SPENCER’S YADKIN RIVER PARK
Did you know Rowan County has a place where history, nature and lake recreation converge and is accessible just a few miles north of downtown Salisbury in Spencer, on the Davidson – Rowan Line?
If you are looking for a safe and secluded area for walking trails, learning to kayak, having a picnic, biking along historic battle sites, or bringing your dog for a play date, the Yadkin River Park is the place for you.
I was introduced to the Yadkin River Park by a friend Jason Walser. Jason is a proud Salisbury resident, and when I asked if he knew of this park, he volunteered to show me around. Unbeknownst to me, Jason was active as a park advisory committee member, and said he has been involved in the preservation and development of the land around that park for more than 22 years. Furthermore, his Walser Family has called the area around that place home for more than 200 years.
So, I had one of the best possible tour guides for my introduction to the Trading Ford area!
“I believe that this area is under-appreciated in Rowan County, but I think over time it’s going to end up being a destination point that’s going to serve Spencer and Rowan County very well,” Walser said. “Downtown Spencer is less than 4 miles south with great tourism such as the N.C. Transportation Museum, Hendrix Barbeque, shopping and more.”
The park, approximately 30 acres at this point, contains a shallow, recessed cove like a secluded pond and just the perfect place to unpack your canoe or kayak and picnic lunch to enjoy bird watching and serenity. First opened to the public in 2019, this park now draws about 600 visitors per day. Davidson County and Friends of Rowan, a local group headed by philanthropist Ronnie Smith, have raised more than $1 million towards developing this park on both sides of the Yadkin River (although the majority of infrastructure is on the Davidson County side of the river).
The park has become a recreation destination for many. At its heart is the historic landmark, Wil-Cox Bridge, a 1,300-foot concrete arch bridge built in 1924. It was originally proposed for demolition as part of the I-85 bridge replacement project from a decade ago, but Davidson County agreed to accept the bridge as a recreational and cultural amenity for the area.
Currently the bridge is used for pedestrian and bike traffic only and is registered as a historical structure with its seven spandrel open arches. The Yadkin River which is the longest river in North Carolina, with 215 miles that connects to the Pee Dee River creating the Yadkin Pee-Dee River Basin. And it is generally accepted that the Wil-Cox Bridge is the dividing line between the Yadkin River and High Rock Lake.
The park is situated adjacent to Fort York, the location of one of the final battles of the Civil War. As we walked over the bridge it was amazing to me to envision that General Nathanael Green’s patriot soldiers in February 1781 walked along that riverbed in an effort to keep the British army (led by Lord Charles Cornwallis) at bay.
It is not hyperbole to say that this place on earth can tell the story of America as well as any other on this continent. Because of the opportunity this place provided to cross the river at a shallow depth, it hosted significant Native American activity, important action in the American Revolution, a primary role in the Civil War, a vantage point into industrialization and transportation advancements, and urbanization. It even hosted a crossing by George Washington!
For me, this initial visit represented a peak into the past, while walking along the present, and learning about the future. I was introduced to the planned Greenway that will eventually connect the Charlotte Metropolitan Region with the Triad.
The long-term vision is a visitor center telling the history of the region, a museum, and a new Freedom tower to be built to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence which will be a major landmark for travelers along I-85.
I read a few past articles about the park in which Davidson County Commissioners Chair Karen Watford said the park will need a couple million dollars in funding to build and develop all of its planned amenities. Current funding has afforded a dog park as well as sidewalks and a parking lot. Over time, the hope is to build larger parking areas, restrooms, a visitor’s center, and playground.
The Davidson County park is only one part of the equation at the bridge. Spencer is immediately on the other side of the river and has plans to enhance its side as well. The town is planning to build a trail, parking area and benches. Together, both counties will create a genuine walk into our rich history and how North Carolina was such an integral part of the Revolutionary War as well as the Civil War.
South of Trading Ford is High Rock Lake, created by a dam built in the 1920s, whereas much of the lowlands near Trading Ford were flooded. Progress did not destroy our naturalist desires; it has afforded us an opportunity to humbly embrace the past and look forward to the future.
If you have read my previous blogs, you may have noticed that trash along our roads and waterways is a bone of contention for me. I am happy to report that the park was clean, exceptionally so, without any identifying trash recyclables. Jason shared that Davidson County does employ a caretaker who cleans the area daily and it shows. Thank you. I will be back and look forward to what is to come.
There will be additional blogs on this historic tract forthcoming.
I would love to hear from you on what your favorite lake activity is, or someone that you would like me to feature in 2022. Please email me at highrock@YourRowan.com
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