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In 1978, the United States Army Corps of Engineers began construction on what would become Falls Lake. Formed at the base of the Eno, Flat, and Little Rivers, the lake was created to provide flood control for the Neuse River and to supply water to the capital city of Raleigh. The Corps of Engineers operates Falls Lake Dam, located at the southeastern portion of the lake. The land around the lake is publicly owned, so there is no lakefront residential development. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the Division of Parks and Recreation manage the land. The lake began filling in 1981 after completion of the dam, and reached conservation pool capacity in 1983 at 251.5 feet above sea level. Since that time Falls Lake has become a major recreation destination in north-central North Carolina.
Located 10 miles north of Raleigh and 12 miles east of Durham, Falls Lake State Recreation Area is actually divided into seven individual park areas: Beaverdam, B.W. Wells, Highway 50, Holly Point, Rolling View, Sandling Beach, and Shinleaf. 12,410 acres of gleaming water await you at Falls Lake, as well as myriad other activities for the whole family.
Boating is, of course, one of the most popular activities at the lake, and you are offered several boat launch locations. Highway 50, Rolling View, and Beaverdam all provide facilities that are open to the public. B.W. Wells and Holly Point offer access to their boat ramp for campers only. Powerboats are allowed in all areas but Beaverdam, so plan your trip accordingly, because with so many acres and coves to explore, boating is one of the best ways to see the entire lake. So bring your boat and sunblock because the crystal waters, emerald green shores, and endless blue sky will make you never want to go back to shore.
Water levels can decrease significantly during periods of drought, so it is best to check with state officials before visiting the lake during dry spells. At the conservation pool level of 251.5 feet above sea level, Falls Lake covers 12,410 acres. At bottom conservation pool level of 236.5 feet, acreage shrinks to 2,600 acres. During the drought of 2007 lake levels dropped almost 10 feet to about 241.6 feet above sea level.
If you're a lover of nature or simply like to rough it a little bit, Falls Lake Recreation Area offers its guests many camping opportunities, ranging from hike-in primitive camping sites to campsites with water and electric hookups and fully-wired RV sites. Showers are available as well as group campsites that can be booked in advance, accommodating up to 35 people. If you want to get away from it all and enjoy North Carolina?s abundant nature offerings up-close, then pack your tent and prepare yourself for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
If fishing is your pleasure, Falls Lake is your playground. Stocking programs keep the lake teeming with your next catch: largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, and panfish all swim beneath the surface, hiding in the lake's natural and artificial aquatic environments. Both children and adults will enjoy an afternoon of throwing in their lines as birds swoop overhead, water ripples grace the lake's surface, and animals come to drink at the shoreline.
For the athletically-inclined visitor, Falls Lake offers prime North Carolina hiking and cycling trails. Amazingly, the main trail -- Falls Lake Trail -- traces the entire circumference of the expansive lake, taking you through several of the recreational areas and state parkland. If you take this trail, make sure to wear bright colors (preferably neon orange or yellow) during hunting season, as part of the trail winds through N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission game lands. There are many other short trails throughout the park area, sure to provide you with beautiful views and special experiences. And for single-track mountain bicyclists, 6.5 miles of easy/intermediate trails and 6.5 miles of advanced-difficult trails are available for the riding.
When you've worked up a nice sweat, nothing is quite as refreshing as a dip in cool water, so head down to the lake and jump on in. Beaverdam, Rolling View, and Sandling Beach Recreation Areas all offer sandy beaches, restrooms, and changing facilities as well as wonderful picnicking facilities. Your comfort and enjoyment are their goal, so grab your beach towels and prepare for some fun in the sun.
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