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Weekend Wrap-up

This past weekend I was able to spend some time on both Saturday and Sunday outside – which makes for a great weekend about anytime. On Saturday morning, I went kayaking with a friend at Lake Reese near Asheboro, and on Sunday I helped lead a hike for A3 Healthy Communities on Three Rivers Land Trust’s Low Water Bridge Preserve in Montgomery County.

A3 Healthy Communities is a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging the Asheboro Community to “embrace and value a healthy and holistic lifestyle through education, support and advocacy.” This group regularly hosts hikes in the Randolph County and surrounding area that are free and open to all. If you are interested in getting on their email list, you can contact Dr. Jim Rich at 336-625-2993 or by email at jrichjr@triad.rr.com.

My friend and myself started our paddle at Lake Lucas on Saturday at 9am. This beautiful lake is small enough that you can kayak around the entire perimeter in about 3 hours. We saw a number of great blue herons and kingfishers, a great egret, several turtles, and a variety of native wildflowers in bloom – but the most impressive thing is the number of butterflies we saw. There were butterflies flying around us almost the entire time we were there, and a large cluster of them putting on a show around some blooming buttonbush on one cove on the lake.

Water primrose with its yellow bloom could be found in thick patches on the edge of the shore. Back in the headwaters of the lake we saw swamp milkweed in bloom with its bright pink hue standing out amongst the greenery. A vine known as “love dodder” was also found in the same area as the buttonbush, covering the surrounding vegetation with a lime green canopy that looked like it was made of thin, long hairs.

The hike on Sunday at Low Water Bridge began around 2:30pm and we had a very large group of almost 50 people in attendance. We hiked a trail that follows the Uwharrie River to Crow Creek and back, about 2 miles total trip. We saw rattlesnake plantain orchid in bloom as well as desmodium and goldenrod. We heard a hooded warbler across the river with his bright “weeta-wee-te-o” call. There were a couple of streams we had to cross and a few downed trees we needed to navigate, but overall it was a fairly leisurely stroll under a shaded canopy.

The A3 group was very appreciative of the guided hike and seemed like a great group to hike with. They will be leading another hike to Cooper Mountain Cemetery in the Birkhead Wilderness Area on Sunday afternoon August 25 from the Robbins Branch trailhead, if the water in the creek is not too high. Contact Jim Rich if you are interested in joining them for more details.

A Week in the New River

Last week, I took a week off from work to volunteer with NC State Parks to help with hellbender surveys in the New River in Ashe County. Hellbenders are large salamanders that live under rocks in clean, swift-moving rivers in Eastern North America. Their brown, black and green marbled patterned backs blend in perfectly with their underwater surroundings. They can reach as long as 29 inches and can weigh up to 5 pounds.

This is the second year I have gone on this adventure and it was just as exciting the second time around. Over the course of the week, we found 23 hellbenders and 2 mudpuppies. On Thursday, we found what may be the largest hellbender ever caught in North Carolina. We visited various courses of the south fork of the New River, and some were shallow and slow flowing and other areas were deep and fast moving. Last year we did not have any storms or rain, but this year was a different case. Monday we were able to work all day, but Tuesday saw a large storm come up around 3:30pm. Lightning struck nearby and all we had to all get out of the water.

Wednesday we were helping a graduate student at Appalachian State University compare night-time surveys with day-time surveys. We surveyed transects of the river which were marked off with orange flagging. That day we worked through lunch so that we could get this done before the storms came. We stopped around 2pm that day as black ominous clouds settled in above the river valley.

So what does a hellbender survey entail? There are several jobs associated with this activity, and for most of the time this year I helped with the seine net. This is set up behind large rocks, which other people who are lifters will raise up with peaveys and cant hooks. Still others will don goggles and gloves and search under those rocks, feeling around for the critters. The seine is there to catch any hellbender that might escape. Those who lift the rock and those who dive have to be very careful, and the lifters yell “set” when they have the rock stable, and then the divers will yell “clear” when they are done searching.

