/Longitude 79º 0′ 43.86″ W
How to get there:
DRIVING DIRECTIONS to the Steam Station from I-85 North, Exit 170: at the bottom of the ramp, merge onto Hwy. 70. Immediately move into the left lane and make a U-turn using the median cut-through. You are now heading west on Hwy. 70. Move into the right lane. Turn right at the first stoplight onto Pleasant Green Road. In less than ½ mile, turn left into the Pleasant Green Access of Eno River State Park. Park here in this gravel lot. If you cross the river, then you went too far on Pleasant Green Rd. The physical address is 4770 Pleasant Green Rd, Durham NC 27705.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS to the Steam Station from I-85 South, Exit 170: at the bottom of the ramp, merge onto Hwy. 70 West. Stay in the right lane and turn right at the first stoplight onto Pleasant Green Road. In less than ½ mile, turn left into the Pleasant Green Access of Eno River State Park. Park here in this gravel lot. If you cross the river, then you went too far on Pleasant Green Rd. The physical address is 4770 Pleasant Green Rd, Durham NC 27705.
HIKING DIRECTIONS to the Steam Station: after parking and securing your vehicle, walk back toward Pleasant Green Dr. Look for a trail beginning on the left side of the park drive. This is the start of the combined western section of the Laurel Bluffs Trail (blazed with yellow dots) and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (blazed with white dots). Take this trail under the Pleasant Green Rd. Bridge. You will soon leave the field and enter the forest. Begin looking for a dip in the trail and a stream (often dry) to your right. Turn right off-trail and follow this stream uphill until you reach the hidden gem for this month—the Fish Fry at the Steam Station. This round-trip hike is less than ¾ mile.
If you miss the turn off-trail, then you will come to a bridge on the main trail; you went too far! Go back and start again from the field.
About the Steam Station
The Eno Steam Station was a coal-fired power plant built along the banks of the Eno River by the Southern Power Company (now Duke Energy) in 1915. It originally had a 10,000 KW turbo generator before greatly expanding in 1923, adding a 15,000 KW turbo generator. At its peak in 1939, the steam plant was providing 13,000 volts of electricity to the Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill areas.
To find out more about how the power plant worked, checkout this web page: http://www.duke-energy.com/about-energy/generating-electricity/coal-fired-how.asp. There are, however, a few key differences in the Eno Steam Station from today’s coal-fired plants. Eno used larger, less efficient lump coal rather than pulverized coal and also used a jet cooling condenser rather than a tubular one, which required the need for a spray pond to cool the super-heated water. These technological inefficiencies led to the retirement and dismantling of the plant in 1958.
While the plant was in existence, it not only supplied electricity for the surrounding areas, it also provided workers a community in which to live. Through interviews conducted by Joe Liles (see links below), we get a glimpse into the lives of families who lived in and around this community. And by visiting the fish fry/BBQ pit area, you will get to see a great example of the type of entertainment and leisure enjoyed by the families who toiled side by side at the plant.
Mary Scarlett Jones (11/9/03) – An African American woman born in 1912, whose family lived in the University Station area. Her older brother Levi worked at the power plant before heading north. She tells about the paving of the main road and babysitting for the workers’ families: http://enoriver.org/fishdam/auntmary7.htm
Boyce Link (11/12/03) – A white man born in 1919, whose father worked at the steam station. His family lived on the Southern Power Company premises. He explains how the plant worked and tells stories of what the community was like: http://enoriver.org/fishdam/boycelink.htm
John Scarlett (10/26/03) – An African American man born in 1920, who grew up along Fish Dam Road, the main thoroughfare in the area. He is Mary Scarlett Jones’ younger brother. He shares stories about accidents at the power plant and recalls how the plant worked: http://enoriver.org/fishdam/johnscarlett4.htm (Parts 4, 6 & 8).
Both photos (by Christopher Ammon) provide an image of what Boyce Link describes in his interview. The photo on the left is of the spring that supplied water for the parties at the fish fry/BBQ pit area. It is still flowing today! The photo on the right is all that is left of the spray pond where super-heated water from the plant cooled as it was sprayed into the air.
Have you been there? We are having a contest to see who can make it to all 12 locations in 2014. If you go, bring a camera and upload a photo to our Flickr photostream. Tag your photo as “Hidden Gems of the Eno” (you must use quotes around it!) and be sure to title each photo with your first name and last initial. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you are participating in the contest. We will honor those who make it to all of the locations at our annual calendar celebration at the end of the year and give you a special gift!