My big red kayak has been sitting on top of my pickup truck waiting to get wet while I’ve been languishing in home improvement purgatory. I wanted to explore some places with fall colors but each time I thought I could get away something would come up. Finally, this past Tuesday, I was able to head up Lake Adger in North Carolina.
I had paddled Lake Adger once before. Some years ago Alan and I had launched from the one and only boat ramp and paddled as far as we could up the Green River. This time I wanted to explore the lake proper. Instead of turning upstream I headed out toward the main body of the lake. The sky was overcast and a few sprinkles of rain were falling.
Lake Adger was dammed in 1925 and has 14 miles of shoreline. Here is Wikipedia’s description of the lake, along with a bit of its history as Turner Shoals.
The lake was formed in 1925 when Blue Ridge Power built a dam on the Green River at Turner Shoals. Lake Adger is approximately 438 acres and has over 14 miles of shoreline. The property around Lake Adger is private with the exception of a public boat landing that is leased from Lake Adger Homeowners Association by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission for $15,000 a year for public boating and fishing. In 2009 the lake was purchased by Polk County for $1.6 million.
Polk County now owns the Lake Adger Dam, all land under the water and all land to the high water line around Lake Adger. Lake Adger was named after Blue Ridge Power Company’s founder, John Adger Law. John Adger Law’s mother’s maiden name was Adger and he chose to name the lake after her family’ surname. The lake was originally named Turner Shoals Lake but John decided to change the name after the Dam was complete. The Dam is still known as Turner Shoals Dam. As of 2014, the Dam was still operated by Northbrook Hydroelectric, who leases it from Polk County, for water release and electricity. The Duke Power Steam station at Cliffside, NC, downstream of Lake Adger, uses the water released by Turner Shoals to cool the plant’s turbines.Wikipedia
Since it’s in a mountain valley the lake fairly narrow with lots of deep coves. Alan had explored the lake earlier this summer and had posted photos of a waterfall. I wanted to see if there were more, and that meant exploring the coves and tributaries.
The first cove led back to a tributary, but it entered the lake from a meandering stream with no visible waterfalls. Very lovely homes lined the banks of the cove. The fall colors were quite lovely.
Back out of the first cove I heard the sound of water across the way. A huge home sat atop a hill overlooking the lake, and below that a small stream fell into the lake. This was the one that Alan had found, but there wasn’t as much water coming over the falls as when he was here.
Along the lake there were series of docks where pontoons were parked. These provided lake access for those houses that weren’t directly on the lake. Lake Adger allows pontoons and smaller HP motorboats, but doesn’t allow skiing or jet skis. That makes it a bit more comfortable for paddlers. Lots of kayaks and canoes also lined the banks.
I checked out several other coves, but found no other waterfalls. I did see lots more lovely houses that probably cost millions of dollars. I did see lots of fall colors.
On my map was a location labeled as “Fraggle Rock Nature Preserve.” I decided that would be my turn-around spot. This wasn’t a nature preserve, as such, but an interesting rock on the banks of the lake. There weren’t any houses immediately around the house, but without seeing what it was like from the road I couldn’t tell if this was an actual public preserve. I couldn’t find anything about it online except photos and comments that the rock is a cool diving spot during the summer.
On the way to Fraggle Rock I passed a large island. Just downstream from that is another deep cove fed by Silver Creek. I decided that would be my last cove and that I would make my way back along the other side of the island. Once again, it was just a deep cove with pretty houses and nice fall colors, but no waterfalls. As for the island, there were signs saying that it was posted. Even if I had wanted to land there wasn’t a place.
Speaking of finding good places to land, there are none. Most of the shore is privately owned and there are no beaches or low places for a paddler to pull up and rest. There are lots of private docks that looked well-maintained. As I was paddling I saw a pontoon hauling (pushing) new floating docks out to locations on the lake.
It was starting to get late and I hadn’t planned for this to be a long trip. I started to make my way back to the landing. As I was heading out I had noticed channel markers leading from the boat launch. The channel hugged the bank and further out there were warnings for shallow water. I decided that in a kayak I could ignore those warnings. It was indeed QUITE shallow, almost too much so for my kayak.
For years silt from the Green River has been washing into the lake. Vegetation takes hold on the silt and little by little part of the lake is lost. These vegetation covered silt areas are prominent right across from the boat ramp.
The silt will eventually close off access to the only boat ramp on the lake. In 2015 Altamont Environmental conducted a feasibility study for dredging the lake. Their recommendations were that it remaining lake area could be dredged.
Despite these problems it is a lovely paddling destination. The lack of fast boats makes it a bit more amenable for paddle craft. For this trip I went much further than I had planned. With the coves I explore I paddled just under eight miles.
It was a beautiful autumn mid-week escape.