Nestled in southeastern North Carolina, Jones Lake State Park spans over 2,000 acres and contains two of the many mysterious Carolina bay lakes—Jones Lake and Salters Lake. With year-round recreation options, serene campsites, a rich cultural history, and a complex natural history, this North Carolina state park is an obvious addition to your growing RV adventure list.
Hikers can take advantage of Jones Lake State Park’s several miles of hiking trails, which take visitors through bay thickets and pond cypress trees. Boaters can meanwhile take out canoes, kayaks, and small motorboats onto Jones Lake. Anglers can then enjoy the challenge of trying to catch yellow perch and chain pickerel in the lake’s acidic waters, while swimmers can sunbathe on the sandy beach of Jones Lake and cool off in the shallow water. Beyond these many recreation options, Jones Lake State Park also boasts a fascinating natural and cultural history worth exploring on a visit: Jones Lake and Salters Lake are both relict lakes and Carolina bays—natural lakes in the southeast with unknown origins, as no single explanation for their origin has gained universal acceptance. The park’s cultural history is similarly rich: Jones Lake opened in the summer of 1939 as the first state park for African Americans, and the park was used during World War II by the Anti-Aircraft School from Camp Davis for special training programs.
Visitors who stay overnight can enjoy one of Jones Lake State Park’s 20 serene RV campsites, one of which features electrical and water hookups. The park is open year-round and can be enjoyed any time of year, as the area experiences mild to warm winters and hot summers.
RV Rentals in Jones Lake State Park
Transportation in Jones Lake State Park
Located in Bladen County just four miles north of Elizabethtown, Jones Lake State Park is easily accessible by RV or car from Highway 242. This North Carolina state park is fairly remote, at about 35 miles southeast of Fayetteville and 60 miles northwest of Wilmington.
Navigating inside the park is simple, as the roads within the park are contained to a small area and therefore require limited driving. Once inside the park, visitors can plan to park their rig at their campsite or in designated areas throughout the park, such as the parking area near the park office. The campsites in Jones Lake State Park offer a mix of back-in and pull-through access, and can accommodate rigs of up to 60 feet long.
Visitors can find snacks at the concession stand inside the park, but for more extensive supply needs, guests can head to Elizabethtown just a few miles south, where they can find several restaurants, fast food chains, gas stations, grocery stores, and other shops.
Campgrounds and parking in Jones Lake State Park
Campsites in Jones Lake State Park
Jones Lake State Park Campground
Jones Lake State Park offers 20 total campsites, meaning guests can expect a relatively quiet stay at this North Carolina state park. Most campsites do not have any hookups, but one site has water and electrical hookups. The park does not offer a dump station for recreational vehicles, so visitors will have to plan accordingly. Each site is equipped with a picnic table, fire ring/grill, and offers easy access to drinking water and a nearby bathhouse. Guests can also take advantage of quick access to the Bay Trail hiking trail directly from the campground. These sites can accommodate rigs of up to 60 feet long, and while most of the campsites are back-in, one site is pull-through for easier access. Reservations for these sites are recommended, but campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis if they are not reserved ahead of time.
Seasonal activities in Jones Lake State Park
One of the most popular ways to experience Jones Lake State Park is by taking a boat out onto Jones Lake. Visitors can take canoes, kayaks, pedal boats, and small motor boats under 10 horsepower out onto this 224-acre lake. Those who don’t bring their own boats can take advantage of canoe and pedal boat rentals from the park’s boathouse from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Jones Lake is where most of the boating happens, as access to Salters Lake requires a permit issued by park staff.
Those hoping to escape the summer heat and cool off in the waters of Jones Lake State Park can rest easy knowing swimming is also permitted in Jones Lake. Visitors can enjoy swimming and sunbathing on the sandy beach of Jones Lake, located next to the boathouse. While the lake is safe for swimming, visitors should be prepared for the water’s tea color, which results from the decomposing plant matter—called peat—at the bottom of the lake. For added convenience, a concession stand and bathhouse are both located nearby.
Visitors eager to explore what Jones Lake State Park has to offer outside of its main lake can lace up their hiking boots and check out the many miles of hiking trails available in the park. The park offers trails ranging from easy to moderate difficulty, and from one mile up to four miles. For an easy stroll, visitors can hop on Cedar Loop Trail, which stretches for one mile round-trip through both the bay forest and sand ridge communities. For a longer and more difficult trek, visitors can plan to do the full Bay Trail, which is a four-mile loop around Jones Lake offering hikers a chance to experience the varied habitats of a Carolina bay.
Fishing is a popular activity at Jones Lake State Park, and anglers will be able to take on a challenge: few fish species are present in the lake due to the water’s acidity, but some fish are still abundant. Yellow perch are the most abundant, while chain pickerel, catfish, chub suckers, and blue-spotted sunfish are also present in the lakes. Anglers should note that pier fishing is allowed only from the lake trail access points, so make sure to plan accordingly.
Ranger Programs & Events
Jones Lake State Park boats a rich and complex history, both in terms of natural features and cultural heritage. Visitors eager to enrich their visit to Jones Lake State Park with a deeper dive into the history and nature behind this park can take advantage of the park’s many interpretive programs, which are typically led by park rangers. These programs and events range from lessons on how to construct a campfire, to closer looks at the park’s reptiles, to ranger-led discovery hikes. For information on upcoming events, visitors can check out the events page on the park’s website.
This North Carolina state park is home to a wide range of plants and animals, giving wildlife enthusiasts plenty to look out for during their visit to Jones Lake State Park. The park’s warm climate and diverse plant community attract a variety of reptiles, including Carolina anoles, fence lizards, spring peepers, southern leopard frogs, and the endangered pine barrens tree frogs. Birdwatchers can also look out for Carolina wrens, chickadees, black vultures, yellow-throated warbler, red-tailed hawk, and red cockaded woodpecker. Wild turkey, white-tailed deer, fox, and cottontail rabbit also call this park home.