Salem Lake is the largest body of water in Forsyth County. To enter at the dam, you want Reynolds Park Road. From Business I-40 take the exit for Highway 311/109 immediately east of the Hwy. 52 interchange. Go south on M. L. King Boulevard about 0.5 mile through Winston-Salem State University and turn left onto Reynolds Park Rd. You may notice the Salem Creek Greenway parking entrance at 0.9 mile. Salem Lake Road will be at 1.9 miles to the left. If the gates are closed, there is a parking area at the top of the hill and you can walk down to the trails. Restrooms are at the marina.
From the gated main parking lot, you can view the largest portion of the lake. A scope will help you find the Ring-billed Gulls that are common in winter and possibly Bonaparte’s Gulls in early spring. Winter waterfowl make the lake a great stop on the N.C. Birding Trail, with some of the more common ducks being Ring-necked, Bufflehead, Ruddy, Wood Duck, and Lesser Scaup. Many others have been sighted over the years including White-winged Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Canvasback, Redhead, Northern Shoveler, Common Loon, Horned Grebe, et al. The best time to see ducks is after a string of very cold days freezes all of the small lakes in the county.
The middle of Salem Lake almost always stays open due in large part to an aeration system to keep the water well oxygenated. Caspian Tern may show up in fall; Black and Gull-billed Tern and Sabine’s Gull were sighted in the mid-1970s. A Red-necked Grebe spent a month here in early 2007. The area around the dam is usually rich with sparrows, finches, swallows, Bluebird and raptors, plus nesting swallows in warmer months. Great Egret often are seen in late summer. Osprey, Bonaparte’s Gull and Double-crested Cormorant can be seen on migration.
The trail around the lake has been widened for joggers, bicycles and horses, the circuit being seven miles. To the left you will cross the creek and a bridge over a long cove. To the right there will be a thicket and two attractive tributaries within the first mile. To find mergansers and Pied-billed Grebe, and possibly Prothonotary Warbler in summer, you may want to try the upstream end. Take the Linville Road exit from Business I-40 about 0.5 miles south to a parking area next to the lake. The wetland area across the road can be productive, while the main part of the lake can be good for warblers and anything else you haven’t found yet, such as Brown Creeper, Winter Wren or Great Blue Heron. For wildflowers, butterflies or fall color, it is worth the hike.
On Reynolds Park Road 0.5 mile east of Salem Lake Road is a health care facility. The pond is home for geese, and the pines are home for Brown-headed Nuthatch. In winter, look for Hooded Merganser. Access from Reynolds Park Rd. to Salem Creek Greenway, noted above, is a steep but short ramp to a bottomland forest upstream and the only scenic portion of the creek.