Salem Lake: Winston-Salem’s Hidden Diamond 

by RENEE SKUDRA 

In hard times, with daily talk concerning a possible recession, civil unrest, climate change, escalating crime, homelessness and political discord, one especially needs a sanctuary. Mine is Salem Lake which has been called the “hidden diamond” in the Twin City. Located just minutes away from downtown is a 365-acre shining blue lake with a seven-mile trail closely hugging its waters. The lake is manmade and originally was a reservoir which was dammed in 1911. Salem Lake is the largest body of water wholly in Forsyth County. Its depths range from the banks to 30 feet and admittedly invite one to take a dip in its tranquil waters, although swimming is actually not permitted. The beautiful natural setting presents a picture-perfect postcard and acute evocation of a place which recalls a feeling that one is truly in the wilderness even though it is not far from populated areas.

Whether you are a casual walker or a serious jogger, the Salem Lake Trail which encircles the lake is a great opportunity to get your exercise game on. Generally considered an easy route, it takes a little more than two hours to complete the entire circuit and is both stroller-friendly for babes-in-tow and wheelchair/disability friendly. Dogs on a leash are welcome and greeted happily by most patrons. The trail is wide, well-maintained and mostly hard-packed dirt although there are a few paved areas as well. Visitors will encounter generally flat ground and occasional small hills, but the slopes are gentle and not difficult to navigate.  

The trail is largely shade-covered with signage and mile markers offering gentle advisories as to one’s location on the terrain. Benches are omnipresent to welcome a tired sojourner for a moment of rest, relaxation and appreciation for the picturesque water views. Traffic at the lake is surprisingly uncongested although one should keep an eye out for suddenly appearing runners, bikers and occasional equestrians whose horses undoubtedly enjoy the great and peaceful walking paths. The trail also has access to other trails which can take you to Quarry Park and the Marketplace Mall as well as to the farther reaches of Kernersville. 

One of the greatest joys of spending time at Lake Salem is undoubtedly the chance to observe the abundant wildlife. Over several trips, our family has observed Canadian geese, ducks, great blue herons, turtles, squirrels, butterflies and deer, and heard tell of skunks, black rat snakes and copperheads although we were not overly sad to have missed the latter three inhabitants. Prior to one visit, I went on the Forsyth Audubon Society website and learned that other birds which frequent Salem Lake include cormorants, osprey, grebes, swallows, finches, bluebirds and raptors. 

An employee named Dan mentioned that there is great bass fishing at the lake which also counts in its pristine waters catfish, bream, white perch, crappie, bream and carp. On your excursions, you can see a small waterfall and a wide array of beautiful and august trees which include sycamores, oaks, pines, beech, maples and gums. Salem Lake is an absolute visual delight and oasis for anyone seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life with the added salubrious benefit of fresh air and outdoor fun.

Salem Lake sports additional amenities for those who venture there. The Salem Lake Marina Center (also called the Boathouse) houses a concession stand, fishing station and bait shop as well as exhibits of live wildlife such as lizards, frogs, turtles, snakes and fish, most of which are native to the area. Children seem particularly entranced by these creatures in an up-close-and personal way. A 300-foot fishing pier allows individuals to fish off it although fees (fortunately quite minimal) and a state fishing license are mandated for anyone over the age of 16. The lake offers both pier and boat fishing. Kayak rentals are another activity one can pursue for the mere cost of $4 an hour (rentals are normally only available from May 1st to September 30th). Salem Lake has many excellent features including a fenced child playground area, picnic tables, grills and shelters, drinking foundations, clean restroom facilities and free parking lots. There are, of course, some rules in place like posted instructions not to feed the ducks or geese since to do so may be detrimental to their health. My favorite sign at the lake, however, provided a bit of hilarity: “positively no alcohol or profanity allowed – use pier at own risk.” I indulged in neither.

Be sure to take a camera on your outing to capture the gorgeous sights. The lake is open seven days a week until 7:30 p.m. and is located at 1001 Salem Lake Road. Don’t forget a good pair of walking shoes either!

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