Part of Take The Lake initiative to encourage fitness in Columbus County

September 5, 2018 | 

From the Star Line News in North Carolina.

Since September 2017, through the long autumn, winter and spring, visitors to the Lake Waccamaw Dam parking lot found construction fencing and signs blocking their access to launching kayaks and canoes at the popular slide-in landing. While anglers could still fish from the tiny spillway area, the prohibited entry area would soon open to expand the fishing area dramatically.

A new bridge a few yards upstream of the dam opened on July 4, but the official grand opening ceremony was scheduled for August 28, just prior to the Take The Lake event, where people run, hike, bike, swim and paddle. Take The Lake promotes fitness in Columbus County and is sponsored by the Columbus County Chamber of Commerce, but attracts participants from far beyond its borders.

Toby Hall is the Lake Waccamaw State Park Superintendent. He said the footbridge had been on the park’s general management plan agenda for at least 10 years.

“It was never fully funded until NCDOT provided $300,000 for the project,” Hall said. “The official opening its part of the Take The Lake event. People could walk across the dam to do the 14-mile event, but that could be dangerous or impossible if the water was running too high. Now, they can dismount and push their bikes across the bridge and around the 1.8-mile section of shoreline between the dam and the campground parking lot. The Youth Conservation Corps, made up of 16- and 17-year-olds, helped clear the trail, which had fallen trees blocking it after Hurricane Matthew.”

The North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps is a program run by the North Carolina Conservation Trust and the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. The Lake Waccamaw trail maintenance project was sponsored by Lake Waccamaw State Park and by Cape Fear Resource Conservation and Development. Youth Conservation Corps projects in North Carolina also worked on trails at the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest and Jordan Lake State Recreation area this year. For youth interested in future summer jobs, it is notable that crewmembers earn minimum wage for 40-hour workweeks.

Hall said surveys show Columbus County residents are among the most physically unfit in the state. However, aside from the physical fitness benefits of the Take The Lake Event, which was founded to promote physical fitness, the new bridge will open an entirely new world for many fishermen. The bridge has a 10-foot by10-foot fishing platform, with fishing also allowed from the bridge. The bridge is ADA-accessible, so any angler can get in on the fun. It is a great place to take kids fishing.

“That stretch of shoreline will now be accessible for fishermen who could not experience it before unless they were in a boat,” Hall said. “It has a good trail and anglers can fish from the shoreline. In the past, they had to walk across the dam or along the path from the campground parking area or step into the lake off the campground pier.”

As far as the fishing goes, I have fished the grass beds at the lake for many years. The grass, which has the common name of “maiden cane,” attracts many species of fish. I prefer to fish them with fly-casting tackle and a popping bug and have caught largemouth bass, white and yellow perch, and bluegill, redbreast, redear and pumpkinseed sunfish on wade-fishing trips. The southern shoreline has some great wade fishing because it has no piers and boat docks to interfere with wading. Duck underneath a pier to get to the other side and you risk an encounter with paper wasps.

Take The Lake is sponsored by the Columbus County Chamber of Commerce. This year’s event runs Saturday-Monday and begins at Elizabeth Brinley Park at 8 a.m. on Saturday. It includes swimming, biking, paddling and running events and people can register on-site.

For information on the Conservation Trust of North Carolina, visit For information on Lake Waccamaw State Park, visit For information on Take The Lake, visit