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Lake Waccamaw is the second largest of the Carolina Bays and the largest that still contains water. Although the maximum water depth is only 11 feet, this bay is nearly six miles long. The southeastern edge of the lake is a sand rim which contains Lake Waccamaw State Park. Although most of the Carolina Bays contain water that is quite acidic, this does not hold true for Lake Waccamaw due to the limestone that underlies the lake. Lake Waccamaw also differs from most Carolina Bays in that its entire shore has a sandy bottom.

Some features that you may encounter at Lake Waccamaw include:

Carolina Bays

The Carolina Bays are oval-shaped depressions concentrated in the coastal plains of the southeastern United States, but occurring along the Atlantic Coastal Plain from southern New Jersey to northern Florida. The nearly 500,000 bays first came to the attention of geologists in 1884 when Dr. L.C. Glenn proposed that the depressions may have been formed by the eastward retreat of the ocean.

In 1932, Melton and Schriever proposed a new hypothesis to explain the origin of the numerous, similarly shaped, and S50°E aligned depressions. They suggested that the small oval basins and their rims were formed many years ago by a meteor shower on dry land. The hypothesis was supported by the discovery that there were highly magnetic areas concentrated in the southeastern portions of the bays The meteor origins hypothesis attracted attention worldwide. Geologists and physical geographers rallied to support or refute the new hypothesis.

In 1934, C. Wythe Cooke proposed that the Carolina Bays were aligned due the consistency in the direction of the wind while they were being formed. The elliptical sand ridges that accompany the bays were thus bars and beaches that were built up in shallow lagoons when sea levels were higher.

Additional hypotheses were put forth in the late 1930s and in the 1940s that suggested that the Carolina Bays were the result of artesian springs rising through moving ground water.

The true origins of the Carolina Bays remain controversial and a mystery to this day.
In the past, nearly all of the bays contained open water. In the present day, most of the Carolina Bays are filled with organic soils and overgrown with wetland vegetation. Water in most bay lakes is highly acidic and dark in color due to the decomposing plant matter at the lake bottom.
The few relict bay lakes that remain are quite small and shallow. They range from 8 to 12 feet in depth and generally measure less than 500 feet in length. Of the small number of remaining larger bays, several form the core of a state park.




  • Richards, Horace G. 1950 Geology of the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society
  • J. Wright Horton Jr. and Victor A. Zullo (Eds.) 1994. The Geology of the Carolinas. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press.