Just the facts about Lake Norman

Are You Ready to Navigate the Waters of Lake Norman?

One of the first questions most of my relocating clients ask is something related to some sort of boating/fishing/playing on Lake Norman. I think some people think it’s just a matter of buying a boat and off you go! But, it’s not that simple. Trust me, the first time we went out on the lake we were amazed at just how large the lake really was and how all 520 miles of shoreline kind of look alike. Then, before you know it, a boat is coming right towards you…which way are you supposed to turn? Suddenly you realize that your inexperience and lack of training can not only endanger you but others on the lake as well.

Lake Norman speed-boat-hits-pole


So here are a few tips I gathered from many sources about what you should do and where you can go to learn about boating on Lake Norman BEFORE launching your vessel:

  • Learn How to Drive a Boat: There is no equivalent of a drivers license for boating but numerous classes are available for boaters of varying skills.
  • Take a Boating Safety Class: You will learn all of the navigational aid and the rules of the water.
  • Learn How to Navigate the Lake: I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have a GPS in our boat. Without it, we would have a much tougher time. At the very least you need a good map that shows you not only all of the coves and islands but also the markers that guide the way. Knowing the shallow points, sandbars, shoals and danger markers could save your boat some serious damage. Our first time out, in a rental boat, we went between two islands and despite my telling the captain (my husband:) that I could see the bottom he continued on while watching his depth meter until we ran aground. A little embarrassing but no damage to the boat.

Lake Norman Shoal warning sign with bird nest


  • Have an Experienced Boater Show You the Lake: Our boat salesman took us out on our boat the first day and gave us a complete lesson on how to approach boating on the lake, the do’s and don’t’s and all sorts of great information: AWESOME guy!
  • Don’t Go Small on the Weekend: We actually avoid the weekends whenever possible because the lake can get so crowded and choppy that it just isn’t that fun. If you want to canoe or kayak I would suggest keeping it to the weekdays or early mornings on the weekend. We have a 20′ pontoon boat which we were told is about as small as you would want to be on a busy day on the lake.
  • Don’t Shortcut Points and Islands. Swing around them then to avoid any shallow areas. (Like we did our first time out!)

One of over 100 islands on  Lake Norman


  • Watch Out for Bridges, Docks, No Wake Zones and Other Boaters: At Slanting Bridge Road, one of the bridge pilings still shows a series of cuts where a boat crashed head-on years ago.

No Wake Marker on Lake Norman


  • Know the Lake Level: Is it “Full Pond” which mean there will be less space under bridges. Or, is it 3.6′ lower, like it is right now, which means larger sandbars and more shallow areas.
  • Know the Rules!: Here are some great resources for you: 1. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department’s Lake Enforcement Unit has a great pamphlet “Boating in Mecklenburg County…What every boater should know before launching their vessel”. Email me for a copy or go to www.cmpd.org. 2. One of our all time experts on the Lake Norman is Gus Gustafson. He has his own website:  www.fishingwithgus.com or can be reached at gus@lakenorman.com. He provides very detailed updates on broken or missing markers and Aids to Navigation as well as warnings about rocks, bridge clearances, what boaters should be aware of and even a list of the Ten Dangerous Places on Lake Norman. He also a Professional Sport Fishing Guide on Lake Norman and the author of several books on fishing.

Here are the links:


There is NOTHING like taking a quick outing on the Lake even as a lunch break. No matter how stressed I might be, it all melts away. How lucky I am to live here!

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