nearby. Swimming is permitted only in the designated area.


Duke Energy will be drawing down the levels Lake James due to the construction project on the Hydro Station. The project is expectd to last through September 2011. The state park has no control over the lake levels. For more information, please call Duke Energy at 800-829-LAKE, or visit



Lake James State Park is located in Burke and McDowell counties, five miles northeast of Marion on NC 126.

Traveling east on I-40: From I-40, take the Nebo/Lake James exit (exit 90) and head north. After a half mile, turn right onto Harmony Grove Road, and follow it for 2 miles to a stoplight. Proceed straight across the intersection and past Nebo Elementary School to a stop sign. Turn right onto NC 126, and follow the signs to the park entrance 2.3 miles on the left.

Traveling west on I-40: From I-40, take the Dysartsville/Lake James exit (exit 94) and head north for 0.5 mile to a stop sign. Turn left onto US 70 and follow it for 1.5 miles. Turn right onto Bridgewater Road and travel 1.2 miles. Turn left onto Benfield's Landing Road, and follow it for 2 miles to a stop sign. Turn left onto NC 126, and follow the signs to the park entrance 1.7 miles on the right.

Phone Numbers


(828) 652-5047