For 63 years a lake on the North Carolina-Virginia line has suffered from an identity crisis—and visitors have gotten whiplash. Now, after decades of disagreement about the lake's name, Virginia may finally be ready to yield. To Virginians, it's always been Buggs Island Lake, ever since the Roanoke River was dammed in 1952. North Carolina insisted it was Kerr Lake. Virginia lawmakers once went so far as to order all government agencies to refer to the reservoir as Buggs Island Lake, its "true and proper name." However, Virginia State Sen. Frank Ruff won unanimous committee approval yesterday for his bill to allow state and local agencies to refer to it as Kerr Lake or John H. Kerr Reservoir.
The name honors the North Carolina congressman who was instrumental in its creation. Virginia's preferred name came from an island inundated by the lake that was owned by a family named Bugg. Ruff says Mecklenburg County's tourism director suggested a more uniform approach would clear up confusion among visitors. Besides the problem of the dueling names, Ruff says, the Buggs Island name also has the unfortunate side effect of suggesting the lake is insect-infested. So does this mean Virginia is ready to run up the white flag in the long-running tiff with its neighbor to the south? "I think everybody's forgotten the war," Ruff says. (Click to read about five big lakes that are disappearing.)