Lakes & Rivers
Carolina Bay Lakes
North Carolina’s so-called “Carolina bay lakes” that you’ll find in Jones Lake State Park and Bladen Lakes State Forest are a geological mystery. However, some scientists believe the explanation is out of this world.
Eerie wetland depressions known as Carolina bays are scattered across the Southeast, but North Carolina has some of the most impressive ones. Almost perfectly oval with high, dry sand ridges around their rims and swampy interiors, these lakes typically have such highly acidic waters that fish are hard pressed to survive in them. Could they be – as some researchers suggest – the result of an interstellar meteor assault on our home planet?
There is evidence that there was an ancient meteor shower of epic proportions, but scientists still have not totally agreed that our Carolina bays resulted from this rocky barrage from outer space. No matter. It’s still a great area in which to enjoy the North Carolina outdoor experience.
A good way to see our otherworldly lakes is by driving the North Carolina Division of Transportation’s Meteor Lakes Scenic Byway. Begin on NC 242 in Elizabethtown, the site of a Revolutionary War battle where patriot forces broke Loyalist opposition. You’ll cross the Cape Fear River outside the city limits of Elizabethtown, enter 35,975-acre Bladen Lakes State Forest and shortly arrive at the first of our meteor lakes.
Jones Lake State Park is a 2,200-acre natural paradise that features two meteor lakes, the park’s namesake and Salters Lake. Large pond cypress draped in Spanish moss outline the shore. Dense undergrowth thrives in the boggy soil around the lakes. Most bays, named for the sweet bay shrubs that surround them, are 500 feet in length or less. Jones Lake, at 8,000 feet in length, is the largest. Boating is popular here, particularly by canoeists. Only powerboats with engines under 10 horsepower are allowed. Fishing also is popular, but because of the water’s acidity, only hardy souls like the yellow perch, chain pickerel and catfish are found in abundance. Iced-tea colored waters lure swimmers into the shallow lake for a cooling dip.
Nearby is Singletary Lake State Park, which features another impressive Carolina bay: 4,000-foot-long Singletary Lake. Camping is the thing to do around the shores of the 572-acre lagoon. Group camping, in the dormitories at Camp Ipecac and Camp Loblolly Bay, is available to nonprofit organizations. Bay shrubs, cedar, gum and 400-year-old cypress trees provide a wonderful backdrop for large group outings.
Extra-terrestrial or not, we think our Carolina bay lakes are an out of this world experience for North Carolina visitors.
added: December 29, 2008
updated: January 2, 2009