Most people who come to the Uwharrie region to recreate probably know about spots like the Uwharrie Trail and Morrow Mountain State Park. However, there are a lot of lesser-known gems in the Uwharrie area that many tourists miss out on, and some that even locals have never been to see. Here is a list of eight such sites that you should check out next time you’re in the area.
- The Badin Upland Pools found on the Uwharrie
National Forest in the Badin Recreation Area. The upland pools are found on the
top of a mountain near the end of Moccasin Creek Road deep in the Badin
Recreational Area. You go to almost the end of the road and you’ll see Alcoa
posted signs on the right and a hill going up to the left. There’s just enough
room to park on the side of the road there and you hike straight up to the top of
the mountain, and listen for the frogs in springtime to direct you to the
pools. In early May thousands of atamasco lilies can be found in bloom in this
spot. These large pools, some an acre or better in size, harbor rich diversity
and are a significant spot for amphibian breeding. Not far from here also is an
area known as Nifty Rocks, with some large rock outcrops, some more than 30
- Daniels Mountain Montane Longleaf Pine Forest in the Uwharrie National Forest in the Badin Recreational Area. From the Eldorado Outpost on NC 109, head south. Take the first right onto Reservation Road. Take the first right onto Moccasin Creek (US Forest Service Road 576). Take the first left onto US Forest Service Road 555, Cotton Place Road. After about 1 mile the Cotton Place trailhead will be on your right. Starting from the Cotton Place trailhead, be sure to take the hiking trail (not the OHV trail, which is steeper) – this trail is not marked so you’ll have to look for it. Proceed up the trail approximately 0.75 miles to reach the montane longleaf pine habitat. A walking stick or trekking poles are recommended, as it is steep elevation gain to the longleaf pine forest. It’s a really unique site once you get there – longleaf pine mixed among chestnut oak and rocky outcrops with a Uwharrie Mountain backdrop.
- Arnett Branch Longleaf owned by the North Carolina Zoo. This 113-acre property is the largest old growth Piedmont longleaf pine forest in North Carolina. Some trees on the site are more than 300 years old. Many of them have been “boxed” for turpentine and still bear the “catface” scars where the tree was scraped to encourage the sap to flow. Piedmont longleaf differ from Sandhills and Coastal Plain longleaf in that they grow in clay soils instead of sand and have a suite of native grasses in the understory instead of primarily wiregrass, including big blue stem, indian grass, purple top, switch grass, and more. This site is only accessible through permission from the NC Zoo.
- Ridges Mountain owned by the North Carolina Zoo. This site is located off Highway 64 off Ridges Mountain Trail, near Asheboro. This is another mountain with upland pools that are important for salamanders and other amphibians. There’s a 1.5 mile hiking trail to the top and once you get there you will be able to see large boulders, some more than 50 feet high. This site is also accessible only by permission from the NC Zoo.
- Birkhead Property on High Pine Church Road owned by the Wildlife Resources Commission. This property was initially bought by Three Rivers Land Trust and transferred to WRC just a few years ago. The site was just weeks away from becoming a 40-home subdivision before the land trust acquired it, and a 60 foot wide road had already been cut into the property, which is now comprised of native grasses. You can hike in on a trail here and through a mature hardwood forest and by a globally rare hillside seepage bog, and connect to the Birkhead Wilderness Area and the Camp 3 loop trail. This site provides the only eastern access to the Birkhead Wilderness Area.
- Capel Property on Dennis Road owned by the Wildlife Resources Commission. This site was also bought by Three Rivers Land Trust and transferred to WRC. The property possesses frontage on the Uwharrie River and Hidden Lake, and there’s a put-in or take-out spot on the site such that you can paddle the Uwharrie River from Highway 109 without having to go all the way to Morrow Mountain State Park to take out. The property itself has over 50 acres of grasslands that are kept open by burning, and one field is lush with atamasco lilies and jack-in-the-pulpits in springtime. There’s even a small waterfall on Dutchman’s Creek. This is a great site for deer and turkey hunting.
- Suther prairie in Cabarrus County owned by the North Carolina Plant Conservation Program. This is the only known remaining natural wet weather prairie in North Carolina. Over 200 species of plants are known to the site, including the state rare Canada Lily. In springtime, the field is full of atamasco lilies and indian paintbrush. The property was bought by Cabarrus Soil and Water Conservation District with help from Three Rivers Land Trust and funded through the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, then transferred to the NC Plant Conservation Program who owns and manages the property now. This site is accessible only through guided hikes and workdays through the Friends of Plant Conservation (ncplantfriends.org).
- The Narrows or Falls Reservoir, a small lake in between Badin Lake and Lake Tillery. This is my absolute favorite place to paddle. Not well known, there’s never much traffic on this lake and there are beautiful rock outcrops and even a beautiful waterfall found on the lake. The Badin Dam and related buildings are on the northern end of the lake and they are listed on the National Historic Register. This is also one of only a couple spots where the rare Yadkin River Goldenrod exists, which can be found blooming here in October.
So next time you are in the area, consider stopping by one of these undiscovered treasured places and enjoy what makes the Uwharrie area so unique.