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home | Locations | 13 of 14 Types of North Carolina Rec . . .
 

13 of 14 Types of North Carolina Recreational Facilities--State Parks
Ivan Gillis
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North Carolina State Parks

Park Name

Web-
site

Region

County or Counties

Size

Year Established

Status

Remarks

Bay Tree State Park

Coastal Plain

Bladen[2]

609 acres (2.46 km2)[3]

1979[2]

Undeveloped

North Carolina's oldest, undeveloped State Park is adjacent to Bay Tree State Lake.

Carolina Beach State Park

[1]

Coast

New Hanover[2]

761 acres (3.08 km2)[4][5]

1969[2]

Open

Named not for a beach, rather the Town of Carolina Beach, the park is located along the banks of the Cape Fear River and Snow's Cut (part of the Intracoastal Waterway). The park is best known for its variety of wild carnivorous plants, including the Venus Flytrap.

Carvers Creek State Park

[2]

Coastal Plain

Cumberland[2]

4,332 acres (17.53 km2)[3]

2005[2]

Open

Under development;
Interim facilities are open at the park's historic Long Valley Farm Access.

Chimney Rock State Park

[3]

Mountains

RutherfordPolkBuncombeHenderson[2]

6,807 acres (27.55 km2)[3]

2005[2]

Open

Under development;
The park protects the landscape of 
Hickory Nut Gorge, including its most well known feature, Chimney Rock.

Cliffs of the Neuse State Park

[4]

Coastal Plain

Wayne[2]

1,094 acres (4.43 km2)[3]

1945[2]

Open

The park protects ancient cliff faces located along the banks of the Neuse River.

Crowders Mountain State Park

[5]

Piedmont

Gaston[2]

5,126 acres (20.74 km2)[3]

1973[2]

Open

The park protects the Kings Mountain Ridgeline in North Carolina, including its highest peaks Crowder's Mountain and King's Pinnacle. The park is also adjacent to Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina, which in turn is adjacent to Kings Mountain National Military Park. All three parks are connected via the Kings Mountain Ridgeline Trail.

Dismal Swamp State Park

[6]

Coastal Plain

Camden[2]

14,432 acres (58.40 km2)[3]

1974[2]

Open

Under development;
The park protects large part of the 
Great Dismal Swamp, and it is adjacent to Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. It is bounded on the east by the Dismal Swamp Canal.

Elk Knob State Park

[7]

Mountains

WataugaAshe[2]

3,680 acres (14.9 km2)[3]

2002[2]

Open

Under development;
The park preserves some of the highest peaks in Ashe and Watauga Counties, and it protects 
headwaters of the North Fork New River.

Eno River State Park

[8]

Piedmont

DurhamOrange[2]

4,200 acres (17 km2)[3]

1973[2]

Open

The park protects the banks of the Eno River and surrounding lands.

Fort Macon State Park

[9]

Coast

Carteret[2]

424 acres (1.72 km2)[3]

1924[2]

Open

The first North Carolina State Park to open to the public. It protects the historic Fort Macon and the eastern end of Bogue Banks.

Goose Creek State Park

[10]

Coastal Plain

Beaufort[2]

1,672 acres (6.77 km2)[3]

1974[2]

Open

The park protects part of the landscape along the Pamlico Sound.

Gorges State Park

[11]

Mountains

Transylvania[2]

7,709 acres (31.20 km2)[3]

1999[2]

Open

Under development;
North Carolina's westernmost state park; it is located along the steep 
Blue Ridge Escarpment. The park is best known for the many waterfalls it provides access to, both inside the park and on adjacent public lands.

Grandfather Mountain State Park

[12]

Mountains

AveryWataugaCaldwell[2]

3,436 acres (13.90 km2)[3]

2009[2]

Open

Under development;
Adjacent to the 
Blue Ridge Parkway, the park protects the highest peak located along the Blue Ridge Escarpment. The park consists of lands formerly known as the "backcountry area" when it was privately owned nature preserve.