When a hellbender is caught, a runner takes the animal, keeping it in a small bag and holding it in the water as they carry him to the data boat. This canoe houses a PVC pipe cut in two where the animal is submerged in water and measurements are taken. First we weight the creature in the bag and then weigh the bag to get the weight of the animal. Then we measure his length and look for any parasites, injuries, or abnormalities. We determine if the animal is male or female, then check it with a device to see if it is one we’ve captured and tagged before. If not, then we’ll insert a pit tag and write down the number associated with it.

This whole process is done as quickly as possible, keeping the animal shaded with cloths and wet the entire time. One of the team members has identified the rock where the animal was found with a buoy affixed to a brick, and the runner will carry the hellbender back to that rock and let it go where the entry hole is and the critter will slide back under to his safe spot.

These ancient creatures have been around since the time of dinosaurs, but some estimate that their population may have decreased by as much as half. Like other salamanders, they breathe through their skin and are heavily impacted by pollution of our rivers and waterways. The New River is on the borderline of being cold enough for them to exist anyway, as they need really cool and clean water. The eastern hellbender is a species of special concern, and a subspecies called the Ozark hellbender found in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas is federally listed as endangered.

Although some locals consider them a bad omen, their presence is really a great indicator of good water quality. Much of the New River is designated as National Wild and Scenic River, as well as being an outstanding resource water, which is the highest water quality designation the state of NC gives waterways. New River State Park has acquired a number of tracts along the river and works with local land conservancies to acquire additional parcels when they become available. Continuing to protect this important stretch of river is good not just for the hellbenders, but for all the critters that use this resource, and good for the people who rely upon it as well.

The last day we went back and finished up a couple stretches we weren’t able to complete due to storms and other factors, and we caught two more hellbenders before 1pm that day. The last one we caught escaped from those who were searching for him under his rock, and it took about 10 minutes for someone else to come up with him. They usually stick pretty close to their rock even when disturbed, so it is rare for one to get away from us entirely.

I enjoyed my week of hellbender searching and hope to go back again next year. Learning more about this species is one of the best ways to hope to keep them around for future generations to enjoy spotting them as well. Most of these creatures go their whole lives without ever being seen by humans, so if you do find a hellbender while kayaking or fishing, consider yourself fortunate and leave them in their aquatic home. They are a unique critter and an important part of the riverine ecosystem.

Fruits and Festivals

A few weekends ago, I went to the pimento cheese festival in Cary. Although not a fan of pimento cheese myself, I have family members who are, and I’m always up for a festival of any sort, so we piled in the car and drove up there. It was an interesting event and they had everything from pimento cheese waffles to a woman carving a block of cheese into the town of Cary logo. I heard one promotion naming pimento cheese the “caviar of the south.” Although not my cup of tea, it started me thinking about other items that are celebrated that we have that are distinctly southern this time of year.

The peach festival in Candor is coming up on July 19-20, and it’s another local festival that my family likes to attend. There’s a parade with candy thrown out by the floats to the kids, and lots of peaches and peach-flavored goodies to purchase and enjoy. I like to get some homemade peach ice cream, to help beat the heat this time of year. Peach orchards dot the back roads in the Candor area and are a great local fruit to purchase at roadside stands or farmers markets this time of year.

Two other fruits in season right now are blueberries and figs. I purchased a fig bush last year that barely survived our sultry summer but thankfully now looks to be flourishing. It had one single fig last year but this year I’m hoping for a few more. I love to add figs and blueberries to my morning oatmeal with a little honey and some walnuts. If you’re looking for somewhere to purchase some blueberries, consider Mountain Creek Farms in Albemarle – owners Richard Almond and wife Mitzie Almond grow blueberries on their farm, protected by conservation easement with Three Rivers Land Trust last year.

