January – Pump Station

 January-Over15Latitude 36° 3′ 44.34 N / Longitude 78° 57′ 45.37 W
January1536.062317 N / 78.962603 W

How to get there:

DRIVING DIRECTIONS to Pump Station from 147 N & 15/501 N: take Exit 16A off 147 N or Exit 108D off 15/501 N. The exit ramp for 147 will merge into Exit 108D, stay in your lane. If you are coming from 15/501, get in the right lane. As you are coming up the exit ramp, stay in one of the two left lanes. At the top of the ramp, turn left onto Hillsborough Road. In 0.3 miles, turn right onto Cole Mill Road. Stay straight on Cole Mill for approximately 2.5 miles. Turn right onto Rivermont Road, which is just before the stoplight at Sparger Rd. If you cross the river, then you went too far.

Rivermont Rd. will change to gravel in less than ½ mile. The road will bend to the right and head down a steep hill to the bridge over Nancy Rhodes Creek. Cross over the bridge and park on the road shoulder on either side of the road. If this parking is full, then turn around and head back to the top of the hill and park on the north side of the road (right side if heading away from the bridge). The trailhead for the Pump Station Trail is at the bridge; look for a brown metal trail map box. The physical address is 4000 Rivermont Road, Durham NC 27712.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS to Pump Station from I-85, Exit 173: at the bottom of the ramp, turn right and head north on Cole Mill Road away from Hillsborough Road. Stay straight on Cole Mill Rd. for approximately 2.4 miles. Turn right onto Rivermont Road, which is just before the stoplight at Sparger Rd. If you cross the river, then you went too far.

Rivermont Rd. will change to gravel in less than ½ mile. The road will bend to the right and head down a steep hill to the bridge over Nancy Rhodes Creek. Cross over the bridge and park on the road shoulder on either side of the road. If this parking is full, then turn around and head back to the top of the hill and park on the north side of the road (right side if heading away from the bridge). The trailhead for the Pump Station Trail is at the bridge; look for a brown metal trail map box. The physical address is 4000 Rivermont Road, Durham NC 27712.

Pump Station_2_Joe online

Photo by Joe Liles

HIKING DIRECTIONS to Pump Station: After parking and securing your belongings and vehicle, find the trailhead. There should be a brown metal trail map box at the start of the Pump Station loop. The trail heads away from the bridge and along the creek. In approximately 0.2 miles, you will come to a power line clearing. Just past the power line clearing, look for a social path off the left side of the trail (creek side). Follow this path toward the creek. Here you will notice the spillway and footings for the Nancy Rhodes Creek Dam. This path leads down a steep embankment next to the dam footing. If you are able, scramble down to the footbridge over the creek (if you unable – see the next paragraph). This is the lower section of the Pump Station Trail. Take the trail away from the dam without crossing the bridge. This will lead you downstream along the creek. The river will come into view. Cross another footbridge and you should see the ruins of the old Pump Station directly in front of you off the left side of the trail. Please use caution around the pump house ruins, which provide a stunning yet steep view of the river.

If you are unable to scramble down the embankment next to the dam, then retrace your steps away from the dam and back to the main trail. Turn left (away from the power line). The trail will slowly decline toward the river. Shortly after crossing a narrow footbridge, you will come to an intersection with the Laurel Bluffs Trail. Turn left to stay on the Pump Station Trail. The ruins will be on your right. Please use caution and respect the historic nature of the area.

If you want to extend your trip after exploring the ruins, then finish the rest of the Pump Station Trail. Follow the trail heading away from the ruins and along Nancy Rhodes Creek upstream to the footbridge over the creek. Follow all park signage. The entire loop trail is an easy to moderate 1.5 miles.

About Pump Station

Pump Station_Joe online

Photo by Joe Liles

The story of Durham and the modern history of the Eno River are closely linked. There is no better place on the Eno to experience this intersection than at the Pump Station. In 1884, sixteen years after its incorporation, the city of Durham contracted with a private Boston firm to construct and operate the city’s fist public drinking water supply station. Without “pure and wholesome water,” there was no way Durham could expect to attract business and grow. And grow it did, so much that the Pump Station quickly became outdated. By 1926, the city abandoned ‘the Eno Plant’ in favor of the Flat River and Lake Michie Reservoir, which is still in operation today.

When debate was raging about whether to expand the Pump Station or move operations to the Flat, many folks claimed the Eno River was filthy and polluted. It very well may have been, but today, due in large part to the Eno River Assocation’s efforts, the river flows free and clean through Durham, buffered on both sides by parklands. Thankfully, the city’s early history is preserved along with the land and water.

If you want to know more about the history of Pump Station, then head downtown to the main branch of the Durham County Public Library. Go to the North Carolina Collection on the 3rd floor and ask to see the ‘Water History’ file. For hours of operation or to call ahead, visit: http://durhamcountylibrary.org/location/.

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