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284. W. Kerr Scott Reservoir, Wilkes County, North Carolina

This enormous lake is a great place to see a variety of ducks in winter.

This lake’s 56 miles of shoreline is surrounded by waterfowl impoundments and public wildlife management area, providing habitats that attracts a variety of woodland and wetland birds. Opportunities for canoeing and biking add to the ways one can enjoy birding at this location.

Winter offers the best waterfowl viewing. Look for decent numbers of northern diving species such as Ruddy Duck, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, and Lesser Scaup. Other divers that are less common include Redhead, Canvasback, Long-tailed Duck, and Common Goldeneye. Hooded Mergansers are common in winter, and Red-breasted Mergansers are also present. Common Loons are occasionally seen during the winter months. Dabbling duck species are great in variety but few in number on the reservoir, preferring instead to use the Yadkin River and associated farmlands below the dam, where the river leaves the reservoir property. American Wigeon, Mallard, American Black Duck, Green-winged Teal, and Northern Shoveler can all be found from November into February.

In summer, the woodlands are home to Ovenbird, Scarlet Tanager, Black-and-white Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Northern Parula, Pine Warbler, and Yellow-throated Warbler. If you stay overnight in a park campground, listen for Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Eastern Whip-poor-will. Bald Eagles have been known to nest along the reservoir and are irregularly seen throughout the year.

284. W. Kerr Scott Reservoir, Wilkes County, North Carolina


The W. Kerr Scott Reservoir is a 1,475-acre artificial lake impounded by a dam located west of Wilkesboro. From north- or southbound I-77, exit onto Hwy. 421, and head west. At Wilkesboro, take the Wilkes Community College exit. Turn right onto Hwy. 268 West and go 2.5 miles to the entrance road to the visitor center.

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
36°7’50.17″N 81°13’39.61″W


Impoundments, shorelines, floodplain forest, oak-hardwood forest, mixed woodlands, managed woodlands, and developed areas for camping, picnicking and playgrounds.


32 miles of trails. Most of them easy to moderate in difficulty.


Winter: Bald Eagle, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ruddy and Ring-necked Ducks, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Canvasback, Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye, and Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers. Summer: Eastern Whip-poor-will, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Orchard Oriole, Yellow-throated and Yellow Warblers, and Red-eyed Vireo. Spring and fall: migrant songbirds, shorebirds, and raptors.

When to go

Year-round. Enhanced viewing and visibility in winter, especially on cold days as there is less boat traffic to disturb birds trying to rest and forage on the open waters of the reservoir.


Visitor center offers trail maps and information on facilities and developed areas around lake. Three campgrounds open from April through October, and 12 picnic shelters.  Seven boat ramps afford ample access for launching a canoe or boat.


Dam and reservoir managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. User fees collected at the entrances of most recreation areas either by park attendant or honor vaults. Depending on the location of a specific area of interest, one may need to use Hwy. 421 or Hwy. 268 for access. Visitor center open 8-4 weekdays year-round. From May to September, it is open during the same hours on weekends.


Some areas around reservoir utilized for gamelands during winter hunting seasons. While birding these areas, wear blaze orange. Visitors should observe rules pertaining to water and boating safety at all times. Ticks and venomous snakes are present during the summer months.

For more info

W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir

Sites nearby

Yadkin River Greenway, Mulberry Fields
Near Willow Lane in Wilkesboro. Warblers, grosbeaks, and other songbirds, Wood Duck, shorebirds, woodpeckers.

Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest
North of reservoir, off Shingle Gap Rd. and Rendezvous Lane, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Self-guided trails that include exhibits, tree identification signs, a forest education center, and a “talking tree” trail. Specially trained rangers available to conduct classes for school and other youth groups.


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Eric Harrold

Eric Harrold is a naturalist, environmental educator, and tour guide. He studied Barred Owls as a graduate student and has worked on bird-conservation projects in the Midwest and East.

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