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Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association maintains several nature preserves within the watershed. These areas preserve some of the best of the watershed and provide unparalleled opportunities for hiking, nature walks, bird watching and communing with nature. The information below will provide you with an introduction to each area, provide directions and suggest activities.

In addition, if you are interested in taking a more active role in preserving and protecting these areas you  can join your friends and neighbors in stream clean-ups, removal of invasive species and other hands on activities.

ECWA preserves provide something for everyone.


17AW-Couple17 Acre Wood

Open to the public, the ECWA Urban Nature Preserveconsists of 17 acres of floodplain forest owned and managed by the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. Purchased with grants from the Durham County Matching Grants Program, it now extends from Albany St. to Maryland Ave, on both sides of the creek. The Preserve complements two city parks, Indian Trail Park and Westover Park, that border it at either end.

Since the initial purchase, in 2000, some 300 volunteers have transformed the Albany Street end of the preserve from an impenetrable thicket of invasive exotic plants into an oasis for people and native plant diversity. Neighbors and ECWA members, with help from volunteer groups like ScienceStars and the Sierra Club, cleared out exotics and built the nature path that now winds through a portion of the preserve. Educational signage and a kiosk aid self-guided tours. Represented plant communities include prairie and wetland, in addition to the mature floodplain forest.

A paved trail, part of the West Ellerbe Creek Trail that will eventually extend under I-85, through Northpointe and over to the Museum of Life and Science, follows the creek through the middle of the Preserve.


Pearl MillCreek cleaners from Durham Academy

On Feburary 23, 2006, with the generous donation of three acres of land by the Duke Energy Corporation, ECWA created our third urban preserve in Durham; ECWA now owns and maintains over 100 acres of greenspace in Durham County. Located along the East Branch of the South Ellerbe Creek, the Pearl Mill Nature Preserve is part of a corridor of wetlands and floodplain woods bounded by the Trinity Park, Old North Durham and Duke Park neighborhoods. It stretches alongside the popular South Ellerbe Creek Trail, just south of Green Street. The property abuts the public greenway, and now that we have hacked the olive out, the public has access to the creek. It wasn't even visible before.

Strong neighborhood interest in the corridor was voiced at a Greenway Community Forum two years ago, and ECWA’s founder Stephen Hiltner and others nursed the acquisition to fruition. The property was named the Pearl Mill Preserve because of the old textile mill - Pearl Mill - that is nearby - just upstream, near the headwaters of the South Ellerbe. The mill has been converted to apartments and the old tall smokestack is visible from all around. There are mill houses just east of the creek. In short, the name reflects this history, and folks in the area call the creek Pearl Mill creek.