Not too many things are that mysterious in the natural world. Almost all the mysterious things have been figured out by science and reasoning. But here at Jones Lake State Park, we have a true mystery that has not yet been solved and most likely will never be solved: “How were the Bay Lakes formed?”
This question sparks many different feelings and answers from many people. Some are adamant that these oval and uniform lakes were made by meteors. Others believe they were formed by the receding Atlantic Ocean and prevailing winds or prehistoric animal signs. Scientists claim it is built up nitrogen beneath the Earth.
Whatever the answer, people have been drawn to these bodies of water for centuries. Native Americans have a word for them, Pocosin. Pocosin roughly translated means, water on a hill. Ancient dugout canoes have been found at the bottom of these lakes. There is one located in the visitor center of Jones Lake State Park. This canoe has been carbon dated to over 2,000 years ago.
Jones Lake State Park has a proud and long history dating back to 1939. It is one of the oldest parks in the North Carolina state park system. It was built and opened as the first state park for African-Americans in North Carolina. Since most businesses and attractions were segregated in the South until the 1960’s, Jones Lake State Park stood as an oasis to socialize and recreate for that community. Many of the same families and churches that came to the park when it first opened still hold family reunions and baptisms on a regular basis.
The water in Jones Lake has a distinct color. The dark color is created similarly to the way tea is made. The 224-acre lake is surrounded by hundreds of acres of thick bay forest (named after a type of bay tree that inhabits the forest). The bay forest has a peat bottom which seeps tannins into the water staining it dark. These tannins or tannic acid do more than stain the water; they cause the water to be very acidic. The lake does not have a creek or river running into it so it is rain-fed only. Because of the acidity, the lake does not hold regular freshwater fish species. There are only four different species of fish that call Jones Lake home: chain pickerel, yellow perch, flyer sunfish, and yellow bullhead catfish. Even though you cannot catch bass in the lake, it is still very relaxing to sit on the fishing pier and wet a hook.
Jones Lake has a total of 7 miles of hiking trails available for visitors. All trails are flat and easy to walk. Three trails give hikers the opportunity to see the distinct habitats that can be found in Carolina Bays. The Cedar Loop is a 1-mile long trail that offers great views of Jones Lake and loops through the thick Carolina Bay forest. While taking the 4-mile Bay Trail, hikers will travel through the thick bay forest and the open sand rim. The Salters Lake Trail begins at the halfway point of the Bay Trail and is 1.5 miles long one way. This trail leads hikers to Salters Lake, one of a few remaining undisturbed Carolina Bay Lakes in the state. There is a good chance of seeing a red-cockaded woodpecker, a federally endangered species of bird that calls Jones Lake State Park home.
For folks who want to camp at Jones Lake, the park offers 20 different family campsites to choose from. If you have a large group, Jones Lake does offer an organized group camp that holds up to 35 people. Soon, thanks to the Connect Bond package passed last spring, there will be campground improvements made, which will consist of more full hookup sites and a new modern bathhouse.
Folks have been enjoying this unique, mysterious, nature gem for quite some time and just maybe you will do the same. We hope so!