Lake Norman's shoreline rambles through Mecklenburg, Iredell, Catawba
and Lincoln counties. The Catawba River meanders through the Carolinas
for 450 miles, becoming the Wateree, the Santee and, finally, the Cooper
River just before it flows into the Atlantic Ocean near Charleston.
Twenty years ago, Lake
Norman - 25 miles to the north of Charlotte - was primarily a weekend
retreat, its shores dotted with tin-roofed boathouses, mobile homes, and
That began to change, however, with the completion of I-77 in 1976.
Suddenly it was possible to live like you were on vacation all year
round only a quick 20-minute drive from work, shopping, and
entertainment in the big city.
Growth was slow at first. But lured by a friendly, small-town way of
life and the unique beauty and recreation that living on the lake
offers, former landlubbers began pouring into the area in the 1980s. By
the early Nineties, housing starts along the north and northeast
corridor of I-77 surpassed those in southeast Charlotte for the first
Nearly 60,000 residents now call the area home. In spite of the lake’s
inevitable growing pains, most say they couldn’t be budged with a
dredger. Lake Norman, like Lake Wylie, its sister lake to the south, is
a “working” lake, created by Duke Energy for the generation of
hydroelectric power. Both are part of the Catawba River system. Norman
is the larger of the two lakes, with 520 miles of shoreline in four
counties - Mecklenburg, Iredell, Lincoln, and Catawba. At nearly 34
miles long and 8 miles across at its widest point, it is larger than the
Sea of Galilee and often referred to by locals as “The Inland Sea.”
Lake Norman with over 500 miles of
shoreline provides plenty of space for your boating opportunities.
From serene sailing to power boating, Lake Norman has it all. There
are even a couple of ol' time Mississippi Paddle Wheelers on the
From power boating to
sailing it is all here. Need a place to keep your boat, pay a visit to
one of the many marinas located around Lake Norman. Many offer both wet
and dry storage for your boat as well as plenty of dock space for their
customers use. Many of these marinas also rent boats. Most rental
companies have pontoon boats, ski boats, and fishing boats to offer
When Charlotteans refer
to the Lake Norman area, they usually mean the area north of the Harris
Boulevard/I-77 interchange, which includes Huntersville, Cornelius, and
Davidson in Mecklenburg County and the southern tip of Iredell County,
which encompasses Mooresville and its shoreline. In less than 20 years,
the four towns have been transformed from sleepy rural hamlets into
thriving towns with all the amenities of city life, from business parks
to bistros, housing to health care.
The transition hasn’t always been easy. Like their larger counterparts,
the towns have struggled to manage growth and provide services while
preserving the warmth and small-town charm that attracts new citizens.
The roads and schools
have felt the tightest pinch, but community leaders have coped admirably
by planning carefully and working with developers and county officials
on innovative solutions.
The state is scheduled to begin widening I-77 in 2003.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Transit Department planners have also proposed a
bus rapid-transit system to complement its existing park-and-ride
service, linking Davidson, Cornelius, and Huntersville to Charlotte. The
Cornelius/Exit 28 area, which was the first focus of retail development,
suffers the most from congestion, but the state plans to widen Catawba
Avenue and N.C. 73 to four lanes in 2003.
In 1998, Legette Blythe Elementary in Huntersville became the fourth
elementary school in north Mecklenburg. That same year, Francis Bradley
Middle School, the area’s third, welcomed its first students. The new
Hopewell High on Beatties Ford Road, also in the Huntersville area,
opened August 2001 and accommodates 1,600 students.
Depending on where you live in the Mooresville area, students attend
classes in either the Mooresville Graded School District or the
Statesville-Iredell School District. The latter, which serves the area
outside the Mooresville city limits, opened the new Lakeshore Elementary
for the 2000-2001 school year, welcoming 400 students in grades K-5. The
district hopes to complete work on a second high school, Lake Norman
High, in 2002.
A number of private schools also have opened in the past few years. They
include Acclaim Academy (pre-K-8) in Davidson; Lake Norman Day School
(Preschool - Grade 6), Inwood Montessori Academy (pre-K-8), New
Beginnings Christian Academy, Southlake Christian Academy (K-10),
Chesterbrook Academy at Birkdale (K-8, opening fall 2001), and Academic
Illumination (Montessori, serving ages 7-13), all in Huntersville; and
Grace Christian Academy (K-5) in Mooresville.
The boom in population
has been music to the ears of homebuilders and Realtors. Newcomers can
choose from a broad range of home styles and prices in gated
communities, family-friendly neighborhoods with sidewalks and bike
trails, waterfront condominium communities with boat slips, or spacious
Many neighborhoods offer private golf facilities and amenities such as a
residents’ club or country club that offers swimming, tennis, and dining
facilities. These include The Peninsula Club in Cornelius, The Point
Lake & Golf Club in Mooresville, River Run Country Club in Davidson, and
NorthStone Club in Huntersville.
Birkdale Golf Club, part
of a 600-home master-planned community in Huntersville that includes a
residents’ club, is semi-private. In 1997, North Carolina Magazine voted
it “Best New Golf Course.” The Business Journal of Charlotte ranked
NorthStone the toughest private course in the area. River Run is ranked
fourth toughest. In all, 10 courses ring the lake.
