My nephew turned seven this past week. To celebrate, he wanted to take a boat ride. His crew? His Mom and Dad, Nanny and Pap, Aunt Beth, and me. So this past Friday, we rented a pontoon and set out on the “inland sea” better known as Lake Norman.
Lake Norman is North Carolina’s largest manmade lake, consisting of about 50 miles of surface area and 520 miles of shoreline. It’s average depth is about 30 feet, but it can be as deep as 110. The lake was first made in 1959 by Duke Power in order to run the generators at Cowans Ford Dam to subsequently provide energy to the Peidmont region of the Carolinas.
We rented our pontoon from Westport Marina in Denver, North Carolina, where there was a lot of activity for a weekday morning.
Nanny and my nephew watched a boat being moved from storage to the marina waters for a day on Lake Norman.
My nephew fed the resident ducks before we set off for our boat ride. — Lake Norman, North Carolina
There are 82 islands on Lake Norman. According to Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists, Duke Energy owns all of the islands and has numbered them. Many of the islands have beaches that are public access.
The islands on Lake Norman are eroding. (Pictured here is one of the smaller islands.) Erosion creates challenges for the wildlife that inhabit them–wildlife such as ospreys, snakes, turtles, bats, beavers, deer, and heron. (Information courtesy of the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists.)
We found our own little beach and anchored for lunch.
Small beaches, like this one that we stopped at, provide a place to relax, eat, or even cool off in the water if you dare. …To varying degrees—from wading to full-on swimming—each of us dared. — Lake Norman, NC
Beyond the sandy shore, the island that we stopped at seemed very remote and heavily wooded. (Translated: exciting!) I was immediately transported to scenes from Lord of the Flies and Treasure Island. I tossed my life jacket aside and headed into the “wilderness” for something to photograph. I had seen a bird’s nest from the boat and was delighted to find a clearing with a “bird’s eye view” of it.
An osprey on Lake Norman, North Carolina.
My nephew’s approaching footsteps and calls of “Aunt Lolly, where are you?” set the osprey aflutter and gave me the perfect opportunity for this beautiful shot. — Lake Norman, North Carolina
We pushed away from shore and continued cruising, taking in the sights and enjoying the wind in our hair on such a warm day.
Although my nephew is a bit past the Thomas & Friends stage in his young life, he was tickled to see this barge carrying a “Cranky the Crane” across Lake Norman.
The freshwater of Lake Norman is used by Marshall Steam Station (pictured in the background here) to cool the steam that drives the turbines. One of the most efficient power plants in the nation, the steam station generates enough electricity to power approximately 2 million homes according to the Duke Energy website. — Catawba County, North Carolina
Blythe Landing in Mecklenburg County, NC, is a 26-acre park on Lake Norman that offers floating boat launches and fishing piers.
This is how the other half lives: a helicopter sits on a private dock in The Peninsula region of Lake Norman, North Carolina.
Afternoon sightseeing, dinner, and Sunday buffet cruises are available on the Catawba Queen, which sets out from Queens Landing. A replica of a Mississippi River paddle wheeler, the Catawba Queen is a distinctive presence on Lake Norman, her American flag waving and her paddle wheel a turnin’.
The sight of the Catawba Queen evoked a spirit of adventure in a Huckleberry Finn sort of way; and I can say of our sunny day boat ride that I was not disappointed.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain