I’ll start with the easy facts. Lake Norman (at full pond) has 32,510 acres of surface area, it can hold 3.4 trillion gallons or 1,093,600 acre-feet of water. Next is Lake Mattamuskeet, the only natural lake in the top 5. It has a surface area of about 40,000 acres. This makes Mattamuskeet much larger than Lake Norman in surface area. However, Mattamuskeet has an average depth of 2 feet. So, it has a capacity of 80,000 acre-feet of water and Lake Norman has a capacity of 1,093.600 acre-feet of water. As you can see Lake Norman holds more water but Lake Mattamuskeet covers more area.
Next, are the 3 lakes built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They are Falls Lake, B. Everett Jordan Lake, and John H. Kerr Lake. The problem is the way the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers builds lakes. There is no “Full Pond” level for these lakes like there is for Lake Norman. The primary purpose of these lakes is flood control. Because of this, the water level can vary by more than 50 feet. In comparison, Lake Norman rarely varies by more than 7 feet. The largest of the 3 is John H. Kerr at 83,200 acres at the maximum flood-control pool. The bulk of Kerr Lake is in Virginia with only a small portion in North Carolina. Next is B. Everett Jordan at 51,830 acres at spillway design flood level. The smallest of the 3 is Falls Lake at 39,960 acres at spillway design flood level. These 3 lakes have a maximum capacity that is much greater than Lake Norman in acres covered and the capacity to hold water. However, they have never been at maximum capacity and often cover less area than Lake Norman.
So there you have it. The 5 largest lakes in (or partly in) North Carolina. Which is the largest will depend on your point of view. I prefer to think Lake Norman is The Best Lake in North Carolina!