Thirty years ago, Lake Norman – 25 miles to the north of Charlotte – was primarily a weekend retreat, its shores dotted with tin-roofed boathouses, mobile homes and fishing cabins.
That began to change, however, with the completion of Interstate 77 in 1976. Suddenly it was possible to live like you were on vacation all year round only a quick 20-minute drive from work, shopping and entertainment in the big city.
Lake Norman, like Lake Wylie, its sister lake to the south, is a “working” lake, created by Duke Energy for the generation of hydroelectric power. Both are part of the Catawba River system. Norman is the larger of the two lakes though, with 520 miles of shoreline in four counties – Mecklenburg, Iredell, Lincoln and Catawba. At nearly 34 miles long and 8 miles across at its widest point, it is larger than the Sea of Galilee and often referred to as “The Inland Sea.”
As any developer will tell you, retail follows rooftops and the Lake Norman area is no exception. Lake shoppers can now browse unique boutiques, quaint village shops, upscale specialty stores or national chains. In the town centers, entrepreneurs are converting homes, warehouses, old mills and train depots into craft, consignment, antiques and clothing shops. Restaurants, which used to look at Lake Norman as a secondary location, are now opening here first, then branching out to Uptown and other parts of Charlotte.
There are nearly a dozen marinas that offer wet or dry boat storage starting at $1,000 annually. If you’re putting your own boat into the water, public access ramps are available at Jetton Park, Blythe Landing and Ramsey Creek Park in the Cornelius/Huntersville area. Iredell County public access areas include Hager Creek Access at Exit 33 and McCrary Creek Access, Pinnacle Access and Stumpy Creek Access off N.C. 150. In the Denver area on Lake Norman’s west shore, head to Little Creek Access Area on Webb’s Chapel Road or the Beatties Ford Access Area on Unity Church Road. Catawba County boaters can choose from several marinas on lower Lake Norman south of the N.C. 150 bridge or Long Island Marina on Burton Drive.
Unless you’re on a boat or have access to private land, 1,600-acre Lake Norman State Park in Troutman is the only place swimming is allowed from Lake Norman shores. The park also offers boat ramps, picnic shelters, campsites, mountain biking and hiking trails.