Another fruit staple this time of year that you might stumble upon in your woods rambles are blackberries. I remember as a child picking blackberries from vines on an old fence across the road from my grandparent’s house, and making pies and jams. It’s one of my fondest childhood memories. I’ve even seen people picking blackberries on the side of the interstate (which I wouldn’t recommend), but I love a chance encounter with a vine of ripe blackberries when I’m out on a property – they make a great field snack. Almond Farms in Stanly County, owned by six siblings, are known for their Christmas trees, but they also have a blackberry orchard. This farm was also protected by a conservation easement with Three Rivers Land Trust in 2014.

Although I didn’t get to attend either this year, there’s also a North Carolina blueberry festival and a North Carolina blackberry festival, the former in Burgaw in June and the latter in Lenoir in early July. That may be something to check out next year. I did get to pick cherries at a local orchard near Mount Airy back on Memorial Day, and that was a fun and delicious adventure. There are so many tasty fruits available locally this time of year, but they won’t be around for long, so stop by and get some while you can.

Summertime Paddles

This time of year is a perfect time for a summer paddle trip. It’s really too hot to hike, unless you go early in the morning or late in the evening, and so getting out on the water in your canoe or kayak is a great alternative. Last week, I was fortunate enough to get to paddle three times in three different locations.

The first place I paddled was Sunday morning at Lake Lucas. This is a beautiful small lake located not far from Asheboro. The weather was perfect with it being around 70 degrees and there was a beautiful misty cloud cover. A friend and myself paddled basically around the whole lake in about 3 hours. We saw a lot of great blue herons, a bald eagle, several kingfishers, two great egrets, and when we paddled up into the headwaters where it becomes creek-like we watched two fauns for several minutes. It was a lovely way to spend a morning.

On Tuesday of last week I paddled at my favorite place to go, Falls Lake. This area is also known as the Narrows or Narrows Reservoir and it’s a small lake located between Lake Tillery and Badin Lake. There are huge rock outcrops and a nice waterfall here. I prefer to paddle here during the week so as to avoid larger boats out on the lake on the weekend. The eastern side of this lake is Uwharrie National Forest and the western side is Alcoa land that is slated to go to Morrow Mountain State Park very soon, so this whole lake will soon be protected.

Although the forecast did not call for any storms, we did hear a rumble or two of thunder, but nothing transpired from it. It was pretty windy though and the lake was choppy on the way upstream, but by the time we got to the waterfall area it had calmed down and was calm the whole way back to the put-in on Falls Road. This is a gorgeous spot for a paddle.

On Saturday morning, I paddled a lesser-known section of Little River, parking at a community access and paddling upstream for about 2 miles. I paddled here once about 8 years ago but hadn’t been back since. Two friends and myself went for this paddle, and we saw a bald eagle shortly after entering the river. There are some large rock outcrops along this stretch of river, and we paddled as far as we could before coming to a rocky, shallow area. We got out here and waded around and cooled off. On the way back to the put-in, we encountered our eagle friend again who perched atop a branch long enough for us to get a good look before he soared back downstream.

I’m always looking for new places to kayak, so let me know where is your favorite place to paddle in the Uwharries or nearby area (crystal@threeriverslandtrust.org). Now that Three Rivers Land Trust, the organization I work with, is merging with the Sandhills Area Land Trust, I’ll be looking for more locations to paddle in this southeastern area as well. I’ve never paddled the Deep River or Cape Fear River, but I look forward to exploring those areas and more soon.

Natural Heritage Program Rare Plant and Natural Communities Workshop

Last week, I was fortunate to get to attend a Natural Heritage Program Rare Plant and Natural Communities Workshop in Hendersonville, North Carolina. This workshop was put on by the North Carolina Association of Environmental Professionals in partnership with NC NHP. The purpose of this workshop was to help participants learn how to identify natural communities and rare plants in the field.

A natural community is defined as “a distinct and reoccurring assemblage of populations of plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi naturally associated with each other and their physical environment” (taken from the Classification of Natural Communities of North Carolina Third Approximation by Mike Schafale, 1990). Mike Schafale is an expert in describing and identifying natural communities and was one of our leaders for this trip.

