Lake Julian – NC

300 acres

Water Clarity – 6

Natural Quality – 5+

(GPS; 403 Overlook road extension, Asheville, NC)


After a two and a half hour paddle I noticed AFD Engine and Ladder 4  stationary at a nearby food establishment, also curious about the eatery I stopped and chatted with them as they finished their meal.  In conversation I was almost embarrassed to say that I had just paddled (and now writing about) little Lake Julian – that kinda sums up how I felt about the lake when I put the kayak in earlier, – wasn’t really excited about it.



As a ‘local’ the past thirty years and having this body of water within our response area, I have known of Lake Julian for a long time, yet have only been ON her waters a few times; each visit was in the mindset of rescue preparedness and business – not today.

Carolina Power/Progress Energy is the reason for this lake – the waters are necessary for the power plant to function (what the water does) providing the area electricity.

Lake Julian Park is located along Long Shoals rd (Exit 37, I-26) on the South side of Asheville, NC. – the lake is less than 300 acres – wading and/or swimming is prohibited; but sailing, electric motors, or paddling is fine. There is a small fee.

There are likely several reasons for the ‘no’ swimming; one – the primary purpose for this water is for power plant operations, through that process the water temperature of the lake is elevated (more so in the summer) creating ripe conditions for the duck and goose crap to become a potential health risk to swimmers.  Two – there is one area of public access in the lake with current which could surprise a swimmer.  Over the past thirty years there have been several drownings at the lake (which I believe were more human error than any lake condition) – still, wading and swimming on/in the waters is banned.

But it is what it is, and it happened to be where I was at the moment

(‘Festival of Lights’ display each December)

On this date it was more the situation where the kayak was on the roof and I was oozing with idle time – four bucks (launch fee) later I was paddling the shoreline of West Julian – just maybe someone is curious about this little Lake in South Asheville.


In the fall (and especially during the winter) there is a period in the mornings when the cold mountain air and the warmed water from the plant clash, the vapor rises and lingers above the lake like the ghostly mist of a creepy Halloween cemetery (“Here lies Jim, said he could swim”).  Today the air was warming quickly, so the usually heavy fog dissipated rapidly, it was nice to see a little wildlife and then a barn come to view out of the vapor.

The spillway or West end of Julian is a very ‘unremarkable’ part of the lake, a dry spillway along with the noise pollution of the power plant – it was simply part of the shoreline that I was happy to paddle first (wanting to remember the lake from it’s ‘other’ more wooded areas).

– granted there were a few coves that had a natural ‘feel’ to them – fewer without a structure in view.

I recalled the railroad trestle from my first visit many years prior, this was the first that I had seen of it since – besides acting as a ‘pipeline’ for fossil fuel to the plant it also acts as a barrier for the ‘cooling’ pond; prior to the warmed water returning into the lake

and as a temporary stable to ‘traveller.’

The little lake has it’s ‘corners’…

even though there always seems to be power lines in the view; here at the lower Park off of Hwy 25 is where the warm water returns from the cooling pond to the lake.  This is the lakes only current and an area of potential peril for swimmers…  lots of tangled fishing line about too.

I think I saw four or five blue heron, there was something about the warm water they liked.  I had also noticed the difference in the kayak – it was kinda missing that ‘cool’ bottom feel, the kayak actually had a warm feel in the cockpit first thing in the morning – noticeably different than upon the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe a month earlier.

Wild wings Cafe now overlooks this end of the lake (awesome location/view); if they had a dock I think I might just ‘paddle right up.’


Of course today the traffic along Long Shoals rd added the character that I hadn’t missed, “doggone people“…  then a simple paddle along the shore and back towards the Park.

Also at Lake Julian Park is a small boat club, some rental kayaks, and a series of  competition style ‘row’ boats – signs that folks do get some quality use from this lake.

Right back around the park and near the ‘Ranger’s station.

and right back onto a captive audience, no – I didn’t feed them.

– and this is why, ‘land-mines‘ on the dock.  Don’t think all the docks were like this because they were not – there was a long water-hose nearby for washing it all off – leaving me to ponder, into what?

I actually had a decent paddle on Lake Julian, it was short, sweet, and simple – not too ‘wild’ but I did find a few fleeting moment’s of peace out there.  It was the first day of November and the leaves were mostly down or past ‘peak color.’

Still, after paddling so many other lakes recently – I had to remind myself that the primary purpose of this Lake is to support the Power station, which in-turn supplies the areas power demands.  It’s a privilege to have such an ‘island’ of environmental reflection within this fast-paced community for the general public to escape and enjoy a picnic with the kids – or to paddle along her shorelines.  I appreciate the time on her water, it was a simple paddle, proximate, and well worth the four bucks.


For reasons of my own, I’d simply like to think of Julian as – Adios Lake.


other places to paddle;