Salem Lake: Winston-Salem’s “Hidden Diamond”

One minute you’re in downtown Winston-Salem, and the next you’re at Salem Lake — a million miles away, yet right around the corner.


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Rent a boat and explore Salem Lake.

Image courtesy of Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks Department

Salem Lake is literally a stone’s throw away from downtown Winston-Salem. Located off Reynolds Park Road, the 375-acre lake is an oasis for those seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Dick Butler, athletic, aquatic and special use facility supervisor for the Winston-Salem recreation and parks department, says, “People have said that one minute you’re in downtown Winston-Salem, and the next you’re at Salem Lake; yet it feels like you drove two hours to the country.”

When people describe Salem Lake, Butler and his staff generally hear the word “peaceful.” 

Without a doubt, water — and the music created from its brush with the shoreline — have a way of calming one’s mind. Combined with fresh air, beautiful scenery and the sounds of nature, the lake has the ability to cast stress to the wind. According to an educational text panel at the lake, when people engage in recreation for relaxation, they re-create themselves, which “is essential for maintaining good mental health.”

Salem Lake has plenty of opportunities to improve one’s physical health, too. An unpaved, seven-mile trail, rated easy to moderate in difficulty, loops around the lake and is an outstanding place to walk or ride a bicycle. The greatest feature of the trail is that the lake can always be seen. Numerous benches, should anyone need a rest or a place to view the scenery, are located throughout the trail.

Walkers and bicyclists will also enjoy seeing a variety of wildlife along the trail. Squirrels constantly scamper about in the woods; birds, bees and butterflies zip through the air; herons and egrets stand guard at the water’s edge; turtles balance on logs; and salamanders, frogs and snakes occasionally scurry across the path.

Heron on Salem LakeThe lake and its abundant wildlife provide the perfect setting for a scavenger hunt. Take along a pad and pencil to see how many varieties of wildlife your children can find. As Salem Lake is part of the North Carolina Birding Trail, you might find it fun to see how many different species of birds you can spot. A checklist of birds commonly seen at Salem Lake, should you want to bring it with you, can be found on the North Carolina Birding Trail’s website, ncbirdingtrail.org. 

Another fun activity children can partake of while traversing the trail is the Kids in Parks TRACK Trail. “Kids in Parks is an expanding network of family-friendly outdoor adventures called TRACK Trails. Each TRACK Trail features self-guided brochures and signs that turn your visit into a fun and exciting outdoors experience.”

At Salem Lake, nine educational Kids in Parks text panels, or “stations,” are placed in various locations along the seven-mile trail. The panels teach kids — and adults — about plants, animals, erosion, drinking water and the importance of keeping Salem Lake clean. In addition, the panels offer bike-riding tips and display a secret code letter. Again, a pad and pencil will be handy on the trail as children can collect the letters, unscramble them and enter the “code word” online for a chance to win a prize. To learn more about Kids in Parks and how your children can TRACK their adventures, visit kidsinparks.com

For those who would rather be on the lake instead of walking or riding beside it, canoes and fishing boats are available for rent. The lake is stocked with hybrid bass, largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, bream, carp and white perch. If you plan on fishing, whether in a boat or on the pier, please note that anyone sixteen years of age or older must be in possession of a North Carolina State Fishing License. Should you need one; the license can be purchased on-site at the Salem Lake fishing station. The station also sells fishing equipment and refreshments.

Biking on Salem Lake TrailThis summer, the city will begin taking steps to ensure their “hidden diamond” continues to shine. Thanks to the approval of a bond referendum, Salem Lake will be updated and improved. According to Butler, a modern marina will be built, the parking lot will be expanded, a new playground and shelter will be constructed and additional bathroom facilities will be put in place. As a result of the construction, some areas and activities at the lake may be closed or have limited accessibility. In order to ensure your family will be able to partake of an activity, please check the lake’s website or call in advance of your visit. Salem Lake is open year-round, but the hours of operation change with the seasons. Boaters, walkers and bicyclists are required to be docked or off the trails thirty-minutes prior to closing, so it is important to keep abreast of the time.

If you have never visited Salem Lake, now is the perfect time to do so. Get outdoors, get healthy and uncover this Piedmont Triad gem.

Salem Lake is located at 1001 Salem Lake Road in Winston-Salem. For more information regarding hours of operation, fees, activities, and upcoming closures, please visit cityofws.org/departments/recreation-parks/salem-lake or call 336-650-7677.

Jennifer Bean Bower is an award-winning writer and Tar Heel native. She lives in Winston-Salem with her husband Larry and their pet rabbit Isabelle. To learn more about Bower and her writing projects, please visit her website at JenniferBeanBower.com. Connect with her on Twitter @JenniferBBower.
Heron and Biking images by Larry T. Bower, Jr.

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About this Blog

Triad Treasures


Jennifer Bower

About This Blog

Award-winning writer and Tar Heel native Jennifer Bean Bower explores family-friendly venues throughout the Triad. As an avid traveler, she is well versed in the plethora of hidden treasures that make family day trips memorable and unique. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Bower is the author of North Carolina Aviatrix Viola Gentry: The Flying Cashier; Animal Adventures in North Carolina; Winston & Salem: Tales of Murder, Mystery and Mayhem; and Moravians in North Carolina. She lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with her husband Larry and their pet rabbit Isabelle. To learn more about Bower and her writing projects, please visit her website at www.jenniferbeanbower.com.

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