The Catawba River has been popular with flat water paddlers ever since local Indians first carved canoes out of giant Poplar trees. More recently, the river has been dammed in three locations near Charlotte, creating lakes Norman, Mountain Island, and Wylie. Developments along other waterways are creating new opportunities for exploring the central piedmont’s rich aquatic biodiversity.
The Catawba River forms the western boundary of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Several access points allow for different experiences on the river. On the eastern short, the U.S. National White Water Center offers kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals. Just up river, a private parking lot and launch gives a convenient access for those who have their own craft. And down south in Rock Hill, SC, River Park is a 3 mile paddle downstream from the Riverwalk launch.
Lake Norman, at 34 miles long, offers a huge amount of space for all manner of waterborne activities. Mountain Island Lake, west of Charlotte, is smaller but more peaceful as much of the shoreline is protected from development. Latta Plantation offers easy access to a very pretty area of the lake.