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Explore Greensboro’s Outdoors: Lake Brandt

By Molly Ashline
October 12, 2023

A glint of sunlight jets across the water as dawn burns off the fog. It is morning on Lake Brandt, and the blue herons and great egrets stretch their wings for a new day. Peaceful mornings are typical at the 816-acre reservoir in north Greensboro near Summerfield. The lake, originally built in 1925 and then expanded in 1958, is a haven for outdoor recreation and relaxation. The ample surrounding woods and arcing shape of Lake Brandt lend it to quiet reflection.

Named after Leon Brandt, the centennial mayor of Greensboro, the lake serves as one of the three main water supplies to the city. It is accessible by traveling north along Lawndale Drive for marina parking or to the east via Strawberry Road for Greenway access. Near the newly completed Greensboro loop, it is an easy choice for daily leisure. Those seeking water recreation, fishing, hiking, or cycling should enter the marina.

The Lake Brandt Marina contains an information center, restrooms, and visitor parking. One can also rent kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes or launch their own for a small fee. There is no swimming at Lake Brandt, but with a short row, one can rest along the beach at a small island in the center of the lake and take a moment to sunbathe and relax the arms. Because Lake Brandt is a reservoir, along with Lake Townsend and Lake Higgins, there are no personal docks or piers for nearby houses. The water is still without the chaos of large motorboats or pontoons. Much of the area acts as a preserve for wildlife and quiet, which one can take advantage of when hiking or biking the various trails.

From the marina, there are two main trails. The Nathaniel Greene Trail is reserved for those on foot, and the Wild Turkey Mountain Bike Trail is a bike-only trail extending about four miles. The Nathaniel Greene Trail is an intermediate hike, just under six miles one way. It does not loop back to the marina. Instead, the Nathaniel Greene Trail ends at the Greenway, where one could continue their adventures around the city. On the way, the NGT offers views of the water, where birders can catch glimpses of indigenous species, and the casual hiker or runner can be treated to wide paths and gentle breezes. The winding trail crosses a couple of footbridges over shallow streams. When going during wetter months, remember to wear proper footwear and watch out for fallen branches. The city picks up debris quickly after severe storms, but you may have to navigate mud, exposed roots, and spiderwebs. Other trails accessible around Lake Brandt are Owl’s Roost and Reedy Fork.

Back on the water, boat fishing and pier fishing are popular activities. Catfish, crappie, and largemouth bass are common species, but bluegill, yellow bullhead, and yellow perch can also be caught. Fishing from shore is not permitted, allowing a distinct space for those wishing to hike, bike, or fish. Birders, including those of the Piedmont Bird Club, a valuable resource for those interested in learning more, can enjoy the sights and sounds of bald eagles, sparrows, wood ducks, loons, and others. The city often organizes events at Brandt that can enhance future experiences, such as fishing week, fitness programs, and children’s educational programs. The latter makes sense because there are several schools nearby.

Greensboro Academy, Jesse Wharton Elementary School, and Greensboro Day School are all within a few miles. They are a charter school, public and private, respectively. Bur-Mil Park, just next door to Lake Brandt, is a county park that offers resources for families and individuals. Bur-Mil has an aquatic center with a competitive city team, campsites, and reservable shelters. The surplus of outdoor options in north Greensboro between Bur-Mil, Lake Brandt, and the other reservoirs reflects the slower pace of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The streets and homes near Lake Brandt have more suburban and even rural atmospheres than neighborhoods a mile or two south. This area is populated by short streets, long driveways, and cul-de-sacs. Other than the Lake Jeannette neighborhood, some abutting, less well-known communities include Laurel Park, closest to Bur-Mil, North Oaks, and Northern Shores. The area has newer developments in colonial revival and federal styles with large bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate families. Quintessential ranch houses with expansive lawns reign outside these developments. Overall, those looking to spread out more while still desiring the convenience of city living should look towards Lake Brandt.

Greensboro strikes a balance between the urban and rural landscape. There are plenty of places where one can escape. Lake Brandt offers peacefulness away from the bustle without long drives or extended planning. Pick up and go and be on the water or on the trail in just a few minutes. Of course, there are other options a little further out if the reservoir inspires an outdoorsy streak. Hanging Rock State Park to the north and Uwharrie National Forest to the south are within an hour’s drive of Greensboro, and at those, one can try more advanced trails. It proves that the city, while the third largest in the state, can still feel like a cozy small town if you know where to look.

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Jeff Valentino

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