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Falls Lake

Falls Lake is a 12,400-acre lake created by the Falls Lake Dam in Wake, Durham, and Granville Counties.  The lake is surrounded by 25,600 acres of protected land and is a water supply for Raleigh and surrounding communities.  Although the primary use of the lake is for flood control and as a reservoir, there are numerous recreational opportunities, including fishing, boating, hiking, and camping on the lake and surrounding land.  Construction of the lake was decades in the making - the state of North Carolina first requested a study of a potential reservoir in the 1930s.  In 1963, the Army Corps of Engineers recommended construction of the lake to Congress and it was authorized with the Flood Control Act of 1965.  Throughout the 1960s and 70s, land was purchased, roads were raised or dead-ended, and land was cleared.  Construction of the dam began in 1978 and was completed on February 26, 1981.  The lake reached is normal level for the first time on December 7, 1983.  Recreation areas were built throughout the 1980s and 90s and are still continuing today.  Although the Army Corps of Engineers owns the land surrounding the lake, most is leased to state or local agencies and the corps manages the dam and area around it.

Contract Information:

Visitor Assistance Center

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

11405 Falls of Neuse Road

Wake Forest, NC

Phone: (919) 846-9332

Email: falls@usace.army.mil


Falls Lake Dam is located in North Raleigh near Wake Forest.  From I-540 in North Raleigh, take exit 14 for Falls of Neuse Road.  Turn left to go north and drive 2.7 miles and turn left onto Falls Management Center Road.  There is a parking area right at the turn or go 0.8 miles to the Visitor Center.  To reach the Tailrace Area at the dam, continue on Falls of Neuse another 0.5 miles and turn left onto (Old) Falls of Neuse Road.  Drive 0.4 miles and turn left into the Falls Tailrace Area immediately before the bridge over Neuse River.


The map below shows the trails surrounding the dam.  For the complete Falls Lake Trail, see my Butner-Falls of Neuse Game Land page.


There are about 2 miles of trail around the dam, but the Falls Lake Trail, part of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail, continues for another 60 miles.

Blue Dot Trail:

Length: 0.5 miles
Blaze: Blue Circle
Surface: Natural

Blue Dot Trail is a half-mile spur of the Falls Lake Trail that forms a 1.5-mile loop when combined with it.  Blue Dot Trail goes left from Falls Lake Trail right after it leaves the gravel road in the first half-mile.  In about 0.3 miles, the trail crosses the entrance road and Long Leaf Trail then runs through an area where long leaf pine are being re-established.  The trail terminates at Falls Lake Trail in a half-mile.

Falls Lake Trail:

Length: Approximately 60 miles (1 mile to second intersection with Blue Dot Trail)
Blaze: White Circle
Surface: Natural

Falls Lake Trail is a 60-mile trail along the southern shore of Falls Lake from the dam to Eno River in Durham.  It is part of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail.  Although the Army Corps of Engineers owns all the land around the lake, most is leased to the state as Butner-Falls of Neuse Game Land.  See my Butner-Falls of Neuse Game Land page for more information on the entire trail.  Mountains-to-Sea Trail continues eastbound along the Neuse River Trail, part of the Capital Area Greenway.  The eastern trailhead for Falls Lake Trail is at the Falls Tailrace Area below the dam.  The trail follows a gravel road for a short ways then turns left into the woods.  Blue Dot Trail splits to the left.  The trail then crosses the dam road and passes through a field before going back into the woods.  After crossing the entrance road, turn right to follow the paved Long Leaf Trail a short ways then go down the wooden steps and back to natural surface.  In under a quarter-mile, cross another road and then the other side of Blue Dot Trail meets up.  Falls Lake Trail continues from here towards Raven Ridge Road.

Long Leaf Trail:

Length: 0.75 miles
Blaze: None
Surface: Paved

Long Leaf Trail is a three quarter mile trail that starts at the parking lot on Falls of Neuse Road and follows the entrance road to the visitor center.  It passes an area where long leaf pine are being replanted.

Falls Lake Dam:

The Falls Tailrace Area is at the base of the dam and you can see the outflow from here.

Here's a video of the dam during high release after Hurricane Florence.

You can see the upstream side of the dam from behind the visitor center.

Other Areas:

The Army Corps of Engineers leases out most of the land around the lake to other state and local agencies to manage as public recreation areas.

Butner-Falls of Neuse Game Land:  Most of the land around the lake is leased to the lake is managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission as Butner-Falls of Neuse Game Land.  Most of the Falls Lake Trail runs through the game land where hunting is permitted, so wear blaze orange during hunting season.

Falls Lake State Recreation Area:  NC State Parks manages several recreation areas on the lake as Falls Lake State Recreation Area with opportunities for camping, swimming, boating and hiking.

Blue Jay Point County Park: A Wake County Park on a peninsula jutting out into the lake with hiking, picnicking, environmental education and ziplining.

Penny's Bend Nature Preserve:  Penny's Bend is a nature preserve managed by the North Carolina Botanical Garden.  The preserve protects a unique bend in the Eno River upstream of where it feeds into Falls Lake and supports rare plant communities.


Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) grows near the dam.  These small trees have beautiful purple flowers that bloom in late March to early April.

External Links:

Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail website: https://mountainstoseatrail.org/