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Spanning the North Carolina-South Carolina border, Lake Wylie is the oldest reservoir on the Catawba River. First dammed in 1904, the dam was rebuilt in 1924, vastly increasing the amount of surface acreage. Managed by Duke Energy, the reservoir and dam serve several power generation systems including hydroelectric, cooling water for nuclear power and even water to generate steam at the coal-fired Allen Steam Station. As with all true Southern belles, Lake Wylie has aged into a genteel yet vibrant asset to the cross-border community. Always ready to contribute, Lady Wylie provides water supply to the cities of Rock Hill and Belmont. And like the perfect hostess, Lake Wylie offers up excellent fishing, water sports and laid-back living to her many admirers.
With over 13,000 surface acres and 325 miles of shoreline, Lake Wylie can be all things to a variety of lakelubbers. Duke Energy has supplied a number of boat launch facilities on the various arms of the lake. Parks and campgrounds have grown up with facilities for swimming, boating, sun bathing and shoreline fishing. Local municipalities manage a number of these sites and often use the park settings to host musical events, fishing derbies and children's entertainment. Entire communities have developed around the large lake where homeowners entertain on lakefront docks and decks, barbecue on the back patio, and enjoy evenings with guests on screened porches overlooking the water.
A number of marinas provide fuel, maintenance and necessities to a variety of boaters. One boating club even provides boats to their members who wish to avoid the maintenance and expense of a privately-owned craft. There are a few businesses that rent watercraft to occasional visitors, including pontoons, personal watercraft, fishing boats and power boats. The large expanse of water makes it ideal for water-skiing, wake-boarding and tubing, while the irregular shoreline and many coves attract kayakers, canoeists and house boaters. The lake communities have existed long enough that yacht and sailing clubs hold regattas on the lake on a regular basis. Parades of colorfully decorated pontoons and boats are a cheerful tradition in annual events and 4th of July parades.
Fishing is good at Lake Wylie. So good in fact that tournament fishing is regularly scheduled here. Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass lead to some impressive catches, but crappie, bream, catfish, stripped bass, sunfish, white bass and white perch are also caught and are favorites with the youngsters. Fishing guide service is available to the novice fisherman or those wanting to be assured of locating the best hot spots. Since the lake lies in both North and South Carolina, the fisherman that intends to do much trolling or to fish the entire lake is advised to obtain the proper fishing licenses for both states.
Since the lake is only a few miles south of the Charlotte, North Carolina metropolitan area, Lake Wylie is a popular weekend camping and vacation destination. At least three of the designated parks include public campgrounds with most amenities. Reservations may be necessary on busy weekends. The lake is also a popular spot to rent a cottage for a week or month while still within commuting distance of Charlotte and Rock Hill, if work responsibilities intrude mid-week.
A number of activities occur at the lake which residents and visitors alike enjoy. The Lake Wylie Music Fest is a free, volunteer concert on a private dock during the summer months where the audience arrives and listens from their boats (the audience is encouraged to bring drums to 'play along'). Somewhat more formal is the Tega Cay Summer Concert Series in the community of Tega Cay; this outdoor concert series is held at Runde Park. Regular concert-goers can purchase a Luxury Lawn 10 x10 box seat with four chairs on the shady side of the field, while others take whatever space they can find. Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens fill the northern reaches of Lake Wylie with the flowers and trees of carefully-planned horticulture. An Orchid Conservatory places the crowning touch of landscaped lawns with spectacular specimen plantings. The site includes a series of nature trails that meander through five acres of meadow and woodland areas to Lake Wylie.
If visitors use Lake Wylie as base camp for other local activities, there are a number of attractions very near the lake. The Carowinds Amusement Park is only a couple of miles away, as is a large shopping mall. Charlotte itself has a number of museums and art galleries, with plenty of restaurants and specialty shopping. Near Charlotte, the U.S. National Whitewater Center is a non-profit organization that allows visitors to practice kayaking, canoeing, and white water rafting in a fun and safe environment. There are also trails for hiking and a giant climbing wall. Olympic-caliber athletes train here regularly, and interested parties can sign up for survival school and a number of Guide Schools. And there are always concerts and sports events going on at the Charlotte Coliseum.
History buffs will be in heaven visiting the area around Fort Mill, South Carolina just east of the lake. A Confederate Memorial Park commemorates various participants in Civil War history, with markers dedicated to a great many actions, and to both the Confederate Women and Faithful Slaves who defended families and property while the head of the household was off to war. The Faithful Slaves monument is thought to be the only monument to the slaves who aided the South's war efforts. Several famous battle sites are not far away, including Nations Ford and Sumter's Camp at Clems Branch. The Chicago White Sox minor league team, the Charlotte Knights, plays here each spring. Northeast of Charlotte, the Rural Hill Farm was the home of Revolutionary War patriot and signer of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, Major John Davidson. Rural Hill is the largest and oldest public historic site in Mecklenburg County dating 1760. A preserved Scottish farm, the site contains farm buildings, rare livestock including Scottish highland cows and walking trails.
Vacation lodgings are plentiful in the area around Lake Wylie, with some private homes and cottages available for rent by the week or month. Bed-and-breakfasts, rustic cabins, hotels and motels can be found around the lake and in the adjacent towns. Real estate for sale exists in several developments, and the occasional private lakefront home can be found at just the right price and with the perfect view. Lake Wylie is the perfect place to spend a North or South Carolina vacation, with Charlotte only minutes away, and Columbia, South Carolina less than two hours to the south. So, come visit Lake Wylie, the Carolinas' favorite southern belle. She graciously awaits your visit.
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