Hammocks Beach State Park

[13]

Coast

Onslow[2]

1,520 acres (6.2 km2)[3]

1961[2]

Open

While protecting a variety of maritime habitats, the park is most known for its four-mile (6.4 km) long barrier islandBear Island. The park operates a passenger ferry service between the mainland and island in the warmer months.

Hanging Rock State Park

[14]

Piedmont

Stokes[2]

7,869 acres (31.84 km2)[3]

1935[2]

Open

The park encompasses the eastern end of the Sauratown Mountain range, including a geologic feature known as Hanging Rock.[6] It also protects a segment of the Dan River.

Haw River State Park

[15]

Piedmont

RockinghamGuilford[2]

1,379 acres (5.58 km2)[3]

2003[2]

Open

Under development;
This park preserves large 
wetlands along the Haw River.

Jockey's Ridge State Park

[16]

Coast

Dare[2]

426 acres (1.72 km2)[3]

1975[2]

Open

The park protects the tallest sand dune system on the East Coast of the United States.

Jones Lake State Park

[17]

Coastal Plain

Bladen[2]

1,669 acres (6.75 km2)[3]

1939[2]

Open

The park surrounds Jones State Lake and Salters State Lake, both of which are largely undeveloped Carolina Bay lakes.

Lake James State Park

[18]

Mountains

McDowellBurke[2]

3,644 acres (14.75 km2)[3]

1987[2]

Open

Under redevelopment;
Located near the base of 
Linville Gorge, the park encompasses large parts of the Lake James shoreline. In 2004, the park nearly octupled in size after a land deal with Crescent Resources.

Lake Norman State Park

[19]

Piedmont

Iredell[2]

1,934 acres (7.83 km2)[3]

1962[2]

Open

Formerly known as Duke Power State Park, most of this park consists of lands donated by Duke Power along the shores of Lake Norman, the largest manmade body of fresh water in North Carolina.

Lake Waccamaw State Park

[20]

Coastal Plain

Columbus[2]

2,201 acres (8.91 km2)[3]

1976[2]

Open

This park is along the shoreline of Lake Waccamaw, the largest natural Carolina Bay lake.[7]

Lumber River State Park

[21]

Coastal Plain

ScotlandHokeRobesonColumbus[2]

11,259 acres (45.56 km2)[3]

1989[2]

Open

The State Park with the greatest geographic expanse, it preserves the banks of the black water Lumber River, which is Wild and Scenic River and a State River.

Mayo River State Park

[22]

Piedmont

Rockingham[2]

2,187 acres (8.85 km2)[3]

2003[2]

Open

Under development;
This new, still growing park is located along the 
Mayo River.

Medoc Mountain State Park

[23]

Piedmont

Halifax[2]

3,893 acres (15.75 km2)[3]

1973[2]

Open

At 325 foot (99 m), Medoc Mountain isn't a true mountain but rather the remnant of a former mountain range which eroded long ago.[8] The park preserves the land around the Medoc, as well as the banks of nearby Little Fishing Creek.

Merchants Millpond State Park

[24]

Coastal Plain

Gates[2]

3,447 acres (13.95 km2)[3]

1973[2]

Open

The park protects a unique, cypress filled millpond and the Lassiter Swamp.

Morrow Mountain State Park

[25]

Piedmont

Stanly[2]

4,496 acres (18.19 km2)[3]

1935[2]

Open

At 936 foot (285 m), Morrow Mountain is the fourth tallest peak of the Uwharrie Mountains,[9] and the park encompasses several peaks of the range, just west of the Yadkin / Pee Dee River.

Mount Mitchell State Park

[26]

Mountains

Yancey[2]

1,996 acres (8.08 km2)[3]

1916[2]

Open

The first North Carolina State Park, it protects the summit of Mount Mitchell the highest point in the eastern United States.[1]

New River State Park

[27]

Mountains

AlleghanyAshe[2]

2,911 acres (11.78 km2)[3]

1975[2]

Open

This park preserves the landscape along the New River, which is Wild and Scenic River and a State River.

