Flatland Hiking-The Carolina Bays Part 2- Lake Waccamaw, Lake Waccamaw NC

Have you ever travelled somewhere and when you get there it reminded you of another place? Well that’s the feeling you get at Lake Waccamaw.

When you arrive at Lake Waccamaw you appear to have arrived in Florida. It is very sunny, has Florida style homes in the village and nothing but water can be seen beyond the houses. Not to mention the white sand everywhere. But no; pinch yourself, this is still North Carolina. Lake Waccamaw is the largest of the Bay Lakes in North Carolina, and at 9000 acres, it is huge!

Lake Waccamaw State Park, Lake Waccamaw NC

The Lakeshore Trail starts at the visitor center and it’s 4 miles out to the dam. One immediately noticeable thing at the 1st boardwalk; the flies! So Deet up for this one.

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Boardwalk to the Lakeshore Trail

At the end of the boardwalk near the pier I find a sign that could be a little troubling. Have to keep a watch out for safety…..


I didn’t know that the Lake Waccamaw area had alligators but apparently it’s so. And you thought I was kidding before about the Florida look and feel of the place. The 9000 acre Lake Waccamaw only has an average depth of 7.5 feet. At the end of the 700 foot Pier you can see the bottom of the lake clearly.

The pier at Lake Waccamaw

Past the pier I finally start to get away from civilization into the backcountry of this place. The trail follows quite close to the lake through more pocosin. It is swampy on the lake side and extremely brushy on the other.

flooded trail
I can see where this could be gator country.

At about two miles in I ran a crossed the primitive camping area, which by the way, is the only camping at Lake Waccamaw. The Campground is in a large sandy clearing on some high ground.

Two trails leave the campground, the Lakeshore Trail and the Sand Ridge Trail. I left on the Sand Ridge Trail as I was back in the campground looking it over. The trails soon came together and the Lakeshore Trail went through a grassy area.

Soon I came to…. If you can believe it….. a small white sand beach. And you thought I was kidding about the Florida feeling…

White sand just like Florida
The lake from the beach

As you notice the water looks like a big bowl of tea. The reason for this is that any plant residue that enters the lake is pretty much trapped. This residue dyes the water this tea color as it rots. Lake Waccamaw is also the only Carolina Bay that supports aquatic life.

It was here in a grassy area I had my first encounter with a poisonous snake. In the grass, not one foot from where my step came down, was a large copperhead. Thankfully he was as surprised as I and slithered off into the pocosin. Whew! That was close, and why, when I hike now in Texas, I wear long pants and gaiters in the canyons.

The trail cut back towards the lake and swamp.

More swamp at the lake edge.

At the second white sand beach of the day I got a wonderful view into the lake and swamp area

I found this view to be absolutely gorgeous

As I neared the dam the trail ran on top of the embankment with the lake swamps on one side and the beginnings of the Waccamaw River on the other.

Lake Waccamaw Dam

I really don’t know if one could really say this constitutes a dam but there it is. The trickling water is the beginnings of the Waccamaw River.

I didn’t see any gators. I asked a ranger and she told me they don’t like the lake very much. I guess they allow some low horsepower watercraft on the lake and the ranger said the gators don’t like the wake disturbance in the water. She said they prefer the blackwater farther down the river.

So there’s the story of the Carolina Bays, Jones, Salters and Lake Waccamaw.

Lake Waccamaw
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