Partnering with the Nature Conservancy, the State of North Carolina, the City of Durham, and Durham and Orange Counties, the Eno River Association was able to create the Eno River State Park in 1973. Since then, the Association has worked tirelessly to expand the Park in order to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the Eno River and to ensure that the public will be able to enjoy it for future generations.
The Park is currently composed of more than 4,500 acres of protected natural area that provide vital water quality protection, wildlife habitat, and preservation of historic resources. In addition, five access areas – The Cabe Lands, Cole Mill, Few’s Ford, Pleasant Green, and The Pump Station – and over 24 miles of trails offer entry into this largely unspoiled river environment.
Cole Mill blazed with yellow dots
This trail is a 1.2 mile loop beginning at the Cole Mill picnic area from either the south end of the parking lot or beside the southern toilet building. Most of the trail is an easy hike along the river with a short climb through the upland forest. Scenic laurel covered bluffs dominate the opposite river bank. Fishermen should be alert to crossing county lines on this trail, which are marked with signs.
Go to the www.trianglehike.com’s Cole Mill trail page (external Link)
Bobbitt Hole blazed with red dots
This trail takes you to one of the most scenic and fascinating places in the river. The river drops into Bobbitt Hole over a short rock cascade from the south and leaves in a sharp 90 degree bend to the east. On the south bank a rock outcropping stands sentinel over the hole which has been measured to 18 feet deep. The trail is a 1.65 mile loop extending the Cole Mill Trail up river, intersecting the western section of Cole Mill Trail twice. A short spur at the southern end of the Bobbitt Hole loop dead ends at the hole. Steep, laurel covered bluffs shadow the river opposite the trail. The upland trail crosses several hills and drainages.
Go to the www.trianglehike.com Bobbitt Hole trail page (external Link)
Pea Creek blazed with blue dots
Pea Creek Trail starts at the south end of the Cole Mill parking lot, goes down to the river, follows the river under the Cole Mill Road bridge, eventually intersecting with a short loop that follows the river and Pea Creek, and returns through the upland forest. The round trip from the parking lot is 1.3 miles. Hikers can see a large outcrop called Buzzard Rock across the river from the trail, a short distance south of passing under a electrical transmission line. This hike can be lengthened by adding the Dunnagan Trail loop.
Go to the www.trianglehike.com Pea Creek trail page (external Link)
Dunnagan blazed with red dots
This trail is accessed from the Pea Creek Trail by crossing the creek on a footbridge. From there this 1.8 mile trail is a loop with an easy 3/4 mile on the river and the remainder generally paralleling the river on the adjacent ridge. On the ridge the trail passes a cemetery and two old home sites with nothing left but large trees, exotic flowers, and the fallen stones of the chimneys. On the river the trail crosses the remnant of an old dam. A short distance east of the dam, as the trail turns northwest away from the river is a deep spot known as Bob’s Hole. Visible on the opposite shore are the decaying stone walls of Durham’s first water pumping station.
Go to www.trianglehike.com -Dunnagan trail page (external Link)
Pump Station blazed with red dots
The Pump Station Trail is known as the best spring wildflower trail in the park. It begins at the Nancy Rhodes Creek bridge on Rivermont Road and makes a 1.5 mile loop. It is generally an easy hike with only a few gentle hills. The foundations of Durham’s first water pumping station are at the northeast section of the loop near the river. The unusually long and narrow Coon Foot Island can be viewed while hiking beside the river. This hike can be lengthened by adding the Laurel Bluffs Trail, intersecting on the east side of the loop. Laurel Bluffs blazed with yellow dots This trail starts at an intersection with the Pump Station Trail and goes east to Guess Road. It is 2.49 miles long and generally stays close to the river except for short sections where cliffs and steep bluffs force it up and around on ridges. Along the way the trail passes the chimney and foundation of an old hunting lodge, the mostly intact Guess Mill Dam, enters the millrace and comes out at the chimney at the Guess Mill site. Future plans are for Laurel Bluffs Trail to extend west to Cabelands Trail and to connect with West Point on the Eno city park trails to serve as a component of North Carolina’s Mountains to Sea Trail.
Laurel Bluffs blazed with yellow dots
This trail starts at an intersection with the Pump Station Trail and goes east to Guess Road. It is 2.49 miles long and generally stays close to the river except for short sections where cliffs and bluffs force it up and around on ridges. Along the way the trail passes the chimney and foundation of an old hunting lodge, the mostly intact Guess Mill Dam, enters the millrace and comes out at the chimney at the Guess Mill site. Future plans are for Laurel Bluffs Trail to extend west to Cabelands Trail and to connect with West Point on the Eno city park trails to serve as a component of North Carolina’s Mountains to Sea Trail.