Pettigrew State Park

[28]

Coastal Plain

TyrrellWashington[2]

5,830 acres (23.6 km2)[3]

1936[2]

Open

The park protects the banks of Lake Phelps, the state's second largest natural lake, and the Scuppernong River.[10]

Pilot Mountain State Park

[29]

Piedmont

SurryYadkin[2]

3,735 acres (15.12 km2)[3]

1968[2]

Open

The park encompasses the western end of the Sauratown Mountain range, including Pilot Mountain, as well as an island filled segment of the Yadkin River.[11]

Raven Rock State Park

[30]

Piedmont

Harnett[2]

4,694 acres (19.00 km2)[3]

1970[2]

Open

Located along both banks of the Cape Fear River, the park encompasses a rock outcropping where the river crosses the Fall Line.

Singletary Lake State Park

[31]

Coastal Plain

Bladen[2]

649 acres (2.63 km2)[3]

1939[2]

Limited
Access

The park surrounds Singletary Lake, which is a State Lake and a Carolina Bay lake. The park's facilities are usually reserved for registered group campers, but limited day use may be allowed while the camps are unoccupied.

South Mountains State Park

[32]

Mountains

Burke[2]

19,830 acres (80.2 km2)[3]

1978[2]

Open

Under redevelopment;
The largest unit of the state park system, it encompasses a large part of the 
South Mountains range, which is a branch of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Stone Mountain State Park

[33]

Mountains

AlleghanyWilkes[2]

14,351 acres (58.08 km2)[3]

1969[2]

Open

Adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway, this large park's centerpiece is a granite dome named Stone Mountain.

William B. Umstead State Park

[34]

Piedmont

Wake[2]

5,599 acres (22.66 km2)[3]

1945[2]

Open

This large, forested park is in the heart of the Research Triangle.

State Recreation Areas

State Recreation Areas are more intensely developed units than State Parks, and they largely encompass lands less sensitive to human activities than State Parks. According to the NC Division of Parks & Recreation:

State Recreation Areas are sites where the primary purpose is outdoor recreation, rather than preservation. More intensive development of facilities is provided than in State Parks. Protection and enjoyment of the natural resources are still important, and the sites are expected to contain scenic and attractive natural features. Development is planned and constructed to keep a "reasonable amount" of each area undisturbed and free from improvements and structures.[1]

State Recreation Area

Web-
site

Region

Counties

Size

Established

Status

Remarks

Falls Lake State Recreation Area

[35]

Piedmont

WakeDurham[2]

5,035 acres (20.38 km2)[3]

1982[2]

Open

This recreation area is located along the shores of Falls Lake, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built reservoir.

Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

[36]

Coast

New Hanover[2]

287 acres (1.16 km2)[3]

1986[2]

Open

This recreation area is known for its long, sandy beach between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. This is the only unit of the park system that allows four-wheel drive vehicles off road.

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area

[37]

Piedmont

Chatham[2]

4,558 acres (18.45 km2)[3]

1981[2]

Open

This recreation area is located along the shores of Jordan Lake, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built reservoir.

Kerr Lake State Recreation Area

[38]

Piedmont

VanceWarren[2]

3,376 acres (13.66 km2)[3]

1952[2]

Open

This recreation area is located along the North Carolinian shores of Kerr Lake, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built reservoir, which is along the border of North Carolina and Virginia.

State Natural Areas

State Natural Areas protect areas more sensitive to human activities than State Parks. Most of the State Natural Areas are undeveloped and have limited to no facilities, and some of them are closed to the general public to protect rare, fragile ecosystems. A few have developed facilities for low intensity, passive recreation, as well as facilities for public interpretation and education of the natural area. The NC Division of Parks & Recreation states:

The purpose of State Natural Areas is focused on preserving and protecting areas of scientific, aesthetic, or ecological value. Facilities are limited to those needed for interpretation, protection, and minimum maintenance. Generally, recreational and public use facilities such as camping, swimming, picnicking, and the like are not provided in State Natural Areas.[1]