The first natural community we stopped to see was a Swamp Forest Bog Complex in DuPont State Recreational Forest. Here we saw Swamp Pink, a federally protected plant, although it was past bloom, we still were able to see the spent bloom and the vegetation. We also found climbing fern and pink lady slipper at this site. Bogs are fed by ground water seeps and therefore differ from many other wetland communities.

The second place we stopped was also in DuPont State Forest and it was a Rocky Bar and Shore community. This is an area where the river floods periodically to disturb the environment such that no big trees are found here. One form of this community is the twisted sedge variety, of which we saw some here. We also saw mountain hydrangea, species radiata, which is uncommon in our state, along the shore.

We then went to Triple Falls, a beautiful large waterfall, to see an example of a Spray Cliff Community. Here we found a variety of unique plants that are adapted to this community. One of these was a species known as Brook saxifrage or Allegheny brookfoam. It is at high risk as a result of sedimentation and other pollutants. Mike pointed out that because these spray cliff communities have flowing water year round, the water keeps the temperature steady, they don’t freeze in the winter or get too hot in the summer, and as a result some species of tropical mosses and ferns can be found there. Mike also said that not every waterfall has a good Spray Cliff community.

The next place we visited was Kanuga bog, an example of a French Broad Valley Bog. This bog is owned by Kanuga, a nonprofit conference, retreat and camp center. Kanuga has joined in partnership with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy to safeguard this environmentally sensitive area for future generations. This partnership has allowed for the restoration and protection of the Kanuga bog under the “Partners for Fish and Wildlife” program from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). This site is open to the public. This is a place where mountain sweet pitcher plant, another federally protected plant, grows. These bogs have a number of species that are more often found in the coastal plain. We spotted poison sumac, which is classically found in the Sandhills. So these bogs have an interesting biogeography.

Mike also pointed out that many of the rare species in these bogs are in danger of being shaded in by surrounding vegetation. Given that many of these species are 10,000 plus years old, many people posit why these bogs are growing in and vegetation overshadowing them in the last 20 years? One theory is that there is a lack of disturbance now. Mike doesn’t go for that theory because one of the ways there would be disturbance would be a beaver pond, and when those drain they don’t typically create these bog habitats. Another theory is that these rare species aren’t competing as well anymore. There are lots of stressors, including acid rain and invasive species, that threaten the species now that would not have a few years ago. Also flash flooding from nearby streams brings in additional nutrients that allow other species to grow in these usually harsh environments.

The next three sites we visited were Ochlawaha Bog, East Flat Rock Bog, and Bat Fork Bog. All of these sites are home to a federally protected plant known as bunched arrowhead. The Ochlawaha Bog and the Bat Fork Bog are owned by the state Plant Conservation Program. Plant Conservation Preserves and are not open to the public except through work days organized by the Friends of Plant Conservation (ncplantfriends.org). East Flat Rock Bog is owned by Conserving Carolina, a mountain land trust. Bat Fork Bog is home to a variety of other neat plants, including bog jack-in-the-pulpit, bog manna grass, and littleleaf meadow-rue. Unfortunately, this bog also has an invasive species, reed canary grass, that is prevalent in the field adjacent the bog. PCP leads ongoing efforts to rid the area of this invasive plant.

Needless to say, this was a very enjoyable and informative workshop and I’m glad I attended it. Hopefully they will take my suggestion on the evaluation form and host a similar workshop in the Uwharries in coming years. There are many unique and diverse natural communities and rare species right here in our own backyards.

Three Rivers Land Trust Protects 250 acres on Poison Fork Creek

Three Rivers Land Trust is excited to announce the recent conservation of 250 acres in Randolph County, North Carolina. This property boasts a mature hardwood forest and several rare species of plant and animal life. This property’s permanent conservation helps to build upon and maintain an important wildlife corridor, thanks to its close proximity to the Uwharrie National Forest. “This property also possesses over a half-mile of frontage on Poison Fork Creek, considered an outstanding resource water. This is the highest water quality designation the State of North Carolina bestows,” states Crystal Cockman, Director of Conservation, Three Rivers Land Trust.

