Rowan County is home to numerous parks, hiking and walking trails, and other various green spaces that are popular and well known. On more than one occasion, however, I’ve come across RoCo residents who have no clue what some of these places are, and the beauty these places have to offer. I’ve been met with confused faces when I’ve mentioned kayaking at Eagle Point Nature Preserve or hiking on the Gold Hill Rail Trail. These trails were actually showcased in our article 10 Things To Do in Rowan County. If you’ve heard of these places – great! If not, you’re in for a treat.
Eagle Point Nature Preserve – Solitude at Its Finest
Eagle Point Nature Preserve is what I, personally, consider the best secret escape in Rowan County. Located at the end of Black Road in the eastern part of the county, the Preserve opened on June 16, 2001. The property was donated to Rowan County by the LandTrust for Central North Carolina – now renamed the Three Rivers Land Trust – and is cared for by the Rowan County Parks and Recreation Department. The Preserve is what’s known as a “passive park,” which is a type of park that only allows low intensity activities to help preserve the natural habitat of the property.
The Preserve offers three hiking trails that are intertwined – the Plant Loop, the Goldeneye Cove Trail, and the Eagle Point Cove Loop. These trails provide approximately 3 miles of hiking on easy surface. On the Eagle Point Cove Loop, you’ll come across some great views of High Rock Lake.
If you’re a plant and tree lover, be on the lookout for markers along these trails that identify flora such as Black Walnut, Red Maple, Southern Red Oak, and many others. For you bird watchers, the Preserve is also on the NC Birding Trail. Species of interest include the Bald Eagle, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and the Barred Owl. Many other animals call the Preserve home, like white-tailed deer and wild turkey. While hiking, be sure to keep an eye out for a special sighting!
A kayak and canoe access is also available at the Preserve. Be aware that there is a 100-yard carry, but a cable system is available to help you along the way. The cove is shallow, so putting in a kayak or canoe here is best done when the water is high. I speak from experience, wear shoes you aren’t afraid to get muddy.
I asked Crystal Cockman, Director of Conservation for Three Rivers Land Trust, why it’s important that Rowan County preserve areas such as Eagle Point. She states, “Eagle Point Park is a great recreational resource for Rowan County, with over 3 miles of hiking trails and access to High Rock Lake. This property has a mix of hardwood and pine forests, and is an excellent place to spot wildlife, including neotropical migratory birds in the springtime. Preserving natural areas such as this one is important because they provide habitat for wildlife and a unique opportunity to have an outdoor experience with family and friends. Three Rivers Land Trust appreciates the opportunity to work with Rowan County Parks to conserve this special property for future generations.”
I highly encourage you to check out Eagle Point Nature Preserve when you need a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of life. The hours of operation are seasonal and weather permitting, but can be found here.
Gold Hill Mines Historic Park – A Step Back in Time
Gold Hill Mines Historic Park is another hidden gem of RoCo. A lot of residents are familiar with the name and history, but I’m surprised at the small number of people that have actually explored the area off the beaten path. Back in the days of gold mining in North Carolina, Gold Hill was the most famous town in the Carolina Gold Rush Territory. Now Gold Hill serves as a blast from the past and a local spot to listen and jam out to Bluegrass music. The Montgomery Store Bluegrass Jam takes place every Friday night from 7 – 9 p.m. at the E. H. Montgomery General Store in Historic Gold Hill. There’s a hot dog truck on site and on warm summer nights, guests are encouraged to bring a lawn chair and they’ll move the party outside.
Gold was first discovered here in 1824, but the town didn’t start growing until 1843. A few of the town’s iconic features include: the Chilean Ore Mill that operated between 1840-1900; the Miller Gold Mine where visitors can descend the steps leading down and look into an 19th century mine; and the Barnhardt and Randolph Gold Mine shafts that give visitors an idea of how deep these gold mines went underground.
My favorite feature of this park is the Gold Hill Rail Trail. If you aren’t familiar, a rail trail is a path that has been converted from a disused railway track to a multi-use path for hiking, walking, biking, horse riding, and other uses. Developed with help from the Three Rivers Land Trust, and a part of the Carolina Thread Trail system, this trail includes some cool sites like the Powder House, Gold Hill Pond, Gold Hill Jail, and an old steam engine and boiler.
While hiking this trail, it always blows my mind that parts of the trail I’m walking on used to be the path of a railroad that was used in transporting gold and equipment in the late 1880s. If you look closely in some areas of the trail, you can see ruts where the old railroad ties used to be.
If you decide to hike this trail, please stop by the E.H. Montgomery General Store or look online for a trail map, as some parts beside the trail are private properties. Having a map and staying on the trail will prevent any issues with this. After your hike, make sure you explore the town and the local shops that are each unique in their own way.
Have you explored these areas in Rowan County? Have a place in mind you think I should know about? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your stories and ideas with me!