Published: Spring 2010

Jones Lake State Park, NC  

Our state park spotlight this issue shines on a “real diamond in the rough” located in North Carolina. Nestled in the warm Carolina bay region is a quiet retreat rich in history and a “nature’s lover’s delight” known as Jones Lake State Park (JSLP). Its very formation remains a mystery to this day – the Carolina bay. These natural occurring “bays” could have been formed by underground springs, wind and wave action, dissolution of subsurface minerals or even meteor showers. No single explanation has real gained a universal acceptance. These depressions are called bays and have been named after the trees found growing around them, the sweet bay, the loblolly bay, and the red bay. Jones Lake is not fed by streams or springs, so water levels fluctuate and depend on precipitation. You can read all about the ecology of Jones Lake on the landing page, inside the North Carolina State Parks website, The history of the region is covered extensively and we encourage you to spend some time and read about the development and creation of this national treasure.

Its rich history, notwithstanding, Jones Lake is rich with activities. Boating and fishing are popular pastimes. Because of the water’s acidity level, there’s not a huge variety of fish, but yellow perch, pickerel, and especially catfish are found and are fun to catch. The dedicated angler can also hook chub suckers or blue-spotted sunfish. Boats with motors are allowed, but can’t be larger than 10 hp. Canoes and paddleboats are available for rental during the summer months. So pick your perfect spot on the trail pier or venture out on smooth waters to land that fish.

The new visitors’ center has an auditorium capable of accommodating 75 people and a classroom which can hold 35 people. Park rangers hold regularly scheduled educational programs about JLSP. Arrange a special exploration for your group by contacting the park office. Two exciting events coming up in April will cover butterflies and woodpeckers. Butterfly enthusiasts from all around will flock to JLSP on April 10th to learn everything about butterflies from larvae to cocoon to beautiful butterfly. On April 24th, park visitors will be invited to learn about the red-cockaded woodpecker. This federally endangered bird calls JLSP home. Both events start at 2 PM are free of charge once inside the park and are open to the public.

Camping is a great way to foster a true sense of family togetherness and unity. Jones Lake State Park offers 20 campsites for family camping. Each site has a picnic table and grill. Drinking water and restrooms with showers are available close by. There is also a campsite available to rent to larger organized groups. This site is limited to 35 people and includes a fire circle, grill, picnic tables, benches and even a pit toilet; now that’s old school. The beautiful scenery makes this a perfect park to enjoy a warm sunset or a glowing sunrise, take your pick or choose both.

Jones Lake is a perfect place to enjoy a day outdoors and have a family picnic. Whether you choose a blanket to spread on a grassy area under the shade of a pine or cypress tree, or choose a spot under the larger covered picnic shelter; you’re sure to have a pleasant day. After eating lunch or in between snacks from the concession stand, try your luck at a pickup game of volleyball on the parks’ volleyball court, then take a dip in the cool refreshing waters of the lake. The roped off swimming area offers a soothing respite to a warm spring or summer Carolina day.

Finish the day off with site seeing along the one mile nature trail around the park. Hikers will be treated to natural and scenic views of plant and animal life surrounding the lake. Be sure to check with a park ranger for trail interpretation and make sure trails are open prior to departing.

Park hours are:
November – February 8AM – 6PM
March – May and September – October 8AM – 6PM
June – August 8AM – 9PM
Closed on Christmas Day

The park gate is closed and locked at park closing and is only opened for 911 emergencies, so if you’re planning on camping overnight; make sure you bring all your supplies. Of course, with all state parks; alcohol and firearms are not allowed.

Campsites are first come first so make reservations ahead of time. Reservations can be made online with a credit card. Be sure to visit the park’s web page at for additional information, make reservations and see frequently asked questions as well as to view photos from the park. Whatever you decide, pack up that tent and cooler and get out and enjoy the great outdoors with your family and take advantage of your affordable, convenient, safe and local state parks. Be sure to thank a park ranger for his or her dedication and hard work to preserving these national treasures of the southeast.

4117 Hwy 242 N, Elizabethtown, NC 28337
GPS coordinates: 34.682743, -78.595423
(910) 588-4550