Fred and Alice Stanback, the Open Space Institute (OSI), and Three Rivers Land Trust members provided funding for this conservation easement. 

“We are so grateful to all of our funding partners for helping Three Rivers Land Trust continue our mission to conserve these important properties,” states Travis Morehead, Executive Director, Three Rivers Land Trust.

OSI partners with conservation organizations in the Southeast to assemble networks of protected lands to preserve plant and animal diversity in a changing climate. Their Southeast Resilient Landscapes Fund, capitalized with a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, provides capital grants and loans to qualified non-profits for the acquisition of land or conservation easements on climate-resilient lands.

“OSI is proud to have supported the protection of this outstanding project, which provides a critical buffer to Uwharrie National Forest and demonstrates the importance of protecting land for wildlife facing an uncertain future,” said Peter Howell, Executive Vice President at OSI. “We applaud Three Rivers Land Trust for their work on this project and for their continued commitment to protection across this landscape.”

Three Rivers Land Trust has completed other conservation projects in this area of Randolph County, including expanding the Uwharrie National Recreational Trail by a length of eight additional miles, adding two new trailheads, and expanding access on gamelands for hiking and hunting.

”We have also applied to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund for the protection of 250 additional acres adjoining this tract and will find out about that funding in September of this year,” states Crystal Cockman. A special thank you to the conservation-minded landowner of this tract, who wishes to remain anonymous.

To learn more about how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust or how to conserve property in our region, contact Crystal Cockman at 704-647-0302 or crystal@threeriverslandtrust.org

Three Rivers Land Trust Officially Merged with the Sandhills Area Land Trust

Three Rivers Land Trust (TRLT) is excited to announce that it has officially merged with the Sandhills Area Land Trust (SALT), effective July 1. As a result, TRLT’s previous 10-county footprint now includes five new counties, bringing the Piedmont-based organization into the Sandhills and Coastal Plain. TRLT and SALT board members worked on this merger for several years, and are proud to see the two organizations officially become one.

Founded in 1991, SALT has protected an estimated 15,000 acres in the Sandhills through conservation efforts in Moore, Cumberland, Hoke, Scotland, Richmond and Harnett counties, as well as longleaf pine ecosystem areas in Lee and Robeson counties.

TRLT, formerly the LandTrust for Central North Carolina, was established in 1995. The organization has protected over 26,000 acres through projects in Anson, Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Iredell, Montgomery, Randolph, Richmond, Rowan and Stanly counties.

“Three Rivers Land Trust is excited to have a conservation presence in the Sandhills,” states Travis Morehead, Executive Director of TRLT. “Having been stationed at Fort Bragg, and working as a planner for The Town of Angier, the Sandhills are an important place to me, personally. I appreciate all of the new conservation opportunities and partnerships our organization will be afforded working in this unique part of the state.”

Two other current TRLT staff members also have a connection to the expanded footprint. Associate Director Michael “Mikey” Nye Fulk is originally from nearby Robeson County, and Crystal Cockman, Director of Conservation grew up in Robbins in Northern Moore County. “The Sandhills and Coastal Plain counties provide new and diverse habitats for TRLT staff to work to protect,” states Crystal Cockman. “These areas are near and dear to SALT’s supporters, and TRLT looks forward to championing these special areas as conservation priorities.”

TRLT will remain headquartered in Salisbury, but will retain the Southern Pines field office to provide a presence in the eastern part of the region. Seven of SALT’s eight current board members will now join the existing TRLT Board of Directors.

One of TRLT’s strongest programs is the county chapter program, which enables the Land Trust to expand its’ conservation mission into the region. “Volunteer and member based support is the driving force behind local conservation,” states Mikey Fulk. “Currently, our organization provides volunteer opportunities through local chapters and we are excited to expand these programs to the Sandhills and Coastal regions.”

