Lake James State Park


Lake James State Park provides a variety of outdoor activities for towns nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The state park comprises a 6,812-acre lake that spans the towns of Marion and Morganton in North Carolina at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The expansive lake was created between 1916 and 1923 during the construction of dams between the Catawba River and two nearby tributaries - Paddy Creek and Linville River. However, the park is a recent addition to the North Carolina State Parks System and was only inaugurated in 1987. The state park was named after James B. Duke, founder of Duke Power Company. The lake has served as a source of hydroelectric energy for Duke Power Company since the early 1900s.  


Lake James State Park offers visitors activities that are family and pet-friendly. These activities include:

  • Camping with twenty walk-in tent campsites, thirty-three drive-in tent campsites, and thirty paddle-in campsites. The paddle-in campsites are only accessible by boat. 

  • Fishing for Largemouth bass, Smallmouth bass, White bass, Channel catfish, and the mighty muskellunge. 

  • Swimming solely allowed in the designated zone at Paddy’s Creek area. 

  • Boating accessible from two boat ramps located at Hidden Cove and Canal Bridge.  

  • Kayaking/canoeing/paddle-boarding with equipment available to rent. 

  • Hiking and biking trails ranging in various lengths and difficulty levels. 

  • Picnics with shelters available by reservation

Kayaking on Lake James. (Photo by Avnee Patel)

Local Events:

This state park serves as the location of many seasonal events for the population of the surrounding towns. Events held at Lake James State Park include local boy scouts camping events, hiking events, and SwimRun events. The state park has also hosted the MTA Lakes James triathlons; however, the last documented triathlon was in 2017. 


  • Lake James State Park is open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. from December to February, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. from March to April, 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. from May to September, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. in October, and 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in November. The park is closed on Christmas Day. 

  • Parking, available at Paddy’s Creek access, can be found at 7321 N.C. 126 Nebo, NC 28761. 

  • Contact the park at (828) 584-7728.