Neotraditional neighborhoods, sometimes referred to as “new urban
design,” have recently become a trend in the Huntersville/Cornelius
area. By combining homes, shops, service businesses, and restaurants in
a self-contained community linked by sidewalks and open green space,
they offer a new twist on the village concept.
Two such communities, Vermillion, to the east of downtown Huntersville,
and Oakhurst, off Statesville Avenue, are already under way and have
homes completed. Birkdale Village on Sam Furr Road in Huntersville will
include 325,000 square feet of shops, restaurants, a 16-screen movie
theater, office space, and 180 apartments. The first phase opened
recently. Across the street, The Village at Birkdale, which includes the
NorthEast Fitness and Wellness Center, medical and professional offices,
and restaurants, serves as the gateway for the Birkdale community.
In 1999, the Town of
Davidson approved plans for The Liburdi Project, which will incorporate
retail, live/work units, retirement housing, flex commercial space, a
common green area, and single-family homes. The 42-acre parcel is
located at the intersection of Beaty and Armour streets in northwest
Davidson. Acclaim Academy and Dance Davidson have already moved into
former office and industrial space and new homes are springing up around
Homes in the north Mecklenburg/ Mooresville area are usually listed in
areas 1, 9, 12, 14, or 16 or simply under “Lake Norman.” A qualified
Realtor can help you sort through the choices to find the perfect home.
As any developer will tell you, retail follows rooftops and the Lake
Norman area is no exception. Lake shoppers can now browse unique
boutiques, quaint village shops, upscale specialty stores, or national
chains such as Target, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Stein Mart, Kohl’s, and Old
Navy. Several Charlotte specialty retailers, including Black Lion,
Taylor Richards & Conger, and Alexandria Jewelers, have opened second
sites at the lake, as have a number of restaurants. In the town centers,
entrepreneurs are converting homes, warehouses, old mills, and train
depots into craft, consignment, antiques, and clothing shops.
have also responded to the needs of Lake Norman residents. Lake Norman
Regional Medical Center last year moved from its former location in
downtown Mooresville into a new, 117-bed facility at I-77 Exit 33. The
complex, which also includes a physicians’ office building, has been the
catalyst for a development boom at the interchange. Leading the charge
is Crosland Commercial’s Mooresville Gateway development, which will
include everything from fast-food eateries and convenience stores to
hotels and medical specialists’ offices. NorthCross Medical Park, at
Exit 25, boasts it offers “everything except the beds.” The complex,
affiliated with Carolinas HealthCare System, has 13 practices and offers
outpatient surgery, OB/GYN, pediatrics, radiology, cardiac care,
orthopedics, plastic surgery and urgent-care services.
Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte has also opened an outpatient surgery
center at Exit 25 and has applied for a certificate of need to build a
60-bed facility at Exit 23.
But while architecture, good schools, and health care are important,
they’re not what draw people to live on the lake. Lake living is about
savoring the constantly changing panorama of wind, water, and light,
listening to bullfrog serenades and the lullaby of gently lapping waves,
or waking to bird songs or the honking of ducks and Canada geese. It’s
the thrill of a telltale tug on the end of your line or stripping off
your tie or high heels at the end of a long day and plunging into the
cool, green water or sailing into a brilliant sunset. It’s about
Christmas caroling by boat and the smell of grilling steaks seasoned
with the scent of engine oil aboard a gently bobbing pontoon boat.
In fact, one of the
first things most newcomers do is buy or rent a boat to experience those
pleasures. There are nearly a dozen marinas that offer wet or dry boat
storage beginning at around $1,000 a year. Many are also boat dealers.
For those who want to be skipper for a day, Holiday Harbor and Kings
Point Marinas in Cornelius rent all types of boats, from sailboats to
pontoons. Before you sail off into the sunset, however, check on boating
safety and local regulations with the Lake Norman Marine Commission,
which governs lake usage. With so much shoreline to navigate, it’s also
a good idea to pick up a map of the lake and a navigational chart. The
lake level can fluctuate as much as eight feet depending on power usage
and the time of year. There are also regulations governing personal
watercraft (power skis), so be sure you know the rules before heading
Even those who don’t
live lakeside can enjoy the lake at one of the many waterfront parks and
public access areas. Jetton Park, Blythe Landing, and Ramsey Creek Park
in the Cornelius/Huntersville area offer boat launching ramps, paved
bike and walking trails, playgrounds, tennis courts, athletic fields,
fishing piers, and sandy beaches. (Swimming is prohibited in all
Mecklenburg County parks.) At Latta Plantation Nature Preserve on nearby
Mountain Island Lake, nature lovers can rent johnboats, canoes, or
horses by the hour.
Swimming is permitted in Duke Power State Park above Mooresville, which
offers many of the same amenities as well as family camping facilities.
Other public access areas in Iredell County include Hager Creek Access
at Exit 33, McCrary Creek Access, Pinnacle Access, and Stumpy Creek
Access off N.C. 150.