Updated: April 2019
One of North Carolina’s Most Visited Parks
Lake James State Park is one of North Carolina’s most visited parks. It consists of two separate areas a few miles apart: the Catawba River Area to the south of Lake James and the Paddy’s Creek Area to the north-east.
Catawba River Area
Campsites, several walking trails with overlooks, picnic tables, and a large covered picnic shelter are part of the Catawba River Area. If you want to swim in the lake, you may wish to visit the Paddy’s Creek Area, which has a large sandy beach with lifeguards.
Twenty campsites are located along or near the lake’s shoreline and are a short walking distance from the parking lot. A few campsites are only accessible by boat. Reservations for camping are strongly recommended.
Paddy’s Creek Area
Opened in 2010, the Paddy’s Creek Area features a bathhouse, a concession stand, and a large sandy beach, where visitors can take a swim in the lake (May 1 through September 30: 10 am to 6 pm). When lifeguards are on duty, there is a small fee to swim.
Several picnic areas complete with outdoor grills are available on a first-come, first served basis. Drinking water and restrooms are located within a short walk of these sites. Two large picnic shelters with 10-12 tables each can be reserved.
Five hiking trails lead through the park ranging from easy to moderate and from 0.75 miles to 3.6 miles. The large parking lot is at the end of Rock Hill Street.
Fifteen miles of mountain biking trails with rollers and grade reversals were added to the northern section of the Paddy’s Creek Area in 2014. The 4-mile Tindo Loop is a nearly flat beginner’s trail. The 11-mile West Wimba Loop adds more flow and speed, while the East Wimba Loop for intermediate riders offers tighter turns and more change in the elevation. Trails can be reached best from the parking lot at 1403-1499 Rock Hill Street. You may want to call ahead to make sure that your favorite trail is open as they get closed by the park ranger in case of wet weather or freeze-thaw.
The fresh mountain waters of the Linville and Catawba rivers flowing into Lake James create just the right environment for great fishing. A fishing license is required, and all anglers must adhere to the regulations of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
Canoes and kayaks are available for rent near the concession stand between Memorial Day and Labor Day from 10 am to 5:30 pm. Canoes can accommodate 2 to 3 people.
If you want to bring your boat, two ramps are located within two miles west of the Paddy’s Creek Area entrance along NC 126. The Hidden Cove boat ramp follows park hours while the Canal Bridge ramp is open 24 hours a day.
History of Lake James
Named after James B. Duke, founder of Duke Power Company, Lake James was formed between 1916 and 1923, when dams across the Catawba River, Paddy Creek, and Linville River were built. These dams created two reservoirs, which were connected by a broad canal which formed a 6,812-acre contiguous lake, 1,200-feet above sea level. Lake James has been a hydroelectric unit for the power company since the early 1900s.
Lake James is one of the most recent additions to the North Carolina State Parks system. It was only established in 1987. The Paddy’s Creek Area only opened in 2010.
December to February:
Mon. to Sun.: 7am to 6pm.
March, April, October:
Mon. to Sun.: 7am to 8pm.
May to September:
Mon. to Sun.: 7am to 9pm.
Mon. to Sun.: 7am to 7pm.
Swimming with lifeguard on duty:
Children (3-12): $4
Children (2 and younger): free
Canoe and Kayak rental:
First hour: $5
Any additional hour: $3
Free parking is available at both areas of the park.
The 4 trails at the Catawba River Area range from easy to moderate and from 0.3 miles to 2.25 miles, while the Paddy’s Creek Area offers 5 trails also ranging from easy to moderate but from 0.75 miles to 3.6 miles in distance.
The Paddy’s Creek Area has 15 miles of mountain biking trails, which can best be reached from the parking lot at 1403-1499 Rock Hill Street. You may want to call ahead to make sure that your favorite trail is open as they get closed by the park ranger in case of wet weather or freeze-thaw. Please use your own discretion.
Picnic tables are located in both the Catawba River Area and the Paddy’s Creek Area. However, the Catawba River Area only offers 20 campsites, which are located along or near the lake’s shore line and are a short walking distance from the parking lot. A few campsites are only accessible by boat. Reservations are strongly recommended for camping.
A concession stand is located at the beach of Paddy’s Creek Area.
Restrooms are located at the Park Office and at the campground.