Marion, North Carolina
You could say that Lake James literally comes out of the woodwork. With only a few obvious exceptions around the shoreline, the hickories, cedars and oaks come down to greet the water. But the partnership between forest and water is so seamless that occasionally the woodwork comes out of Lake James.
Case in point: Last summer, a vintage 30-foot HackerCraft casually cruised out from a slip alongside Camp Lake James, where stone steps lead to an old amphitheater and log-sided structures.
"How old is it?" a visitor asked about the meticulously maintained wood boat, believing it to be 70-something.
"Twelve years old," said Tim Miner, director of sales and marketing for Crescent Communities on Lake James. "It's a perfect fit for the lake — looks old but it's still fresh."
The same could be said for the camp itself, which with all its throwbacks was opened last July. And all the new homes around the lake have self-imposed restrictions on colors and rooflines to keep the shoreline looking woodsy.
"There's a 4,000-square-foot home right through there," said Miner, pointing into a thick forest. Even with his help, the house could not be detected.
Before my first visit to Lake James, I couldn't find anyone who knew about it, let alone had been there. One afternoon, a man from Hendersonville walked into the restaurant at Bear Creek Marina and said: "This place is gorgeous. I'd never heard of Lake James until last week." Hendersonville, by the way, is all of 50 miles away.
Overshadowed By: Lake Lure, Lake Norman
If You Must Know: Last of the Mohicans was filmed here in the early 1990s.
Most Popular Boats: Literally all-comers, though pontoons and large runabouts have a home because of the easy access.