To learn more about how you can support TRLT or how to volunteer with the organization, contact Michael Fulk at 704-647-0302 or michael@threeriverslandtrust.org.

Rankin Family and Three Rivers Land Trust Conserves 95 acres on Coddle Creek Reservoir

Three Rivers Land Trust is excited to announce the conservation of a beautiful 95-acre family farm located in northern Cabarrus County. Alex Rankin, the landowner, worked with Three Rivers Land Trust to place a permanent a conservation easement on his family farm. Conservation easements are flexible tools that allow for continued farming practices, while restricting the future development and subdivision of this important parcel.

“The conservation of this farm is great both from an agricultural perspective and a water quality perspective.  Keeping this land undeveloped will provide for future farming opportunities as well as helping to protect the water quality in the Coddle Creek Reservoir. We are grateful to have worked with Alex to help conserve such a remarkable property,” states Executive Director Travis Morehead.

In such a rapidly developing portion of the Piedmont, it is important to conserve lands such as this one for their significant conservation benefits both now and in the future. Last October, Three Rivers Land Trust completed another conservation project on the Coddle Creek Reservoir, protecting an additional 41 acres of land. “In the last 9 months we have conserved over 130 acres of land that adjoin Coddle Creek Reservoir, a primary drinking water source for Cabarrus County residents”, states Crystal Cockman, Director of Conservation. “We are committed to working with property owners to conserve tracts like these, while they are still available”.

To learn more about how to protect your own property, or how to support Three Rivers Land Trust in our conservation mission, contact Crystal Cockman at 704-647-0302 or crystal@threeriverslandtrust.org

Three Rivers Land Trust and Partners add 25 acres to Morrow Mountain State Park

Three Rivers Land Trust is excited to announce that it has partnered with the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation to add 25 acres to Morrow Mountain State Park in Stanly County. This newly acquired property boasts mature hardwood forests and frontage along beautiful Mountain Creek.

This acquisition was made possible through funding from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Curt Dorsey with Rite Time Realty assisted in finalizing the transaction. The site is part of Stony Hill Church Hardwoods, which is identified as a natural heritage area by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program due to its mature hardwood forests and rocky outcroppings. Mountain Creek is a pristine stream that is home to a variety of species of rare and endangered mussels. A large population of a rare plant known as ravine sedge (Carex impressinervia) can be found on the property, as well.

“Three Rivers Land Trust is proud of our longstanding commitment to expanding public access. While adding 25 acres to Morrow Mountain will be one of our smaller conservation projects in 2019, it is one of our most important,” states Executive Director Travis Morehead. “Including this property, the Land Trust and our partners at State Parks have added 75 acres to Morrow Mountain in the past two years.”

“I am thrilled with this addition to Morrow Mountain State Park,” said Superintendent Jeff Davidson. “Mountain Creek is one of the most special features in the park, and this acquisition will allow us to protect these natural resources, provide education to our visitors about their importance, and offer opportunities to enjoy this beautiful area with low-impact recreation.”

Thank you to Gary and Nancy Deeck, the landowners, for working with Three Rivers Land Trust and the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation to conserve this property.

The park will host a dedication of the new property on June 25th at 11:00am. The event will be held at the picnic shelter on top of Morrow Mountain. In the event of rain, we will gather in the park’s lodge adjacent to the park office. The event is free and open to the public.

To learn more about how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust, contact Crystal Cockman at 704-647-0302 or crystal@threeriverslandtrust.org. More information about Morrow Mountain State Park can be found at ncparks.gov/morrow-mountain.

Eight Ways to Experience Nature at Lesser-Known Locations

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 feet high.

  • 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.

Contact

Phone

(704) 647-0302

Address

204 East Innes Street, Suite 280
Salisbury, NC 28144

Email

threerivers@threeriverslandtrust.org