LAKE WACCAMAW STATE PARK
The cool, tea-colored waters at first appear similar to other lakes in the area, but Lake Waccamaw is one of the most unique bodies of water in the world. You will find here species of animals found nowhere else on the planet, rare plants and endangered animals.
At Lake Waccamaw, you can view one of the greatest geological mysteries of the eastern United States?the phenomenon of Carolina bays. Limestone bluffs along the north shore neutralize Lake Waccamaw's water, making the lake different from any other Carolina Bay. Nearby, you can catch a glimpse of a botanical wonder?the Green Swamp.
From its sandy shorelines to its tree-lined natural areas, Lake Waccamaw offers peaceful surroundings, an intriguing natural history and fun in the sun.
November-February, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
March and October, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
April, May, September, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
June-August, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Closed Christmas Day
Park office hours:
8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Closed state holidays
John Bartram, the nation's first renowned botanist, once described Lake Waccamaw as "the pleasantest place I ever saw." But he was not the first to find this paradise.
Archaeologists have discovered evidence of civilization at Lake Waccamaw dating back thousands of years, in addition to artifacts from the Waccamaw-Siouan tribes. In 1797, the state deeded 170,120 acres of the Green Swamp to Stephen Williams, Benjamin Rowell and William Collins for little more than $7,000. A portion of the land was drained for agricultural use, but in 1904 the property was purchased for timbering.
Lumber companies produced cypress shingles and shipped them by boat across Lake Waccamaw for transport by mule to the nearby train station. Logging and shingle transportation eventually became rail-based, and a line was laid along the west side of the lake. Remnants of the railway bridge crossing can still be seen today.
State government interest in the bay lakes emerged in the early 1800s when legislation blocked further private claims on land covered by lake waters. Later, the General Assembly declared that any lake of 500 acres or more in Bladen, Columbus or Cumberland counties shall remain the property of the state.
In October of 1964, the Board of Conservation and Development tried to obtain land on the lakeshore to establish a state park. But it wasn't until May of 1976 that a state park was formed on the lake when a 273-acre tract of land was purchased by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. Additional land purchases for the park in the mid-1980s, including acreage formerly belonging to the Federal Paper Company and Georgia-Pacific Corporation, helped bring the park to its present size of 1,732 acres.
The adventuresome camper will find plenty to enjoy at Lake Waccamaw's four primitive group camping areas nestled beneath the trees. Picnic tables, fire circles and pit toilets are located nearby. All supplies, including drinking water, must be packed to the sites.
Organized groups may make reservations. Otherwise, campsites are available on a first-come basis. Register at the visitor's center for a camping permit.
Boating is a popular pastime at Lake Waccamaw. There is no boat access in the park, but two free public boat launch areas are available nearby. One is maintained by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) while the other is operated by Columbus County. Powerboats and sailboats may be launched from the boat ramps, but parking is limited. Lake Waccamaw is park property; all park rules apply.
Fifty-two species of game and non-game fish swim in Lake Waccamaw. The WRC stocks the lake with largemouth bass, bluegill, shellcracker and redbreast sunfish. All regulations of the WRC are enforced.
Lake Waccamaw State Park is located near Supply, Whiteville
Picnic tables and grills are conveniently placed beneath large oak trees draped with Spanish moss. Drinking water and restrooms are nearby. The picnic area and the restrooms, as well as some picnic tables, are accessible for persons with disabilities.
Lake Trail: The longest trail in the park, Lake Trail begins at the visitor's center and follows the lakeshore to the Waccamaw River. The trail passes through a variety of ecosystems during its five-mile course. Marked by white blazes, Lake Trail cuts through a pine forest, past one of the oldest stands of cypress trees in the area, under towering hickory trees, alongside grass beds in the lake that provide cover for a variety of fish species and beside sandy beaches perfect for picnicking or pausing to gaze across the lake.
Sand Ridge Nature Trail: The Sand Ridge Nature Trail is a .75-mile loop that begins and ends near the picnic area. Guides for this trail are available in the picnic area. From the trail, hikers can view reindeer moss, Spanish moss, reindeer lichen, pond pine, longleaf pine, turkey oak, laurel oak and hickory. Trees are marked to help identify the route.
Pine Woods Trail: A 2.5-mile trail that winds through the park from the picnic area to the visitor's center allows hikers to view the diverse plant life found at Lake Waccamaw State Park. Common plants along this trail include longleaf pines, bay trees and turkey oaks. With a careful eye, hikers can even spot Venus flytraps. Because the flytraps are a rare species, they should not be disturbed.
Loblolly Trail: Marked with red trail blazes, Loblolly Trail is a one-mile loop. Similar to the Pine Woods Trail in content, this loop begins and ends at the visitor's center.
Boardwalks: A gravel path from the picnic area parking lot winds through the picnic ground and leads to a 700-foot boardwalk from which hikers can get a closer look at the various plants of the bay forest bordering the lake. The boardwalk ends at a 375-foot pier perfect for fishing. An additional accessible boardwalk that traverses the bay forest is located near the visitor's center and is complete with two sun shelters.
Rangers hold regularly scheduled educational and interpretive programs about Lake Waccamaw State Park.
To arrange a special exploration of Lake Waccamaw State Park for your group or class, contact the park office.
Educational materials about Lake Waccamaw State Park have been developed for grades 6-8 and are correlated to North Carolina's competency-based curriculum in science, social studies, mathematics and English/language arts. The Lake Waccamaw program introduces students to the unique ecosystem of this particular Carolina bay, focusing on water chemistry and the lake's diversity of aquatic life. Accompanying the program is a teacher's booklet and workshop, free of charge to educators.
Lake Waccamaw State Park is located in Columbus County, 38 miles west of Wilmington and 12 miles east of Whiteville.
From I-95, travel southeast on US 74, continuing east on the highway after it merges with US 76. After passing Whiteville, travel approximately 12 miles. Signs on this highway will direct you to the park. Turn right on James Avenue and left on Church Street/ NC 214. Turn right on Bartram Lane. Before the road takes a sharp right at the lake, turn left on Bella Coola Road. Follow Bella Coola Road until its end at Lake Waccamaw State Park.
From I-40 at Wilmington, take US 74/76 west for approximately 38 miles. Signs on this highway will direct you to the park. Turn left on Pecan Lane and left on Church Street/ NC 214. Turn right on Bartram Lane. Before the road takes a sharp right at the lake, turn left on Bella Coola Road. Follow Bella Coola Road until its end at Lake Waccamaw State Park.