My mom used to say that there was nothing that the smell of fresh air, sunshine on your face, and a body of water couldn’t cure. To put her advice to the test, my family and I ventured over to Wilson.
About 45 minutes east of Raleigh, Wilson is probably best known for its Whirligig Park, rolling tobacco fields and chopped barbecue –seasoned with vinegar, red pepper sauce and a little bit of tradition. But what drew our family in this direction was Buckhorn Reservoir and Lake Wilson. We’d heard about the area from family friends who go there every month to fish, water ski, or simply take out a kayak to explore. They like the area because, unlike other lakes around, these bodies of water are not that crowded or overdeveloped. You’re not fighting for space or waiting in lines.
So, when Friday rolled around, we hooked up the boat, grabbed the kids and hit the road for a little family time in the sun.
Here’s what we found:
8177 Rock Ridge School Road, Sims, NC
Buckhorn lake is a quick drive off of I-95. When we arrived, it was about 11:00 a.m. The parking lot wasn’t too crowded. As we pulled in, we saw several people fishing and a few kayakers. I felt instantly happy at the sight of the sun hitting the water and couldn’t wait to get the day started.
To give you an idea of Buckhorn’s size, it covers more than 2,100 acres of water and land and holds approximately 7 billion gallons of water. It’s open to powerboats, personal watercraft, water skis, canoes, and kayaks. There’s even a trail around the lake for horses if you have the need to take Trigger out for a gallop.
It took us a few minutes to get our bearings, then we backed our boat trailer down the launch. The boys were super excited to get out on the water. Both are in their early teens and both love to fish. That’s when the debate began about where to find the perfect fishing hole.
Buckhorn is the largest fishing spot around this area. The lake is packed with crappie, muskie, catfish, largemouth bass and rainbow trout. You can fish from the docks, shore or boat if you have one. The depth of the lake is about 25 feet and it’s so clear you can see about 6 to 10 feet down. For a fisherman, this ups the odds that you get a catch and have a story to tell at the end of the day.
In total, we spent about half the day on the lake. I got to lounge back on the boat and catch up on a few books that I’d been putting off reading. My husband and the boys reeled in some catfish and more than a few rainbow trout. On average, the trout were about 16 inches and weighed about 6 to 8 pounds. Plans of a neighborhood fish fry are already in the works for next weekend.
Around 5:00 p.m. we pulled the boat out of the water, packed up our cooler and headed out for a quick bite at the world-famous Parker’s Barbecue. As we left the parking lot, it was close to full. I noticed a good-sized shelter that would be perfect for a birthday party, reunion or upcoming fish fry.
Buckhorn is only about 20 minutes from Downtown Wilson. It’s really close to area hotels and restaurants. All of which makes it easy to get to, but hard to leave behind.
Amenities and things to do at Buckhorn:
4621 Lake Wilson Rd, Wilson, NC
Day two began we awoke from our barbecue induced comas and headed out for a quick bite of breakfast. After a healthy serving of ham and eggs followed by some blueberry bites, all courtesy of Wilson Donuts, we were off on another daily adventure.
Lake Wilson is super close the Downtown area. That’s probably why it was a little busier than Buckhorn. Pulling into the parking lot what I noticed first is how new everything feels. The city just updated the parking, restrooms and picnic areas. And they did a great job. It was clean, spacious, modern and easy to get around.
The park itself covers only 320 acres, which makes it way smaller than Buckhorn. But it’s the perfect size for kayaking, paddle boarding or, if you’re feeling like hanging out on land for a bit, playing disc golf, hiking or biking.
With a plan to meet up later in place, my husband and I set the kids loose. They grabbed their disc golf bags from the trunk and headed off to play 18-holes of “I’m better than you.” This course is one of two in Wilson and wraps around the edge of the lake. It provides both beautiful scenery and a dangerous obstacle for some baskets. If truth be told, Lake Wilson claimed more than one of the boys’ discs that day. I can only image the fortune of plastic laying on the bottom of that lake to be discovered.
Meanwhile, my husband and I set off to explore the trails around the water. Lake Wilson has some of the best hiking and biking around. Visitors will find two looping trails that circle the lake. The inner loop is about 1.33 miles and the outer loop 1.76 miles. The trails are mostly flat with the exception of one hill about halfway around. Along the paths a bridge will take you over the back of the lake and around the bottom side of the dam. The trails start and end at the parking lot. So just when you think you’re getting tired, you’re back at your car.
It took us a couple hours to circle the lake, stopping to take in a snake that turned out to be a stick, watching dogs chase squirrels and checking out several future fishing spots. When we got back to the car, we grabbed our kayaks and headed out on the water. About an hour later the boys met back up with us in their kayaks. They said they wanted to explore the lake, too. My guess is that they were trying to find their missing discs. (No such luck)
We ended up spending most of the day at the lake and having a picnic by the water. We left around 2:00 p.m. to head into downtown. We ended up at the Whirligig Park, each of us starring into the sky with a sense of wonder and disbelief.
We were exhausted. We were happy. We had more fun than we could’ve imagined. Oh, the stories that will be told at that fish fry next weekend.
Amenities and things to do at Lake Wilson:
Paddle Sports (Kayak, Paddleboard)
ADA Accessible Kayak Launch
Two-mile Walking trail
Small Covered Picnic Tables