The weekday hours for boat rentals at Lake James State Park are subject to change due to staffing and other late season concerns. Please call ahead to the park office at 828-584-7728 to determine if the park will be renting boats that day.
Be advised that the directions of Tindo and Wimba Trails have changed. Tindo Trail is going in a clockwise direction and Wimba Trail is going in a counterclockwise direction. If the time stamp on this alert is more than 24 hours old, please feel free to call the park office at 828-584-7728 for the most up-to-date information
Hiking and Biking
The park is a great place for a hike! See the Trails page for more information.
Two boat ramps, Hidden Cove and Canal Bridge, offer access to Lake James where power boats, sailboats and smaller craft have ample room to enjoy the water. Both boat ramps are located along NC 126 within two miles east of the park entrance. Hidden Cove operates according to park hours and must be vacated by closing time. Canal Bridge is open 24 hours.
Canoes and kayaks are available for rent from the park. See Fees/FAQs/Rules for more information.
Nearby, a number of other launching sites and marinas offer boats and motors for rent. Fishing tackle, bait, ice and snacks are also available.
Swimming is permitted in the Paddy's Creek Area only within the designated swimming area. Swimmers must remain inside the swim line. The swimming area is open May 1 through September 30, 10am –6pm, every day. A fee is in effect when lifeguards are on duty. Swimming is free of charge when there are no lifeguards on duty. See Fees/FAQs/Rules for more information.
The cool mountain waters of the Linville and Catawba rivers flow into hilly terrain to form a deep lake with enough points and coves to challenge any fisherman. Water level fluctuation, due to hydroelectric power production, keeps aquatic vegetation at a minimum and concentrates fish populations, especially in winter. Cool, deep waters, reaching as much as 120 feet, and warm surface climes provide a variety of sport fishing options.
The Largemouth bass is arguably the most sought-after fish in the lake. Early morning and late afternoon hours from April through October are the best times to seek this tackle-buster and its bronzy relative, the smallmouth bass. Quiet coves with submerged stumps and logs, rocky points and steep, overhanging banks are ideal places to try your luck. Walleye, first introduced to the lake in 1951, is another prized gamefish. Normally associated with coldwater lakes of the upper Midwest and Canada, this tasty fish is most readily caught in deep waters during the same season as bass. Walleye can also be successfully pursued in shallower waters at night.
White bass spawn in May, and the best fishing for this species is typically from 6-7 a.m. along the banks or from anchored boats along the ancient river channels. During the summer, schooling whites are often seen corralling shad at the surface and become susceptible to topwater lures. Crappie fishing is best during May through July, in the early morning and at night. Bluegill and redbreast sunfish are available year-round and are most active during the morning hours in shallow coves with lots of submerged stumps and logs. The cleanest, tastiest catfish anywhere are found in the lake all year long. Fish for them in the evening along gently sloping underwater shelves and the mouths of slow-moving streams as they enter the lake. The North Carolina state record white catfish—13 pounds—was caught at Lake James in 1990.
Another popular gamefish is the mighty muskellunge. Record specimens have been caught in Lake James, including the state record tiger muskie—a whopping 33-pound, 8-ounce brute that took a buzzbait in 1988. Other fish you might catch include carp and perch. A fishing license is required. All Wildlife Resources Commission regulations apply.
You bring the food and we'll supply the atmosphere. There are picnic areas available on a first-come, first-served basis at both the Catawba River and Paddy's Creek areas of Lake James State Park. Picnic sites include tables, outdoor grills and trash and recycling receptacles. Drinking water and restrooms are located within a short walk of all picnic sites. Three large picnic shelters with 10-12 tables each are available for groups. The shelters are available by reservation.
Lake James State Park
Day-use areas at Paddy's Creek and Catawba River:
December - February: 7am - 7pm
March, April & October: 7am - 9pm
May - September: 7am - 10pm
November: 7am - 8pm
Hidden Cove Boat Access Hours:
December - February: closed
March, April, & October: 7am - 8pm
May - September: 7am - 9pm
November: 7am - 7pm
All areas closed Christmas Day
10am - 6pm
May 1 through September 30