The Lake Corriher Wilderness Area – the best thing you’ve never heard of

Published 12:10 am Sunday, August 6, 2017

By Jessica Coates

LANDIS – East Spencer resident Robert McCallum fishes at the Lake Corriher Wilderness Area because it’s quiet.

“It’s a hidden jewel. It hasn’t been fished in, so there’s plenty of fish,” McCallum said as he watched over his 5 fishing rods set up at the corner of Landis Lake.

He said that two of the rods were for carp, while the other three were just for “whatever wants to bite.”

McCallum, who grew up in China Grove, said that he has been fishing for most of his life. But he didn’t know about Lake Corriher and Landis Lake — which both sit within the 98 acres of the Lake Corriher Wilderness Area — until three years ago.

“I came up here and someone told me, ‘You need to go to China Grove and Landis,’” McCallum said. “And I said, ‘They don’t have a lake.’”

McCallum said that he used to — and still occasionally does — fish at Dan Nicholas Park in Salisbury. But he said that he never knew there was a closer option.

“So I came out here to the pond. And then they said, ‘Go up to the big water.’ And it was like, ‘Hey, wow, I didn’t know that,’” McCallum said. “I mean, I’ve been in China Grove all my life and knew nothing about this.’”

‘The big water’

When McCallum said “big water,” he was referring to Lake Corriher, the larger of the two lakes in the wilderness area.

Landis’ town manager, Reed Linn, and Landis’ director of public works, Ron Miller, say they’re concerned that many people are like McCallum and might not know that the larger lake exists.

“There’s people who do know about it who are out here religiously every day,” Miller said. “But that’s a small number.”

That’s a concern of theirs, in part, because the town received a $402,000 matching grant from the NC State Parks department in September 2014 to revitalize the wilderness area.

The grant — called the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, or PARTF, grant — required the town to match the contribution from the state, meaning that the town is budgeted to pay $402,000 over seven years for the project.

Linn said that, although a specific vote was not held to approve the incorporation of the $402,000 into the budget, there were public hearings and budget workshops that were open to the public before the town’s final budget was adopted.

Linn also said that, as part of the process for applying for the PARTF grant, the town held several public information sessions that were open to the public and advertised in the Salisbury Post.

Now, three years later, Linn worries that Landis citizens aren’t getting the most out of an area that their tax dollars are helping pay for.

“You know, take a walk, come out on a Sunday afternoon and come walk the trails. See what we have,” Linn said. “And when I say we, I mean you. It’s your park.”

How it came to be 

The story of Landis’ two main lakes — Lake Corriher and Landis Lake — began in the mid-1900s, when Landis’ water system was upgraded to include a water treatment plant.

The two lakes — as well as a third lake, Lake Wright, which is located on the Warrior Golf Course — were used as retention ponds for the treatment plant. Lake Corriher and Lake Wright held water that was then pumped into the reservoir, now called Landis Lake. Then, from Landis Lake, water was pumped into the treatment plant.

But Linn said that, when the treatment plant closed approximately 10 years ago because Landis began purchasing its water from Kannapolis and Salisbury, the lakes still sat there.

“That’s kind of how the park out here came to be. Once we closed the water plant, it left us with two great big lakes you know with nothing to do. And so we added the classification for recreational use for the lakes and then we opened up trails around it. We opened fishing up. And so it’s just kind of grown from there,” Linn said.

What’s there now and what’s to come  

For most of the time that the wilderness area has been open for recreational use, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and camping have been its main attractions.

But Miller said that, thanks to the PARTF grant, more activities are on the way.

“When they first opened, all that was here was just the lake. You would go, I believe, to city hall to get your (fishing) permits. All that was here originally was this right here, just basically your maintenance buildings right here,” he said, gesturing toward what used to be a cement water pump maintenance building.

That building — now called “the boathouse” — has been updated with a cedar plank exterior and Miller said that, come spring, it will be used to store kayaks and canoes that can be rented out to park visitors.

Miller said that kayaks and canoes will be restricted to the smaller lake, Landis Lake, while the larger lake, Lake Corriher, would be mostly for fishing, hiking and mountain biking.

Miller also said that two cabins — one of which will be ADA accessible — and a public restroom are being built in the area between the two lakes.

There will also be a 12-hole disc golf course installed, with the potential for a future expansion to 18 holes.

“This is a hidden treasure that a lot of citizens don’t even know that they have,” Miller said. “They don’t even know what’s out here.”

Miller is hoping that, when the town has a grand opening ceremony in the spring of 2018 to show off additions to the area, people from around Rowan County will realize what an asset it is to the community.

“I’m a boater, I’m an outdoorsman. I got a place at the beach and my family has a place at the lake,” Miller said. “And I never knew that even existed, because it was a water reserve; it’s not really known to a lot of citizens. I think next year people are going to learn what’s here.”

Linn said that one of the few similar things nearby is Dan Nicholas Park. But he said that they are not in competition with it.

“That’s why we’ve named it a wilderness park. Because we don’t want, we are not in competition with Dan Nicholas. Dan Nicholas is a fine park, and it’s a nice park, but we wanted something a little different. Something more rustic, more natural,” Linn said. “You can park at the office, walk a few feet, and feel like you are in the mountains. That’s our Lake Corriher.”

For more information about the Lake Corriher Wilderness Area, including fees and park hours, visit

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.