State & National Parks
Eno River State Park: An Urban Woodland Oasis
Dense urban development hides unseen just beyond the borders of the Eno River State Park, near Durham, is a woodland oasis that provides respite from the rapid pace of city life.
Mountain laurel and Catawba rhododendron, out-of-place refugees from North Carolina’s western region, help set the scene in this heartland park. Second and third growth hardwoods and pines have sprung up to camouflage the area’s timbering and farming past.
But it is the water, cool, clear and mercurial, that makes this park special. The Eno makes a 33-mile run from northwest Orange County before joining with the Little and Flat rivers to form the Neuse. It then flows into Falls Lake. From rushing rapids to serene eddies, the Eno cuts its way through a narrow, steep-walled valley. Eleven miles of the river runs through the 2,600-acre park, which lies in the heart of this rolling, sculpted landscape.
Rocky, shallow waters make the Eno a challenge for canoeing and kayaking, except after heavy rains. Winter and spring typically offer the best opportunities, as the water levels tend to be lower in summer and fall. There are painted gauges at two park locations: the Pleasant Green and Cole Mill Road bridges. Best canoeing conditions are when the gauge reads between one to three feet. Over three feet, and the waters are too dangerous for canoeing and kayaking.
Anglers, on the other hand, need not wait for high water. This park is considered one of the best fishing streams in the Neuse River Basin because of the variety of aquatic life. Largemouth bass, bluegill, chain pickerel, crappie and bullhead are some of the likely Eno River catches. Roanoke bass are also found in these waters, as are sunfish, redhorse and catfish. With this abundance it is easy to see why the Eno, Shakori and Occoneechee tribes lived near its banks long before Europeans arrived.
Keep an eye out for wildlife as you hike beside the river on the park’s 21 miles of trails because animals higher up the food chain can be seen here, too. At dusk and dawn you may see beaver swimming or bringing down a tree, a white-tailed deer getting a drink, or a raccoon washing his meal in the waters. Chipmunks and gray squirrels are plentiful park patrons. Even river otters occasionally frequent the park. You’ll often hear the hooting of barred and great horned owls during twilight hours, as well. Birdcalls provide an almost constant symphony along the river, as Acadian flycatchers and yellow-throated warblers sing from streamside perches.
So, if you need a little respite from the pressures of modern urban life, just add water at the Eno River State Park.
Eno River State Park is located in Durham and Orange counties, northwest of the city of Durham. From southbound I-85, take exit 173 northwest onto Cole Mill Road, which ends at the park. From northbound I-85, take exit 170 to Highway 70 West, turn right on Pleasant Green Road and turn left on Cole Mill Road, which ends at the park.
added: December 29, 2008
updated: December 31, 2008