Since it was created with the construction of Cowans Ford Dam in the early 1960s, Lake Norman has become a destination for anglers, boaters, sailors, skiers and wakeboarders.
Now, the lake is becoming more attractive to swimmers as well.
The Memorial Day weekend opening of a swim beach at Ramsey Creek Park in Cornelius gives Lake Norman two public swimming areas, and the first on the southern end of the lake.
The other public swimming area is at Lake Norman State Park, on the northern end of the lake just outside of Troutman.
The Ramsey Creek Swim Beach will be open daily 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The construction of the half-acre beach and half-acre swimming area is part of a package of improvements at Ramsey Creek Park that includes the public restrooms, an office for the lifeguards and sidewalks and picnic areas near the beach.
Public swimming was allowed at the county parks until the late 1970s, when public safety and liability concerns led parks officials to ban the practice. It wasn’t until 2004 that officials – prompted by the results of a survey into what the public wanted most at the parks – began looking at returning swimming areas to the lakeside parks.
While parks officials expect the new Ramsey Creek Swim Beach to become a popular spot, there’s plenty of other recreational options on Lake Norman.
Probably the most popular recreational activity on Lake Norman is boating, whether it be skipping along at high speeds on a ski boat or bass boat, cruising more sedately on a pontoon boat or cabin cruiser, or meandering along in a sailboat.
If you don’t own a boat, there are three options:
▪ A number of marinas surrounding the lake offer rental programs on a variety of boats – pontoons, deck boats, ski boats, cruisers, personal watercraft.
Prices vary depending on the type of boat and the length of time. Pontoon boats – popular for transporting up to a dozen people – are available in the $165-325 range. Ski boats, which have more powerful engines, are available for $250-400, while personal watercraft can be rented for $200-$300.
Much like renting a car, there are some requirements: renters must be 26 or older, must have a valid driver’s license and credit card, and must undergo a brief safety and boat operation instruction course.
Some of the more popular marinas offering boat rentals are the Morningstar Marinas at Kings Point in Cornelius (704-746-3753, www.morningstarmarinas.com), Skippers Landing in Troutman (704-528-3328, www.morningstarmarinas.com/skippers-landing), Boat Rack Marina in Sherrills Ford (828-478-2222, www.theboatrack.com), Lake Norman Boat Rentals at River City Marina in Mooresville (704-677-5036, www.lakenormanpontoons.com), Aquaventure Rentals in Sherrills Ford (704-724-0996, www.aquaventure-rentals.com), and Midway Marina in Sherrills Ford (828-478-2058, www.midwaymarinalakenorman.com).
▪ Want a more long-term solution, but don’t want to deal with insurance, maintenance or storage?
A trend becoming popular nationwide is membership in a boat club, where for an annual fee members can reserve any of the boats in the club’s fleet for a day, a week or a weekend.
There are four boat clubs in the region: the Carefree Boat Club of Lake Norman (704-557-0848, www.carefreeboats.com/lakenorman); the Boat Club of Lake Norman (980-875-1245, also Facebook); Aquaventure Boat Club in Sherrills Ford (704-724-0996, www.aquaventure-rentals.com/boat-club); and the Freedom Boat Club in Cornelius (704-659-1294, www.freedomboatclub.com).
▪ Want to relax and bask in the beautiful weather and cool lake water, then wine and dine with your friends as the sun sets over the lake, but don’t want to have to do all the work? Hire a charter boat instead.
There are four charter boat firms licensed to operate on Lake Norman – Queens Landing in Mooresville (704-663-2628, www.queenslanding.com), Yachta Yachta Yachta Charters in Cornelius (704-892-0991, www.yyycharters.com), Lake Norman Charter Boats in Mooresville (704-516-4116, www.lakenormancharterboats.com), and Luxury Yacht Charters (704-451-7433, www.cruisethelake.com).
The place to start is Lake Norman Community Sailing, located at Blythe Landing Park in Huntersville (704-947-7245, www.nccsailrow.org).
LNCS offers instruction for youth and adults on weekdays and weekends. It also offers classes for those with special needs, such as physical handicaps, and has sailboats and rowing sculls available for rental.
For more advanced sailors and sailboat owners, especially those who want to test their skills, consider a membership in one of Lake Norman’s three yacht clubs.
The oldest is the Lake Norman Yacht Club (www.lnyc.org) in Mooresville, which has been in existence since the lake reached full pond in 1963. The club hosts sailboat races nearly every weekend out of its facility in southern Iredell County and frequently hosts regional- and national-level events.
Other yacht clubs based on Lake Norman are the Outrigger Yacht Club (www.outriggeryachtclub.org) and the Peninsula Yacht Club in Cornelius (www.peninsulayacht.com).
This is probably Lake Norman’s second-most popular recreational activity, with a number of regional- and national-level tournaments annually.
However, before you even think about dropping the hook, you need a North Carolina fishing license.
A 10-day license costs $7, while an annual license is $20. Licenses are also available for children and senior citizens. Visit www.ncwildlife.org for details.
Not interested in just dropping a line in the water and hoping you catch a fish? Then hire one of Lake Norman’s fishing guides, who know where the big ones like to feast.
Top Lake Norman fishing guides are Mac Bynum (www.fishingwithmac.com), David Clubb (www.fishclubb.com), Gus Gustafson (www.fishingwithgus.com), Jerry Neeley (www.carolinasfishing.com) and Rusty White (www.fishingwithrusty.com).
▪ Waterskiing: The place to start is the Lake Norman Ski Club (www.lakenormanskiclub.8m.com), which holds skiing clinics for young skiers during the summer and has classes available for older skiers as well. The club also maintains several slalom courses on the lake.
▪ Wakeboarding: Head over to Icy Wakes Surf Shop in Cornelius (www.icywakes.com), which is the unofficial headquarters for Lake Norman’s wakeboarding crowd. In addition to being the place to get the latest gear and clothing, it also offers day camps for beginners, as well as private instruction for individuals and groups.
▪ Sailboarding: Get in touch with the International Board Sailing Club of Charlotte (www.ibscc.org), whose members can frequently be seen riding the chop during the windier days on Lake Norman.
▪ Paddleboarding: Standup paddleboarding, which combines surfing with the more cardio-intense activity of rowing, is a fast-growing activity on Lake Norman. My Aloha Paddle Sports and Fitness (704-526-8432, www.standuplkn.com) has the equipment and offers classes and conducts races on Lake Norman.