News & Events

Lake James State Park – A Sparkling Gem in the Foothills

Lake James State ParkLake James is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, on the McDowell/Burke County line just 15 miles west of Morganton.  Covering 6510 acres, it features 150 miles of shoreline.  To the north, you see the majestic Pisgah National Forest, which absorbs rainwater and helps to maintain the unusual clarity and cool temperature of the reservoir.  Look closely and you may spot a bald eagle nesting in one of the trees.

One of the benefits of owning North Carolina mountain properties is the wealth of outdoor activities available to residents. Western North Carolina has many lakes, rivers and crystal clear streams. Whether you prefer trout fishing, kayaking, standup paddle boarding or a lazy day floating on inner tube, the mild four season weather in the foothills allows you to take maximum advantage of them.

On the southern shore of the reservoir about 20 minutes from The Coves Mountain River Club is where you’ll find beautiful Lake James State Park, the largest of its kind in the state.

Lake James State Park is a paradise for nature lovers and photographers. Visitors are surrounded by steep, forested ridges, where wildflowers grow in abundance.  Look for pink lady slipper, Jack-in-the-pulpit, passion flower, Indian pipe, cardinal flower, mountain laurel, rhododendron and flame azalea. Don’t be surprised to encounter deer, flying squirrels, red and gray fox, rabbit, muskrat and mink as you explore the park.  And on the water you’re likely to see green heron, belted kingfisher, mallard and Canada geese.

Here are some details regarding some of the state park’s many amenities:


If you love to fish, you have to experience Lake James North Carolina‘s uppermost and second largest Catawba River reservoir, renowned for its huge population of largemouth bass.

Early mornings and late afternoons from April through October find anglers pulling in not just the prized largemouth but colder water fish such as walleye and smallmouth bass as well.  Any Lake James fishing report from May through July will feature crappie, and bluegill, robin and catfish can be caught all year long.

The mountain waters of the Catawba and Linville rivers flow in to form a cool, deep lake with warm surface and plenty of rocky points, ledges and coves. There’s minimal aquatic vegetation, because hydroelectric power causes the water level to fluctuate.  And that helps to concentrate the fish populations.


Two boat ramps, Hidden Cove and Canal Bridge, offer access to Lake James for your power boat, sailboat or other watercraft.  Both are on NC Highway126, east of the park entrance.  Canal Bridge is open 24 hours a day, while Hidden Cove’s hours correspond to those of the park.  You can rent canoes and kayaks at the park, and other nearby launching sites and marinas have boats and motors for rent. There are places where you can purchase tackle, bait, ice and snacks as well.

Hiking And Mountain Biking Trails

The eight-trail system at Lake James State Park is fairly new.  There are options for all fitness levels, including the educational Holly Discovery Trail, which is suitable for children, a one-mile section of the historic Overmountain Victory Trail and the Lake Channel Overlook Trail, which leads to a breathtaking scenic vista.  Park rangers offer frequent guided hikes.

In the Paddy’s Creek area, there are 15 miles of mountain biking trails, including some for beginners and intermediate riders.


Lake James State Park features 20 backpack campsites along or near the lake shoreline. Two are reserved for campers with disabilities  They’re all set back 150 to 300 yards from vehicle parking areas, and each one features a fire pit, a picnic table and tent space.  Water fountains and wash houses with hot showers are nearby.  These camping facilities are available from March 1 through November 30.


At Paddy’s Creek, there’s a large sandy beach with an area reserved for swimming.  Enjoy it from May 1 through September 30.  You’ll find a pavilion with restrooms and a concession stand, and parking is plentiful.


Picnic areas are made available on a first-come, first-served basis at both the Catawba River and Paddy’s Creek areas. They feature tables and outdoor grills, plus receptacles for trash and recycling. And you’re only steps from drinking water and restrooms.

If you’re looking at North Carolina mountain properties, you owe it to yourself to set aside some time to visit Lake James State Park and see the wealth of benefits it offers the lucky residents who live nearby.  Take a look at the current Lake James fishing report and imagine yourself on the lake just after sunrise, reeling in your very own trophy bass.

The foothills area close to North Carolina‘s easternmost mountain lake. Lake James features mild four season weather and plenty of ways to remain active.  That’s why residents consistently rate The Coves River Mountain Club in Lenoir as one of the state’s best kept secrets.

Are you up for a horseback ride or a High Country hike?  You have miles and miles of trails to explore in the area.  How finishing off the day with an outdoor concert or some other cultural event?  Everything’s within easy driving distance, including antique hunting. Both experienced and novice gardeners will enjoy spending a leisurely morning working in Isabel’s Garden right at The Coves.  And when you just want some quiet time, nothing beats a walk along the edge of the Johns River, where you can simply relax and read a book under a shade tree.

At the community’s summit, Pisgah Mountain Lodge offers dramatic elevation changes and views of Grandfather Mountain and Table Rock which makes living a round here a truly unique experience.

In the midst of such natural beauty and tranquility, life at The Coves can be whatever you want it to be.  You can stay as busy and active as you like, with all the many amenities available for you to enjoy. 

Plan a visit to the foothills in Lenoir North Carolina.  Enjoy the wonderful weather and stress-free ambiance, and be sure to stop by The  Coves River Mountain Club to see just how good your retirement life can be.  

If you’re exploring the area for the first time, ask for our 70 page complimentary Western North Carolina Visitor’s Guide which will provide more information about the foothills.

Exploring the area for the first time?

Let us know & ask for our 70 page Complimentary Magazine.

The Coves Mountain River Club magazine