State Natural Area

Web-
site

Region

Counties

Size

Established

Status

Remarks

Baldhead Island State Natural Area

 

Coast

Brunswick[2]

1,260 acres (5.1 km2)[3]

1979[2]

 

Contiguous to Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, this undeveloped natural area preserves a large portion of the Smith Island Complex, which consists of barrier islands, salt marshes, bays, tidal creeks and estuarine islands.[12]

Bear Paw State Natural Area

 

Mountains

Avery[2]

384 acres (1.55 km2)[3]

2008[2]

Open

The natural area is located just north of Grandfather Mountain State Park, and it protects Hanging Rock Ridge and the headwaters of Dutch Creek. The Cherokee name for the site is "Yonah-wayah", which means "Bear's Paw".[13] It is managed by Elk Knob State Park.

Beech Creek Bog State Natural Area

 

Mountains

Watauga[2]

120 acres (0.49 km2)[3]

2002[2]

 

The natural area protects a southern Appalachian bog.

Bobs Creek State Natural Area

 

Mountains

McDowell

0 acres (0 km2)

2017[14]

 

Historically known as Bob's Pocket Wilderness, the natural area conserves high quality, rare natural communities.

Bullhead Mountain State Natural Area

 

Mountains

Alleghany[2]

365 acres (1.48 km2)[3]

2000[2]

 

This natural area is adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway and just north of Stone Mountain State Park.

Bushy Lake State Natural Area

 

Coastal Plain

Cumberland[2]

6,343 acres (25.67 km2)[3]

1977[2]

 

Managed by Jones Lake State Park, the natural area protects an area of wet pocosin and carolina bay forest.

Chowan Swamp State Natural Area

 

Coastal Plain

Gates[2]

6,066 acres (24.55 km2)[3]

1973[2]

Open

Located along the northern shores of the Chowan River, this natural area is leased by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission for management as part of the larger Chowan Swamp Game Land.

Hemlock Bluffs State Natural Area

[39]

Piedmont

Wake[2]

97 acres (0.39 km2)[3]

1976[2]

Open

The natural area is leased by the Town of Cary for operation as Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve.[15]

Lea Island State Natural Area

 

Coast

Pender[2]

25 acres (0.10 km2)[3]

2000[2]

 

The natural area preserves a largely undeveloped barrier island.

Lower Haw River State Natural Area

 

Piedmont

Chatham[2]

1,025 acres (4.15 km2)[3]

2003[2]

Open

Underdevelopment;
This natural area is adjacent to and managed by 
Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, and it has one 2-mile (3.2 km) hiking trail along the Haw River.

Masonboro Island State Natural Area

[40]

Coast

New Hanover[2]

106 acres (0.43 km2)[3]

1976[2]

Open

Managed by the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management, this natural area preserves an undeveloped barrier island, near Wilmington, North Carolina. The island is only accessible by boat.

Mitchells Millpond State Natural Area

 

Piedmont

Wake[2]

93 acres (0.38 km2)[3]

1976[2]

Closed

The natural area protects granitic flatrock outcrops. The ecosystem of the flatrocks is unique and fragile.

Mount Jefferson State Natural Area

[41]

Mountains

Ashe[2]

1,086 acres (4.39 km2)[3]

1956[2]

Open

Formerly a State Park, this natural area is managed as a satellite of New River State Park, and it preserves the prominent peek of Mount Jefferson.

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

[42]

Piedmont

Orange[2]

190 acres (0.77 km2)[3]

1997[2]

Open

Managed as a satellite of Eno River State Park, this natural area preserves the highest point in Orange County.

Pineola Bog State Natural Area

 

Mountains

Avery[2]

91 acres (0.37 km2)[3]

2006[2]

 

The natural area protects a southern Appalachian bog.

Run Hill State Natural Area

 

Coast

Dare[2]

123 acres (0.50 km2)[3]

1995[2]

Open

Managed as a satellite of Jockey's Ridge State Park, the natural area preserves Run Hill, a large sand dune north of Jockey's Ridge.

