Celebrate North Carolina State Park System centennial during TWS 2016

By Summer Higdon, North Carolina Chapter of The Wildlife Society

Stunning view of the Appalachian Mountains from Grandfather Mountain State Park. ©Lori Williams

Standing at over 6,600 feet, Mount Mitchell is the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River. It was 1915 when a group of North Carolina citizens set out to protect the spruce-fir covered summit jutting out of the Black Mountain Range. The North Carolina state legislature swiftly passed a bill establishing Mount Mitchell as one of the nation’s first state parks, simultaneously creating the North Carolina State Park System.

Today, North Carolina boasts numerous state parks and recreation areas, many of which were established by local grassroots campaigns like the movement that protected Mount Mitchell’s proud peak. The Park System ensures all North Carolinians and visitors have access to the state’s natural beauty from mountains to coast. This year, the Park System observes its 100th anniversary. Celebrate with us during The Wildlife Society’s 23rd Annual Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, by visiting a park! Check out the list below, or explore the NC State Park website to discover other options.

In the Raleigh area:

William B. Umstead State Park

Situated just outside of Raleigh, Umstead State Park merges the convenience of the city and the beauty of the surrounding Piedmont. Twenty-two miles of forested, multi-use trails offer opportunities for hikers of all types to choose their own path. Drop a line in one of three manmade lakes in the park (NCWRC regulations apply) and don’t forget to stop by the visitor center.

Eno River State Park

Eno River State Park attracts nature-loving urbanites from nearby cities. With almost thirty miles of hiking trails, visitors can choose to explore close to Eno River or learn about the many historical mill and home sites in the surrounding woodlands. Fly-fishers will find some of the best fishing in the Neuse River Basin within the park boundaries (NCWRC regulations apply).

In the mountains:

Grandfather Mountain State Park

Containing an International Biosphere Reserve with 16 natural communities, Grandfather Mountain State Park showcases North Carolina’s diversity. The park offers breathtaking views for those willing to attempt its challenging trail system. For a small fee, the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation provides family-friendly and educational activities like the Mile High Swinging Bridge and live animal exhibits.

On the coast:

state parks_image 2Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

Enjoy a walk along five miles of pristine beach at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, or wander through the marsh and maritime forest on the established boardwalk. Teeming with wildlife, Fort Fisher is a bird-watcher’s paradise; look for peregrine falcon, loggerhead shrike and migrating shorebirds during the autumn months. Fort Fisher also offers excellent surf fishing opportunities, especially in fall (NCWRC regulations apply).