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Seven local natural wonders

2010 February 18
by lib

Folks like Sue Morgan and her family enjoy dramatic features of nearby Occoneechee Mountain. Photo by Ken Moore.

By Ken Moore

Recently, D.G. Martin, columnist for The Chapel Hill News, described his list of seven natural wonders in North Carolina. D.G.’s descriptions inspired my thinking about our local natural wonders.

Some of you spend an hour or two each week walking along a favorite woodland trail. I wonder how many of you choose a different trail each week. There are so many great walks close by that my wife, Kathy Buck, and I often have difficulty choosing one.

Sometimes wide-open spaces are appealing; other times, secluded shady coves. There’s quiet warmth in stands of green needle-floored pine forests; in contrast is adventure climbing to the heights of giant oak crowned ridges.

Special trees beacon, like the twisty old chestnut oaks and mountain laurels of Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, the giant oaks of Big Oak Woods of Mason Farm Biological Reserve or the big loblolly pines in the Adams Tract.

Already I’ve listed three of my favorite local natural areas: #1, Occoneechee Mountain ( overlooking Hillsborough; #2, N.C. Botanical Garden’s Mason Farm, south of Finley Golf Course; and #3, Carrboro’s Adams Tract, extending from Wilson Park up and over and down through mature pine and oak-hickory-beech-maple forests to Bolin Creek.

Continuing my list of local natural wonders is #4, Carolina North, some 750 acres of diverse woodlands bordering the Bolin Creek corridor with miles of trails maintained by UNC (

My #5 is Duke Forest, 7,000-plus acres of diverse forests between Durham, Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Hillsborough. You can walk a different trail every week for three months. Duke’s forests ( include natural features like rhododendron bluffs along New Hope Creek as well as demonstration areas of forest management practices.

My # 6 is the 93-acre Battle Park forest stretching from Forest Theatre on UNC campus to Chapel Hill’s Community Center. Trails in this historic forest are managed by the Botanical Garden and maps are available at several trailheads. (

Another favorite, # 7, is Triangle Land Conservancy’s Johnston Mill Nature Preserve (, between Chapel and Hillsborough. Trails course through mature pine and deciduous forests along New Hope Creek and meander over higher ground featuring an unusual elfin forest of American beech.

There are others. I hope that some of you will take time to share with readers (editor@carrborocitizencom) descriptions of your favorite local natural treasure.

The winter beauty of open fields surrounding Mason Farm’s Big Oak Woods is prelude to colorful wildflowers in warmer months. Photo by Ken Moore.

Most importantly, be appreciative of our natural treasures; some of the features, like laurel bluffs, are relicts of the ice age. Support the organizations that protect and manage them and explore all of them.

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