Lake Norman State Park stands out for many reasons.

“For Lake Norman, we are in this community where there is not anything like this in the area,” said Will Ruark, park ranger at Lake Norman State Park.

The park was formed in September of 1962 when Duke Energy donated 1,328 acres of land on the northeastern shore for a state park, according to the North Carolina State Parks website. A few years later, Lake Norman came to fruition, which is the state’s largest man-made lake. It was created during the building of the Cowans Ford Dam across the Catawba River so Duke Energy could generate electrical energy.

Lake Norman State Park has seen millions of families, friends, and individuals across the globe visit for many different reasons. Its major activities include hiking, biking, boating, fishing, picnicking, and swimming, and it’s surrounded by urban areas such as Mooresville, Charlotte, and Statesville, making this green space unique.

“Our visitation is actually increasing; we were close to one million visitors last year,” Ruark said.

The state park includes a 125-yard-long man-made white sand beach for swimming, as well as other water activities like canoeing. It includes a parking area, restrooms, changing stalls, showers, lockers, lifeguard service, and a bathhouse with a concession stand for those hot summer days.

One of the three major picnic areas is actually located near the swimming area, which is accessible to the fishing pier.

And there’s plenty of fish to catch, including crappie, bluegill, perch, catfish, and striped, largemouth, and spotted bass.

“Even in the rain you can find someone fishing,” Ruark said.

Aquatics aside, the park boasts one of the region’s more popular mountain biking networks, called Itasi Bike Trail. It offers 30.5 miles of single-track trail and it’s actually the biggest attraction Lake Norman has, Ruark said.

Mammals such as white-tailed deer, red and gray foxes, rabbits, and muskrats are just a few of the animals that call Lake Norman State Park their home. A variety of snakes and turtles can be found in the park, as well as many species of frogs.

For bird watchers, the park offers a chance to see Carolina chickadees, pine warblers, red-tailed hawks, wild turkey, osprey, mallards, Canada geese, and herons.

The state park also offers an auditorium, community building, and a classroom that can be reserved.

“Our main purpose is for recreation but we are also interested in education and conservation,” Ruark said.

Lake Norman State Park provides a variety of learning opportunities for visitors of all ages, normally led by park rangers. The usually free events (though some require pre-registration) going on throughout the year give park visitors a deeper insight into the natural world.

“We are always working to make this park as beautiful as possible,” Ruark said “In this environment we are in, it is always good to get out and take a deep breath in the woods. It is healthy for us.” J

To learn more about Lake Norman State Park and plan your next trip, visit

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