Sandy Run Savannas State Natural Area

 

Coastal Plain

PenderOnslow[2]

2,538 acres (10.27 km2)[3]

2006[2]

 

The natural area preserves southern pine savannas.

Salmon Creek State Natural Area

 

Coastal Plain

Bertie

0 acres (0 km2)

2017[14]

 

The natural area contains high-quality natural communities, and important archaeological sites.

Sugar Mountain Bog State Natural Area

 

Mountains

Avery[2]

102 acres (0.41 km2)[3]

2006[2]

 

The natural area protects a southern Appalachian bog.

Theodore Roosevelt State Natural Area

[43]

Coast

Carteret[2]

265 acres (1.07 km2)[3]

1971[2]

Open

Jointly managed by Fort Macon State Park and the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, the natural area preserves Bogue Banks' only intact maritime forest.

Warwick Mill Bay State Natural Area

 

Coastal Plain

Robeson

978 acres (3.96 km2)

2017[14]

 

The natural area protects an undisturbed Carolina Bay, which is an important nesting site for birds. Audubon North Carolinaassists with the management of the property.

Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve

[44]

Coastal Plain

Moore[2]

915 acres (3.70 km2)[3]

1963[2]

Open

The first North Carolina State Natural Area, it preserves strands of longleaf pine forests in Sandhills region.

Yellow Mountain State Natural Area

 

Mountains

MitchellAvery[2]

3,468 acres (14.03 km2)[3]

2008[2]

Open

The natural area protects a Grassy Bald in the Roan Highlandsrange.[13] The natural area is adjacent to the Pisgah National Forest.

State Lakes

State Lakes are all large, naturally formed bodies of water in the state's Coastal Plain. Most of the lakes are Carolina Bays. The NC Division of Parks & Recreation describes its State Lakes as follows:

Chapter 165 of the Laws of 1929 specified that "all lakes now belonging to the State having an area of 50 acres or more" should be "administered as provided for other recreational areas now owned by the State." This allowed the then-Department of Conservation and Development to assume management authority for seven Coastal Plain lakes that became units of the State Parks System known as State Lakes. Most of these are administratively included as part of an adjoining State Park, but one of the lakes (White Lake) has no public ownership on its shoreline.[1]

State Lake

Adjoining State Park

Counties

Size

Remarks

Bay Tree State Lake

Bay Tree State Park

Bladen[2]

1,418 acres (5.74 km2)[3]

Bay Tree Lake was formerly known as Black Lake.

Jones State Lake

Jones Lake State Park

Bladen[2]

224 acres (0.91 km2)[3]

The shore line of Jones Lake is entirely owned by the state.

Phelps State Lake

Pettigrew State Park

WashingtonTyrrell[2]

16,600 acres (67 km2)[3]

Phelps is North Carolina's second largest natural lake.[10]

Salters State Lake

Jones Lake State Park

Bladen[2]

315 acres (1.27 km2)[3]

Salters is the only State Lake without development along its shores.

Singletary State Lake

Singletary Lake State Park

Bladen[2]

572 acres (2.31 km2)[3]

The shore line of Singletary Lake is entirely owned by the state.

Waccamaw State Lake

Lake Waccamaw State Park

Columbus[2]

8,938 acres (36.17 km2)[3]

Lake Waccamaw is the largest natural Carolina Bay lake.[7]

White State Lake

None

Bladen[2]

1,068 acres (4.32 km2)[3]

This is the only State Lake without public lands along its shores.

