Photograph by Valérie Loiret-Brunissen
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Rockers beckon on Lake Lure.

Photograph by Valérie Loiret-Brunissen

Summer at the Lake: Lake Lure

From the June/July 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler

Twenty-five years ago Patrick Swayze pulled Baby out of a corner and pushed Lake Lure onto center stage. Today, the charm that enticed the makers of Dirty Dancing to film scenes at this remote mountain lake endures. Cradling the rounded peaks of western North Carolina, Lake Lure retains the unpretentious character and natural splendor that have attracted vacationers—from FDR to F. Scott Fitzgerald—for more than 80 years.

In the early 1900s Lucius B. Morse led efforts to purchase the land that is now Lake Lure, with a vision of establishing a grand resort community. A dam across the Rocky Broad River in 1927 created the 720-acre lake.

The Great Depression, however, stymied plans for a resort development. Consequently, today’s visitors enjoy an experience similar to that of Morse’s wife, who gave Lake Lure its name. The surrounding mountains, free from large-scale development, supply inspirational views and engender a sense of seclusion.

Lake Lure’s sharply rising shoreline also dictates the nature of lakeside real estate. Houses perch on the hillsides, leaving the water’s edge to the domain of wooden boathouses, most of which are modest in stature, painted unassuming hues of reds, browns, and greens, and crowned with rooftop decks for relaxing.

Lake Lure is above all a boater’s playground. On early summer mornings, anglers scour the coves for striper and smallmouth bass while kayakers hug the shoreline, savoring the cooler hours before the humidity sets in. By early afternoon, the lake becomes a frenzy of activity with speedboats towing water-skiers and families cruising and picnicking in pontoon boats.

As the sun sinks over the ridgeline, the sloshing of water against wooden docks blends with the hum of crickets and distant gleeful cries of children that could almost be mistaken for Baby and Johnny, practicing lifts in the recesses of Firefly Cove.