Fun in the Sun on Jordan Lake

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Photo courtesy of the Town of Cary

PICTURED ABOVE: A family enjoys a canoeing adventure on Jordan Lake. Photo courtesy of the Town of Cary.

Camping, swimming and boating are great ways to spend warm summer days in Western Wake.


North Carolina has 41 parks in its state parks system, along with 10 national park sites and four national forests. With over 2.2 million visitors, Jordan Lake State Recreation Area is the most visited of all of these parks. Meandering through Chatham, Wake, Durham and Orange Counties, Jordan Lake has seven access areas that provide plenty of camping, boating and swimming opportunities. Adventurers will find 15 miles of hiking trails, an amphitheater, auditorium, beach access points and bathhouses for swimmers and campers. It’s even the largest summertime home of the bald eagle, much to the delight of visiting birdwatchers.

Here are a few ways to make the most of your summer at one of the Piedmont’s crowning jewels.

Just Add Water

While boaters and anglers recreate all year long at Jordan Lake, Fred M. Watkins, park superintendent of Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, says the busiest time of year is between May and July. If fishing is your jam, he says, the most popular fish species are largemouth bass, black crappie and catfish. You’ll need to obtain a fishing license through the NC Wildlife Resources Commission if you want to fish. Size and creel limits (limits on the number of fish anglers can take home) are available through the Commission’s website.

Any type of boat is allowed on the lake, but the most popular are motorboats, sailboats, canoes and kayaks. Watkins emphasizes that boaters should exercise a commonsense approach to enjoying water sports by wearing life jackets while boating, and also by using plenty of sunscreen. The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office has been known to surprise visitors displaying safe boating practices with popsicles.

Safety on the water is a key element of boating. Branson Mosier and his wife Megan own TowBoatUS Jordan Lake—a kind of water-based AAA. Not only do they aid boaters who are experiencing issues on the water, but they also offer a series of boating safety courses that follow the National Safe Boating Council curriculum. “We teach you how to operate your boat in a safe manner, but we also teach you the nuances of being a safer, better boater so you can boat more and worry less,” says Mosier.

If you want to enjoy boating without the responsibility of maintaining your own watercraft, Freedom Boat Club is another option. Membership allows participants to reserve one of a dozen different pontoons, bowriders or deck boats, all carrying between 10 to 12 people. There’s currently a waiting list for the 7-day membership, but weekday memberships are available.

Why Stop When the Sun Goes Down?

Camping is the most popular activity at Jordan Lake—even more so than boating and swimming. The park offers five access points for campers, with over 1,000 campsites. Amenities vary by campsite.

Tyler Harris co-owns Chatham Outfitters in Pittsboro, and he and his wife Jennie (who is the store’s marketing manager) love camping with their daughter at Jordan Lake. “I always come away from camping feeling more refreshed and relaxed,” says Jennie. “We especially love how convenient Jordan Lake is to our home in Pittsboro, and how well-maintained their facilities are.” Whether you’re new to camping or an old pro, Tyler says it’s always good to review safety tips before you pitch your tent. “Always have a fully stocked first aid kit,” he says, “and always use the buddy system on hikes. Bring extra clothes in case you get wet, inform people not traveling with you of your location and when you’ll return, and leave no trace by focusing on leaving your campsite in the same condition you found it.”

Phillip and Emily Teasley of Durham discovered a shared passion for camping two years into their marriage. Camping is an affordable and easily accessible means of recreation for this young couple. “At first it wasn’t easy,” Emily says. “There’s no air conditioning, no heat, no electricity … But now? It’s easy. All you need is a tent, a soft place to sleep, and cookware. That camping magic has us reading our books, kayaking and turning off our brains. We have some of our best talks about life and our relationship while camping.”

The Teasleys usually reserve a campsite for two to four nights, and always have their kayaks in tow. “Jordan Lake is truly a local gem,” says Phillip. “We love that it’s a local getaway with amazing lake views close to home, semi-private campsites, and modern conveniences like close bathroom access and running water.” Campsites are affordable at $23/night, and booking online is easy. “You don’t have to be an outdoorsy person to enjoy camping,” says Emily.

Fun with Family and Friends

John Conrad and his family moved to Pittsboro seven years ago. Conrad enjoys bringing his family out on the lake in his boat. “Right now, we’ve got a Rinker runabout, an open bow recreational pleasure craft we’ve had since we moved to North Carolina in 2007,” he says. “It’s the perfect size for a family—plus, it holds all the toys.”

Conrad and his wife bring family and friends out onto the water with them. “My favorite activity is water skiing,” he says, “but the family’s is tubing. It’s a great way to get their friends out with them, because tubing requires no skill. That makes it fun and good for guests.”

“The weekends are busy,” Conrad adds, “so we usually head out in the evenings, after work. But my favorite time on the lake is in the early mornings. If you get out there around 8 a.m. and stay until 11:00 a.m., you can drive on smooth, calm water. And if you’re lucky, the slushy boat comes by selling slushies!”

John puts in at the Seaforth access point, his favorite cove close to home. He spends many hours on the lake, sometimes with his family and sometimes on his own. “People ask, ‘When will you be home?’” says Conrad. “I tell them I don’t have a watch. I’ll be home after dark.”



Jordan Lake State Recreation Area

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Schedule your boat safety course with TowBoatUS

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