State Trails

State Trails are one of the principal components of the State Trail System. State Trails may be either long-distance, hiking trails or paddle trails. State Trails may have land components for providing a trail corridor or for protecting significant features or resources along the trail. Most of these lands are leased to other land management agencies. All of the State Trails are joint projects with other government agencies and nonprofit organizations. The following is the NC Division of Parks & Recreation description of State Trails:

The North Carolina Trails System Act was passed in 1973 to help provide for the state's outdoor recreation needs and to promote public access to natural and scenic areas. The act prescribed methods for establishing a statewide system of scenic trails, recreation trails, and connecting or side trails. The Trails System includes "park trails", which are designated and managed as units of the State Parks System known as State Trails, and "designated trails", which are managed by other governmental agencies or corporations.[1]

State Trail

Region

Length

Size

Established

Remarks

Deep River State Trail

Piedmont

0 miles (0 km)[3]

1,274 acres (5.16 km2)[3]

2007[2]

Under planning

Fonta Flora Loop Trail

Mountains

0 miles (0 km)[3]

0 acres (0 km2)[3]

2015[16]

Planned hiking and bicycling trail that will encircle the eastern half of Lake James.[16]

French Broad River State Trail

Mountains

67 miles (108 km)[3]

0 acres (0 km2)[3]

1987[2]

paddle trail extending from the beginning of the French Broad River in Rosman, to I-40 in Asheville.

Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail

Mountains

0 miles (0 km)

0 acres (0 km2)

2017[17]

A trail planned to encircle Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure.

Mountains-to-Sea State Park Trail[18]

State

609 miles (980 km)[3]

778 acres (3.15 km2)[3]

2000[2]

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) is a Long-distance, hiking trail, which runs across North Carolina from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. Still a work in progress, the trail will be approximately a 1,000 miles (1,600 km) long when completed.

Yadkin River State Trail

Piedmont

130 miles (210 km)[3]

0 acres (0 km2)[3]

1987[2]

This paddle trail is along a mostly free-flowing stretch of the Yadkin River between the W. Kerr Scott Dam and the beginning of High Rock Lake. There are only two small impoundments along the trail, and neither one creates a large reservoir.

State Rivers

State Rivers are components of the state's Natural and Scenic Rivers System, which is the state's equivalent to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Most of the state's National Wild and Scenic Rivers, are also State Rivers and vice versa. The NC Division of Parks & Recreation states that:

The Natural and Scenic Rivers System was created by the 1971 General Assembly to preserve and protect certain free flowing rivers, their water quality and their adjacent lands for the benefit of present and future generations. The Natural and Scenic Rivers Act established criteria and methods for inclusion of components to the system. Components of the Natural and Scenic Rivers System are State Rivers, and are also units of the State Parks System.[1]

State River

Region

Length

Size

Established

Remarks

Horsepasture State Natural River

Mountains

4.5 miles (7.2 km)[3]

0 acres (0 km2)[3]

1985[2]

The river is located in the Pisgah National Forest, within a moderate 1.75 miles (2.82 km) hike of Gorges State Park, via the Rainbow Falls Trail.[19]

Linville State Natural River

Mountains

13.0 miles (20.9 km)[3]

0 acres (0 km2)[3]

1975[2]

The river is located in the middle of the Linville Gorge Wilderness.

Lumber State Natural River

Coastal Plain

34.5 miles (55.5 km)[3]

0 acres (0 km2)[3]

1989[2]

Lumber River State Park is along portions of the adjacent river banks.

Lumber State Scenic River

Coastal Plain

52.0 miles (83.7 km)[3]

0 acres (0 km2)[3]

1989[2]

Lumber River State Park is along portions of the adjacent river banks.

Lumber State Recreational River

Coastal Plain

15.5 miles (24.9 km)[3]

0 acres (0 km2)[3]

1989[2]

Lumber River State Park is along portions of the adjacent river banks.

New State Scenic River

Mountains

26.5 miles (42.6 km)[3]

0 acres (0 km2)[3]

1975[2]

New River State Park is along portions of the adjacent river banks.

 

Other Sites of Interest

 

San Marcos Memories—disappearing North County San Diego, Ca

www.ellengillisart.com

 

Lake San Marcos—Listing of Vendors and Other Items of Interest to LSM residents

www.lsmdirectory.com

 

Silly Service—38 years of Federal Civil Service Overview (A book in progress)

www.ivanegillis.com

 




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