Two great North Carolina State Parks, Jones Lakes State Park and Singletary Lake State Park are located in Bladen Lakes State Forest in the Coastal Plain Region of North Carolina. Both of these state parks are well worth a visit because not only do they offer some wonderful recreational facilities but also it is in these two parks one can enjoy the nature of the Carolina Bays first hand.
The Carolina Bays are unique in that they consist of dozens of small lakes scattered throughout the southeastern portion of the state. They all oriented northwest to southeast and more importantly no one knows for sure how they came into being. Theories abound, including simple ecological factors such as wind currents and water currents, and also other have suggested more unique reasons such as whale wallows, aliens from outer space or even meteor showers.
The definition of the bays became widely known when aerial photos were taken in the 1930’s which showed strange indents on the landscape. Geologists believe there may have been more than one half million of these bays scattered along the coast. They are all encircled with a sand ridge which is predominately on the southeast side. They have dense vegetation on around their perimeters and are lined with clay. They are normally very shallow ranging from 8 to 12 feet deep and are rain fed. These bays can run in size from anywhere to an acre to several thousand acres. If left undisturbed they turn in bogs. Most of these bays have been drained and are used for farming and development but now many are being protected by environmentalist groups.
The Carolina Bays are truly special and two of the best places to experience their features are at Jones Lake State Park and Singletary Lake State Park. Jones Lake State Park is located four miles north of Elizabethtown, North Carolina on NC 242 and Singletary Lake State Park is six miles east of Elizabethtown, North Carolina on NC 53.
First let’s take a look at Jones Lake State Park the larger of the two at 2208 acres. This park offers numerous activities for the nature enthusiast.
Jones Lake State Park:
Boating: Only boat motors that are 10 horsepower and under are allowed on the lake. Canoes and paddleboats are available for rent from Memorial Day through Labor Day at the boathouse located adjacent to the pier.
Fishing: The water is extremely acidic and as a result there are relatively few fish species found in the lake. Yellow perch are the most abundant; chain pickerel, catfish, chub suckers and blue-spotted sunfish also occupy the lakes. Pier fishing is allowed only from the lake trail access points.
Camping: Jones Lake State Park has 20 campsites for family camping. Each wooded site is equipped with a picnic table and grill. Drinking water and restrooms with showers are located nearby. One site has electrical and water hookups and is available for both tents and recreational vehicles. However, the park does not offer a dump station for recreational vehicles.
Group camping: is available for organized groups. The site includes a fire circle and grill, picnic tables, benches and a pit toilet. Drinking water and restrooms with showers are located nearby. The site is available by reservation only. No more than 35 people can occupy the site.
Hiking: Bay Trail, which begins either at the picnic area or the campground and it, is a five-mile loop around Jones Lake, offering an excellent chance to experience the habitats of a Carolina bay. Here visitors can walk through dense vegetation and over boggy soil to view lovely lakeside flora. Large pond cypress trees, draped with Spanish moss, line the shore and grow in the shallow water. Leatherwood plants with delicate white flowers, also called titi, overhang the water's edge. Visitors can view pitcher plants, loblolly, red and Virginia bay trees. These are the trees that they bays are named after. Visitors can also see several species of tiny amphibians such as pepper frogs and southern leopard frogs. Late afternoon is also a great time to view the resident birds such as the pileated woodpecker and migratory birds such as the wood thrush. Several short side-trails lead to the lake, allowing hikers a chance to catch their breath while viewing the vista across the lake.
The Cedar Loop Trail, a one mile nature trail journeys through both the bay forest and sand ridge communities.
Swimming: Jones Lake is a cool, tea-colored lake. The sandy beach of Jones Lake is ideal for sunbathing, and the shallow water is a swimmer's delight. Due to the shallowness of the water diving off a pier or from a boat is not allowed. A fee is charged for swimming from Memorial Day through Labor Day. A concession stand and bathhouse are located nearby. A pier provides access for canoe and paddle boat rental.
Picnicking: A picnic is a great way to enjoy a day out-of-doors. More than 50 tables and eight grills are available at the picnic grounds. A grassy area, also available for picnicking, is adjacent to the beach where the shade of pine and cypress trees promises respite from the sun. The large covered picnic shelter, perfect for a large gathering, will accommodate up to 100 people.
Educational Events: Park Rangers hold regularly scheduled educational and interpretive programs about Jones Lake State Park. To arrange a special exploration of Jones Lake State Park for your group or class, contact the park office. They park offers various pamphlets about the features of the park.
Singletary Lake State Park:
Singletary Lake State Park is made for group camping and offers two group camps available for nonprofit youth and adult organizations. Camp Ipecac, named after the medicinal herb that is grown nearby, accommodates 88 campers. Camp Loblolly accommodates 48 campers. Each unit has a dining hall, cabins and restrooms. Campers need to supply their own food, bedding and cleaning supplies. Singletary State Park offers boating, hiking, fishing and an educational center for its group campers. Camp Loblolly is open year round.