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Your Environment. Your Health.

Discovery Lake

Discovery Lake 2012


The NIEHS and EPA campus houses the beautiful man-made Discovery Lake. After nearly 40 years of not having a name, the EPA and NIEHS jointly named the lake in December, 2012. 

Fishing by staff and their visitors is allowed, under certain guidelines below.

NIEHS Walking Trails & Distances

  • Walk from F-Loading Dock North and around Lake - 1.8 miles
  • Walk from F-Loading Dock North around EPA and NIEHS paved roads - 2.2 miles
  • Walk from F-Loading Dock North to EPA walking trail, down Alexander Drive Trail and back into NIEHS front entrance - 1.92 miles
  • Walk from E-Loading Dock to NIEHS front entrance down to Durham Expressway and back - 2.97 miles
  • Map of Nature Walk(488KB)
Map of the Nature Walk train around Discovery lake

Lake Visitors/Users

NIEHS and EPA personnel, contractors, their families, and guests are welcome; however, in accordance with the NIEHS Security Policy, government employees and onsite contractors must accompany their fishing parties. In addition,

  • all persons over 16 who fish must have in their possession a valid North Carolina inland fishing license. 
  • Guests and children must be accompanied at all times. 
  • Swimming is not allowed in Discovery Lake. 
  • Pets, smoking, and open fires are also not allowed. 

Fishing can occur along the entire lake shoreline.  However, the NIEHS maintains designated fishing areas that are regularly mowed to allow access to the shoreline.  These areas are located in the Memorial Gardens and adjacent to Building 101 D-module.

Access Hours

  • Daylight hours only
  • Weekends and Holidays Sunrise to Sunset
  • Monday through Friday  5:00 p.m. to Sunset

Access/Security, Parking/Maps

NIEHS Security and Access Policies apply to visitors to Discovery Lake. Cars can be temporarily moved to the boat launching points for unloading and loading boats, but then must be properly parked. Any parking lot can be used, but vehicles must not leave the road or paved parking areas.

Trail around Discovery Lake including sites.
(Click to enlarge)


Use the lake at your own risk. Contact (919) 541-2800 in the event of an emergency. In addition, emergency phones are located outdoors on the NIEHS side of Discovery Lake at the locations listed below. These phones automatically dial the NIEHS Security Office when the emergency button is pressed.

  • North side of Building 101 near F-module
  • Lake side of Building 101 between D-module and the fire lane
  • Lake side of Building 101 at A-module under the cafeteria
  • South side of Building 101 near the A-module entrance doors
  • Along the southern portion of Discovery Lake trail near the central finger
  • Along the southern portion of Discovery Lake trail near the Building 104 trail connection


Discovery Lake has become a haven to many species of wildlife.

Nesting waterfowl are a common sight at the lake's edge. Please give wide berth to any nests or creatures which appear to have staked-out a territory.

Curb your curiosity and observe from a safe distance.

Protected Fish

Discovery Lake's "Triploid" Carp and "Hybrid" Striped Bass are protected.

The NIEHS Operations and Security Branch is responsible for supervising the use of Discovery Lake. Removal of "triploid" carp or "hybrid" striped bass from the lake is prohibited.

The "triploid" carp are a non-reproducing strain introduced to control algae and aquatic vegetation, while the "hybrid" striped bass, which are also sterile, were introduced to help manage smaller fish species. Violators will lose their fishing privileges.

Other fish species are there for the taking as long as lake rules are observed.

Below are pictures of all the varieties you might encounter in Discovery Lake.

Prohibited Varieties

Triploid Grass Carp
Triploid Grass Carp

Hybrid Striped Bass
Hybrid Striped Bass


Others that can be taken within specified Number Limits

Channel Catfish
Channel Catfish


Largemouth Bass
Largemouth Bass




Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)

Registration & Recordkeeping

All members of the fishing party must check in at the NIEHS Security reception desk in the Building 101 lobby and be issued a Discovery Lake fishing permit badge. Any person who is 16 years of age and above must also have a valid NC Fishing License. Exception: Residents with a valid Unified Subsistence Fishing License Waiver are exempt from the fishing license requirement. Also, a license is not required to fish on July 4th. Discovery Lake fishing badges must be returned before leaving campus. Fish catches must also be recorded at this time.

Sample Sign-in Sheet(42KB)

Number Limits

  • 2 game fish per species (large-mouth bass and channel catfish) of legal size (see below) per person per day.
  • 25 pan-fish (Bluegills, Sunfish) may be taken per day.
  • Fish identification pictures are posted at the NIEHS Security office.

Size Limits

  • Largemouth Bass: 14 inches or greater in length
  • Catfish: 14 inches or greater in length
  • Pan-fish: No limit

Undersized fish and protected fish should be handled gently, the hook removed with as little injury as possible, and the fish returned to the water as quickly as possible. Do not put these fish on stringers.

The total length of a fish is measured from tip of snout with mouth closed to top of compressed tail.


Rod and Reel, or cane pole only (one per person). Capture netting and stunning methods are not allowed. No unattended fishing devices. (Note: "unattended" means traps, trot lines, jug rigs, etc.)


  • Crickets, worms and artificial bait are allowed.
  • Live minnows or any other non-resident fish species may not be used as bait or released into Discovery Lake.


Only boats which can be hand-carried to the lake are permitted. No gasoline engines are permitted; however, electric motors are allowed. Boats must comply with all North Carolina and Federal regulations for safe equipment and registration markings. U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFDs)  must be worn by each person aboard.

Boats may be launched from the NIEHS Campus near A-Module, at the D-Module picnic area, and by the MRI Building. The water point near the northeast corner of Discovery Lake serves as the boat launch for the EPA Campus.


Violators will have their fishing and/or boating privileges suspended or taken away. First offense will result in a 30-day suspension. Two-time offenders lose all fishing privileges for the remaining calendar year. NIEHS/EPA personnel and contractors are responsible for their family and/or guests. Violations by family and/or guests result in a suspension or removal of fishing and/or boating privileges for both the violator and the host.

Please report fishing violations to NIEHS Security at 919-541-7515.


Policy Information & Enforcement:

NIEHS Security Office
Telephone: (919) 541-7515

NIEHS Operations & Security Branch:

Don Jackowski
Security Manager
Tel 919-541-1415

NIH Office of Research Facilities:

Brian W. Harris
Project Officer
Tel 919-541-1805