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Jordan Lake State Recreation Area

By Emily McIntosh

“Previously on Emily’s Life…”

I was paddling downstream on the New River, learning all the ins and outs of kayaking (but mostly floating as the river guided me down. It was a lot of lounging). This time, I leveled up to kayaking on a lake, where the decision to paddle forward or sit still was mine to make.

I decided to stay close to my Raleigh home and head to Jordan Lake State Recreation Area (known colloquially as Jordan Lake) with some friends. Being outside in early October meant beautiful skies and perfect temperatures to put on my water shoes and grab my paddle.

Five kayaks sitting along the bank of Jordan Lake, the trees and clouds outstretched along the horizon.

We started at the Crosswinds Marina and headed north under the Farrington Road Bridge. As if Mother Nature herself was making a fluffernutter with the water and the skies as her bread, the marshmallow fluff clouds dispersed evenly across the sky. I looked up every once in a while as I was paddling to take in the picturesque vista.

Farrington Road bridge in the foreground, with large clouds across the sky in the background.
The banks of Jordan Lake in the distance, with green trees and more large, white clouds across the sky.

Don’t you just love lakes? There is something about the full forest of trees right up against the vast expanse of water that I always gravitate to. And with over a thousand campsites throughout the area, many people accept the invitation to explore their love for lakes at this particular North Carolina gem.

Another angle of the banks of Jordan Lake, close up to the edge with the blue sky in the back.

I mean, come on!

Three kayakers paddling along the banks of the lake, with tall green deciduous trees in the background.

We paddled along the edge of the lake, checking out the plants and animals hanging out around the area (and trying to stay close to the shade to keep cool).

Jordan Lake is a 14,000 acre reservoir with over 180 miles of shoreline. Between 1973 and 1983, the United States Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Haw River and the New Hope River, creating the lake as we know it today. It is also a major water supply for citizens in the area.

A great blue heron standing along the shore of the lake, staring to the left.

Not to mention, it is home to a variety of wildlife, including many species of birds. Jordan Lake is one of the largest summertime homes to the bald eagle, but birds such as egrets and herons share the space and food around the lake. We spotted a great blue heron hanging out along the shore.

A great white egret flies up in the sky, with large, white clouds in the background.

And this great white egret! While that is the actual name of the bird, I do find these egrets pretty great.

The same great white egret perched on a tree branch, looking out at the lake.

Many birds find their home along Jordan Lake due to the large amount of fish they can snack on and how the tall leafy trees provide the perfect spot to roost and nest. I’d like to think that Jordan Lake is every bird’s dream neighborhood, the perfect place to settle and raise their lovely bird family.

Some white and yellow wildflowers surrounded by other green grasses, along the banks of the lake.

The plant diversity is equally enthralling. Wildflowers still made their appearance while the weather permitted. But around every corner…

The first signs of autumn, a small tree with red and green leaves.

Fall was beginning to peek out. Early October is a special time for fall in North Carolina: the weather is still warm and most of the leaves are green, but here are there are glimpses of early golds and reds along the tree line.

Three kayakers paddling inside one of the Jordan Lake inlets, surrounded by green trees on all sides and a blue sky with large white clouds above them.

We kept to the right along the lake until we reached another inlet and decided to turn around and make our way back to the Crosswinds Marina.

A lake-view horizon of the banks of Jordan Lake, with blue skies and more of those large, white clouds across the sky.
The Farrington Road bridge, this time from the other side, and slightly under the bridge.

We made our way back under the Farrington Road bridge and completed our journey. With another successful kayaking trip in the books, I may or may not have started poking around the internet for a kayak to call my own.

Like I mentioned earlier, kayaking on a lake means less reliability on the water guiding you forward — if you want to go somewhere, it’s up to you and your paddle to get there. But if you want to stop and enjoy the birds or the late summer foliage, the water keeps you steady…that is, unless a larger boat or jet ski flies past you.

The front of the kayak, with two water shoes peeking out from the bottom and vast openness of the lake in front.

PS, these are my water shoes, a certain crocodile-esque shoe if you know what I mean. You may have seen them on my trip to New River. I got these shoes for summer camp back in 2007, and after a relatively long hiatus of outdoor adventures, they have been brought back once again to keep my feet protected (and maybe stylish? I’ll let you be the judge of that). I decided to keep them throughout their comings and goings in the popular world, but I’d like to think that is because I knew somewhere deep down I would be exploring the North Carolina waters again, even if it’s 14 years later.

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