Cox Mountain blazed with blue dots
Begin this hike in the Fews Ford picnic area. It is a loop, and is a 3.75 mile round trip. The hike can be lengthened by adding the Fanny’s Ford Trail loop which intersects from the northeast. The trail passes beside the picnic area down to the river and crosses the river on a suspension foot bridge. It continues gradually up hill to a sharp northerly turn where it follows the old Hillsborough Coach Road for a short distance and becomes a loop going over the top and around the base of Cox Mountain. The trail climbs 270 feet in elevation from the river to the hill top. A long steep climb and descent is required. After looping the hill, take the trail back to the bridge.
Go to the www.TriangleHike.com Cox Mountain Trail webpage (external link)
Fanny’s Ford blazed with purple dots
This trail is accessed by hiking the Cox Mountain Trail from the picnic area north to the Fanny’s Ford loop. This trail is a 1.01 mile loop but the round trip from the picnic area is 2.85 miles. The hike is generally easy with only short, gentle hills and a lot of flat terrain along the river. The trail is laced with history. A portion of the route is the old Hillsborough Coach Road, reaching the Few’s Ford river crossing, and passing through the old Few’s Mill race.
Go to the www.TriangleHike.com Fanny’s Ford Trail webpage (external link)
Eno Trace blazed with red dots
This self-guided nature trail has information stations posted relating some of the history and ecology of the Eno River. Eno Trace turns west off the Cox Mountain trail on top of the bluff between the picnic area and the river. Round trip from the picnic area is 0.5 mile. A short but steep set of steps goes down the bluff from the Cox Mountain Trail then makes a loop beside the river and over a gentle hill. Along the river there is a short stretch of trail with rugged rocky footing. The Wilderness Cabin can be seen across the river. The return is back up the steps to the Cox Mountain Trail.
Buckquarter Creek blazed with red dots
This 1.5 mile loop trail begins at the Piper-Cox Museum parking lot and turns upriver at Few’s Ford. The most spectacular rapids on the river are viewed from a rock outcrop along the trail. A staircase takes hikers over the outcrop. The trail follows the river and Buckquarter Creek, then turns upland going over rolling hills. 2/10 mile along the river is rugged, rocky footing. This hike may be lengthened by crossing the Buckquarter Creek bridge and going west on the Holden Mill loop or following the Ridge Trail north from the intersection.
Go to the www.TriangleHike.com Buckquarter Creek Trail webpage (external link)
Holden Mill blazed with yellow dots
This 2.6 mile combination of two loops continues west from the Buckquarter Creek Trail from a bridge spanning the creek. Round trip from the Piper-Cox Museum parking lot is 4.1 miles. The larger loop follows the river bank 0.8 mile on generally flat terrain but does require crossing short rocky areas and goes up and over a ridge requiring a long, strenuous 250 foot rise in elevation. The smaller western loop is an easy hike around the stone remains of Holden’s Mill. The river segment is characterized by rock outcrops, giant boulders, and frequent rapids.
Ridge* blazed with blue U’s
The Ridge Trail is part of the old Ridge Road to Roxboro. Hikers paying attention may see what remains of three 19th century homes along this 1.27 mile route. It starts at an intersection with the Buckquarter Creek Trail and provides access to the Shakori and Knight Trails. At the north end the trail leaves the park at a gate and one of two intersections with the Shakori Trail. Future plans call for the Ridge Trail to be extended north. This hike requires crossing Buckquarter Creek by stepping on large rocks or wading. West of the creek the trail ascends 235 feet over 7/ 10 mile. This trail can be combined with the Shakori Trail to make a loop.
Shakori blazed with yellow U’s
This is a 1.04 mile hike, intersecting the Ridge Trail at the south and northwest ends and can be used with the Ridge Trail to make a loop. Hikers may glimpse the chimneys of a 19th century home and the rotting chips of an old saw mill site. From the southern Ridge Trail intersection it follows Buckquarter Creek north, then turns west to include a 200 foot elevation rise up a moderate slope. Blazes are yellow U’s. Future plans call for the Shakori Trail to cross the Ridge Trail at the northwestern intersection and continue south to the Holden Mill Trail. Knight and Piedmont* blazed with red U’s Knight and Piedmont Trails are primarily accesses for neighborhoods off Pleasant Green Road, but any hiker may use them. The Knight Trail turns east off Ridge Trail and goes up a steep hill 0.34 mile to the park boundary. The Piedmont Trail is 0.18 mile of utility right-of –way which crosses the Knight Trail. There is no parking access to these trails.
Cabelands blazed with red dots
This is a 1.2 mile loop starting from the Cabelands Access parking lot. Stone foundations and the millrace earth works of the old Cabe Mill are visible from the trail, especially when the leaves are off the trees. This stretch of river is in the area known as Cabe’s Gorge and is a particularly rocky area.
Eno Quarry blazed with blue
This trail starts from the upper loop of the Cabelands trail and descends a gentle ridge 0.38 mile crossing Rhodes Creek at the base of the Eno Quarry. From 1960-1964 stone was removed from this site for the construction of Interstate 85. After ceasing operation the quarry gradually filled with ground water leaving a 4 acre scenic pond next to the river. The trail continues with a 0.42 mile loop around the quarry rim. Caution should be taken around the quarry. It is dangerous with steep drop offs, no shallow areas, depths at the banks generally exceeding 25 feet, and maximum depths of 60 feet. There are hidden hazards below the surface near the banks. Banks are difficult to climb. For safety, stay on the marked trail. There are openings on the bank suitable for fishing.
