If you’re looking to get out of the city into nature but don’t have time to go far, you’ll be pleased to discover Lake Norman State Park. Located just north of Charlotte near Rte. 77 in Troutman, the nearly 2,000-acre park is a favorite spot for boating, picnicking, biking, hiking, camping, fishing, and swimming.
Lake Norman is North Carolina’s largest man-made lake, created between 1959 and 1964 when the Cowans Ford Dam and hydroelectric plant was built on the Catawba River. The plant is operated by Duke Power, providing electricity to several local communities including Charlotte, and Lake Norman. The park is named after former Duke Power president Norman Cocke. Since the dam was built, this area has developed rapidly, with the exception of the state parkland, most of which was donated by Duke Power.
The park features a 125-foot sand beach on the lake, with changing rooms and concession stands. It also offers 33 inexpensive campsites for tents or trailers, which can be reserved online. Four hiking trails of varying difficulty start near the visitor center. The longer Itusi trail is a winding 30.5-mile trek through much of the park and is intended for bikes.
Pedal boats, kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes are all available to rent from the visitor center. If you have your own boat you can launch it from a boat launch at the south end of the park. There are several good spots for fishing, including a pier near the swimming area where people have been known to catch crappie, bluegill, perch, and catfish, as well as striped, largemouth and spotted bass.
There’s no fee to enter the park, though there’s a small fee to use the beach at certain times. Special events include wildlife presentations, guided hikes, and stargazing.
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