Lake Waccamaw State Park

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1866 State Park Dr, Lake Waccamaw, NC 28450, United States

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Introduction of Lake Waccamaw State Park

Lake Waccamaw is an 8,938-acre enigma. The lake is one of many landforms in this region known collectively as ‘Carolina Bays,’ and is located in Columbus County in the southeast corner of North Carolina. Thousands of these ‘bays’ dot North Carolina’s coast, Lake Waccamaw being the largest, and no scientist has determined how or why they exist. The name ‘bay’ does not refer to some ancient connection to the ocean, but to the predominant plant life found around them, namely the sweet bay, loblolly bay, and red bay. There are numerous theories about how these depressions formed, ranging from meteorites to sea currents. Though most have been filled in, they were all once filled with water.

Lake Waccamaw State Park Camping

The four primitive group camping areas nestled beneath the trees at Lake Waccamaw will appeal to the adventurous camper. Picnic tables, fire rings, and pit toilets are nearby. To the sites, all supplies, including drinking water, must be packed.

Reservations can be made by organized groups. Otherwise, camping is on a first-come, first-served basis. Register for a camping permit at the visitor center.



evening view Lake Waccamaw State Park
CC: Social Channel of park

Lake Waccamaw State Park History

Lake Waccamaw was once described as “the pleasantest place I ever saw” by John Bartram, the nation’s first renowned botanist. However, he was not the first to discover this paradise.

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of civilization dating back thousands of years at Lake Waccamaw, as well as artifacts from the Waccamaw-Siouan tribes. For a little more than $7,000, the state deeded 170,120 acres of the Green Swamp to Stephen Williams, Benjamin Rowell, and William Collins in 1797. Although some of the lands was drained for agricultural purposes, the property was purchased for timbering in 1904.

Lumber companies manufactured cypress shingles and shipped them across Lake Waccamaw by boat for mule transport to the nearby train station. Logging and shingle transportation eventually moved to the rail, and a line was built along the lake’s west shore. The railway bridge crossing’s ruins can still be seen today.

When legislation prohibited further private claims on land covered by lake waters in the early 1800s, the state government became interested in the bay lakes. The General Assembly later declared that any lake of 500 acres or more in Bladen, Columbus, or Cumberland counties would remain state property.

In October 1964, the Board of Conservation and Development attempted to acquire lakeshore land for a state park. However, it wasn’t until May 1976 that a state park was established on the lake when the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation purchased a 273-acre tract of land. Additional land purchases for the park in the mid-1980s, including land formerly owned by the Federal Paper Company and the Georgia-Pacific Corporation, contributed to the park’s current size of 1,732 acres.

Lake Waccamaw State Park Trails

Looking for the best trails in Lake Waccamaw State Park for a challenging hike or a family outing? AllTrails has 6 excellent hiking trails, biking trails, running trails, and other activities. Enjoy hand-curated trail maps, as well as reviews and photos from other nature enthusiasts.

Are you prepared for your next hike or bike ride? Explore one of Lake Waccamaw State Park’s six easy hiking trails, which are suitable for the entire family. Looking for a more challenging hike? We’ve got you covered with trails ranging in elevation gain from 1 to 18 meters. Whatever you have planned for the day, Lake Waccamaw State Park has the perfect trail for you. 

Pier view Lake Waccamaw State Park
CC: Social Channel of park


Parking is available

Public Transport

Public Transport is not available

Lake Waccamaw State Park Photos

Lake Waccamaw State Park Map