The picturesque views and clear mountain waters encountered during a visit to Lake James and the Linville Gorge National Wilderness Area are unparalleled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Foothills region.
Many of us visit, play, relax or live in the area, and it is hard to imagine a more beautiful place deserving of permanent protection than the lands surrounding Lake James and the Linville Gorge.
In 1998, Lake James’ undeveloped shoreline lands and large tracts bordering the Linville Gorge National Wilderness Area and Pisgah National Forest were under immediate threat of being subdivided into thousands of home lots, forever privatizing the shoreline, impacting water quality and destroying the scenic views and wilderness characteristics of the Linville Gorge. Approached by Paul Braun and the “Citizens to Save Lake James”, who had gathered more than 7,000 signatures on petitions calling for the protection of Lake James, Foothills Conservancy met with N.C. State Parks, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Pisgah National Forest and Burke, McDowell County and local and state elected officials to seek buy-in for public acquisitions of up to 10,000 acres surrounding the lake.
Seven years later, in 2005, more than $18 million in state funding was secured to acquire 2,915 acres and 30 miles of shoreline to expand Lake James State Park. This increased the size of North Carolina’s smallest state park by six times, forever preserving the Paddy Creek and Long Arm sections of the lake for public recreation and enjoyment. The new Paddy Creek section of Lake James State Park opened to the public in fall 2010 and includes trails, a new public swimming area, bath house and picnic shelters. Park visitation has already dramatically increased, boosting the region’s economy.
In all, Foothills Conservancy has protected 8,836 acres around Lake James and the Linville Gorge through public acquisitions. More than 3,500 acres have been added to Pisgah National Forest near or adjacent to the Linville Gorge, 2,275 acres are now state wildlife game lands in the Black Bear Creek watershed above Lake James; and 43 acres were added to the Blue Ridge Parkway along a mile of the Linville River above Linville Falls. As a member of Burke County’s Lake James Task Force, Foothills Conservancy also played a significant role in helping to secure citizen and political support for nationally recognized conservation district zoning that protects more than 2,000 acres of privately owned lands around the lake in Burke County.
Lake James State Park – The Story of a Conservation Victory
1. Linville River NPS-43 acres
2. Pisgah National Forest Black Bear Watershed
3. Pisgah National Forest Linville River
4. NWRC Liniville River
5. Lake James State Park-Paddy Creek Long Arm
6. Paddy Creek Farm-Private Conservation Easement