After 16 years as Superintendent of Eno River State Park, I can never really leave. After all when I came here in January of 1993 it was a return. It was a return from my first visits to the Eno camping as a Boy Scouts at Red Hill during the brief time it was part of the park, and in Fowler Field when it was still a cow pasture. I was at Eno a long time and got very comfortable, but when you get comfortable you stop growing. So I didn’t leave Eno. Rather, I went to Hanging Rock to leave my comfort zone and take on a challenge. But, Eno came with me.
The park grew in 16 years and we cultivated it together. I feel like my career grew up with the park. When I came the state park protected 2200 acres broken like a quilt with patches missing. Today the park lands are approaching 4400 acres almost unbroken. We added campsites, picnic areas, ranger housing, and my personal favorite – 8 ½ miles of trail. The staff grew from 4 ½ permanent and 3 seasonal to 10 permanent and 10 seasonal. More people came to the Eno. In 1993 about 150,000 people visited the park. Last year more than 400,000 came. It is a funny way to look at it, but you can see the growth of the park through the dumpsters. When I got to Eno we didn’t even have a dumpster, we took trash once a week to a county collection site. It wasn’t long before we got a 2 yard dumpster emptied every two weeks, then a four yard, a six yard, and now it is an 8 yard emptied every week and we divert a huge pile of trash to recycling. I am glad the people came. Park users are park supporters. If people don’t touch the water, hear the grasshoppers in the late summer, scramble over the rocks on the trail, or watch sunsets, they will never value the place.
There have been dramatic moments in 16 years. Weather came with force. The flooding and winds of Hurricane Fran, along with the 20 inch snow of 2000 and the ice storm of 2002 drastically changed life and work in the park. Very few people came to the park during the days after those storms, most people were trying to survive. The storms changed the landscape for weeks and it was awesome to see the park in a way that few ever get the chance. We also had our share of trouble from people who brought crime to the park and others who loved the park but didn’t accept how ignoring the regulations hurt the park . You get some great stories out of dealing with those people and as a ranger you get the satisfaction from protecting the park. We rescued stranded canoeists, once by helicopter when the river was raging. Every year someone would get lost, usually at night. We found them all, most of them alive. Two if they had not been found would have perished within hours. A few people died in the park. I always took comfort that they died in a place that was meaningful to them. One death in the Eno family affected me deeper than I would have expected, the passing of Margaret Nygard. Even today I find it hard not to get reflective when I remember Margaret.
Natural resource management became more than a phrase over the last 16 years. We went to war with exotic invasive plant species. We diligently watched the water flow and worked closely with our community to assure even during drought the life of the river was given its share. There were many volunteers and staff dedicated to inventorying and with each species added to the list the value of the park grew. It was a great day when the Pleasant Green Dam came down and the river flowed free. But where I take most pride in is how our staff and volunteers touched tens of thousands of lives with programs and hikes that brought people closer to nature by interpreting the Eno River Valley.
How cool is it to work and live in a place like the Eno. Sheila and I raised our boys within ear shot of the river. My sons and I fished and played in the water many times. As scoutmaster I brought our troop camping, hiking, and meeting here regularly. I ran the trails often, sometimes foolishly watching the scenery which led to a few embarrassing tumbles.
Never doubt your value as an association. It is directly because of you that many special places have been preserved forever, Bobbitt Hole, Fews Ford, Occoneechee Mountain, the Eno Quarry, the mills and home sites of our ancestors. You saved the forest. I never tire of walking through the forest and some of my best times were the hours spent off trail in the backcountry among the oaks. You saved the river. It is hard to describe the magic that draws us to it or why we are mesmerized by the clear water. Don’t stop fighting for the river. There are still special places to save, like the captivating scenery of the Bacon Quarry, the history of Cabe Ford, the refuge of more than a thousand acres of Eno Wilderness with inviting trails and vernal pools. Remember there is a lot of forest protecting the Eno, but not all that forest is protected. Every time that forest shrinks, the river takes a hit.
God created the river and put his children in place to care for it. I have been blessed with walking the trails with legends of the Eno. There are many of you I could single out, and I truly feel bad I cannot tell everyone what they have meant. I will say thank-you for the inspiration of Margaret and Holger Nygard, Don Cox, and Duncan Heron. I am also grateful to all the members of the Eno River Association Board of Directors and their staff over the last 16 years, all who genuinely care about the mission and whom I count as friends. We have also been blessed with terrific park staff, who contribute more to the park than the community ever knows, because this is more than a job. I take great pride in watching them grow in their careers as they move on from Eno.
Thank you Eno River Association.
January 20, 2009