For about eight months of the year, the town of White Lake is a quiet and serene area that is all but a tranquil step-sister to the nearby county seat of Elizabethtown.
But for the remaining four months — generally May through August — peaceful little White Lake’s population of about 850 explodes exponentially until it is bursting at the seams with visitors from up and down the East Coast.
Today’s story by Staff Writer Erin Smith on Page 1A will give you an idea just how this past summer was for White Lake, but it’s only a slice of what the lake area is like each and every summer.
The town, by comparison, remains a babe since it wasn’t incorporated until 1951 — a full 50 years after the first commercial operation was established there. But every summer, the crystal clear lake attracts more than 200,000 visitors to enjoy the warm, calm waters and the pure white beaches.
Not a single visitor comes for taverns or clubs or dance halls or other nightlife found in many of the bigger places miles away. There are none of those things at the lake. But what there is — cabins, campsites, trailer parks, mom and pop stores, arcades and children’s rides, more than 1,200 acres of swimming, boating and jet ski waters — offers couples and families nothing but pure relaxation for a day, weekend, week or the entire summer.
White Lake is hardly a hidden gem. It made headlines more than 50 years ago when Patsy Cline made the lake her weekend getaway while her then-husband Charles Dick was serving at Fort Bragg. Since those early days, the lake is a draw for vacationers from every nook and cranny of the East Coast.
And White Lake’s waters, which is fed by subterranean springs, and beaches, have been tabbed the nation’s safest because there are no currents, no tides, no hazardous depressions or real dangers of any kind to swimmers.
The resort community, however, has summertime ripple effects that reach deep into Bladen County.
Because White Lake has only the basics to offer its influx of visitors each summer — vacationers and town folks each prefer it that way — it means those looking for additional shopping, restaurants and activities will venture out to Elizabethtown and beyond. Anyone wandering along West Broad Street in downtown Elizabethtown during the Fourth of July Sidewalk Sale will run into numerous folks from out of state who are staying at White Lake and spending their money elsewhere.
Bladen County certainly has plenty to offer its residents and visitors alike, but White Lake — at least during the four prime vacation months — may rank at the top of the list.