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Less than an hour's drive from Charlotte, Lake Tillery is one of the best-kept secrets of the Piedmont Region of North Carolina. One of the reservoirs created along the Yadkin-PeeDee River for power generation, Lake Tillery lies between Badin Lake and Blewitt Falls Lake in the Uwharrie Lakes Region of North Carolina. The Lake Tillery Dam (also known as the Norwood Dam) was built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1928 for hydropower generation. Owned by Progress Energy, the lakeshore has been carefully managed to assure a healthy balance of residential development and undeveloped shoreline. Although homes and cottages are built around the reservoir, most actual lakefront is leased lots and subject to environmental regulation. This has kept the shoreline natural. A vegetation buffer zone provides run-off protection and sheltered habitat for aquatic plants and waterfowl. Tillery Reservoir currently provides drinking water supplies for Montgomery County and the City of Norwood.
Lake Tillery is a favorite location for summer water sports and swimming. All types of water craft are used here as residents and visitors alike enjoy water skiing, power boating, tubing, pontooning, wind surfing, jet skiing, canoeing and kayaking. Several marinas around the lake provide access for larger craft and rent small watercraft. For those with their own boats, ample free boat ramps are located around the lake.
The Uwharrie River and the Yadkin River enters Lake Tillery to form the PeeDee River. Other named tributaries entering the reservoir include Sugar Loaf Creek, Mountain Creek, Little Mountain Creek, Jacobs Creek, Cedar Creek, Rocky Creek, Big Island Creek, Wood Run Creek, Upper Wood Run Creek, David's Creek, Bunny Creek, Richmond Creek, Lower Richland Creek, and Dutch John Creek. The many creek mouths provide excellent fishing and canoeing waters. Fish usually sought at Lake Tillery include channel catfish, striped bass, white bass, bluegill, red ear sunfish, and largemouth bass. Lake Tillery is a favorite location for tournament fishing and several tournaments are held here each year. The fishery is carefully monitored by Progress Energy and planting is completed on a scientific schedule to assure an optimum fishing experience for all anglers. A fishing pier is located at Morrow Mountain State Park for shore fishing. Other areas suitable for fishing are located along the shore.
Besides the undeveloped recreational lands set aside by Progress Energy, both Morrow Mountain State Park and Uwharrie National Forest abut the lakeshore. Both provide access and recreation on the water to the general public. Morrow Mountain State Park encompasses part of the Uwharrie Mountains; the steep, rugged hills are in contrast to the rolling land of the Piedmont. The park provides camping facilities, picnicking, swimming, boating, educational exhibits and trails for hiking and biking. The 4,742 acre park contains four of the low, ancient mountains in the Uwharrie Range. The rounded mountains, once many thousands of feet high have been weathered over millennia down to less than a thousand feet. Even at 936 feet, Morrow Mountain is quite a feat of endurance for those following the hiking trail.
Uwharrie National Forest is similar in topography to Morrow Mountain State Park. Campgrounds here include rustic and developed sites and miles upon miles of trails, some of which wind along parts of the Lake Tillery shore and neighboring Badin Lake. Both areas are excellent for bird and wildlife watching. Bald eagles are often seen, along with a variety of song birds and waterfowl. Both parks are favored for mountain biking and some trails are designated for horseback riding or off-road vehicles. Certain areas of the National Forest are available for hunting in season. Check with National Forest personnel for regulations and licenses.
Two of the closest towns to Lake Tillery are the small village of Norwood, a short distance from the western shore. and My Gilead. The tiny town of Norwood is big enough to supply visitors with a few groceries and bait. For a larger selection, Mt Gilead is a somewhat larger town a few miles from the dam. Here the visitor can find grocery stores, shopping and restaurants. For full-sized services and shopping, Charlotte and Greensboro are about sixty miles away, along with Concord, High Point and other metropolitan cities along Interstate 40.
The entire area around Lake Tillery is historic, both in archeological sites and American history. One activity visitors will enjoy is Town Creek Indian Mound - an archeological site open to the public. Here, visitor can see replicas of housing used by the PeeDee Native Americans, shards of pottery and tools, and interpretation of the lifestyle and burial practices of these fascinating ancient people. The North Carolina Historic Site, located east of Mt Gilead, is operated by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
A site with more modern roots is the Reed Gold Mine, between Lake Tillery and Charlotte in Midland. Here, descendants of a Hessian soldier from the Revolutionary War settled to farm. His young son found a huge lump of gold in a nearly dry creek and brought it home to use as a doorstop. When the metal was finally determined to be gold, it started a North Carolina gold rush that lasted until overshadowed by the California gold rush. Children and adults will enjoy a chance to pan for gold at the mine facilities.
Vacation rentals are usually available at Lake Tillery. Many part-time residents lease their properties while they are not there. Other lodgings are available year-round. The Piedmont area is a popular vacation spot and many bed-and-breakfast facilities, small resorts and motels can be found either at Lake Tillery or at other nearby lakes. Local newspapers and internet searches often turn up real estate for sale at bargain prices. The area is popular but not overcrowded due careful management. One visit and you may find yourself dreaming of a retirement home here or a summer cottage. Come explore Lake Tillery. You'll love it!
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