Blue-Gray Scenic Byway - Coastal Scenic Drives
The naming and destination of this route signifies the great impacts this region had in the Civil War.
Begin the byway near Smithfield in Johnston County from the U.S.701/I-95 interchange at exit 90. Immediately off the exit and U.S 701, turn onto Devil’s Racetrack Road (S.R. 1009). Known locally as the “Devil’s Racetrack,” the road parallels the Neuse River and Hannah’s Creek. Legends say that people could see and hear the footsteps of a horse as the devil rode through the area, but no one ever saw the horse or its rider. Follow the course of the Neuse River to your left and Hannah’s Creek to your right for the next 8.5 miles where you will cross Hannah Creek.
This road also travels over Civil War battle sites, noted on the historic markers along both sides of the road. About one mile after crossing Hannah’s Creek, cross over Mill Creek. Here, General Johnston’s troops were prevented from attacking General Sherman’s troops from the rear because of a flood. The Confederates were able to escape after their defeat.
In the community of Bentonville, one half mile further, Confederate forces kept naval stores of tar, pitch and turpentine. These stores were burned by Confederates on their retreat from the Bentonville Battleground.
It is 1.4 miles from the community of Bentonville and where the byway and S.R. 1009 veer left. It is an additional 1.1 miles to Harper House Road (S.R. 1008). You will turn right and follow the road for a distance of 2.9 miles to reach Bentonville Battleground Historic Site. This 1865 Civil War battle slowed General Sherman’s marsh and was the bloodiest ever fought on North Carolina soil. Visitors may see reenactments (shown above) of this historic battle each March. Along both sides of the road are reminders of this battle. The Harper House was used as a Union field hospital and is included in the site’s tour.
After visiting the battlefield, backtrack three miles on Harper House Road (S.R. 1008) before turning on the third route to the right, St. Johns Church Road (S.R. 1196). Follow this road for three miles (which becomes Bentonville Rd./S.R. 1205 at the Wayne County line) to the stop sign. Turn left and travel north on U.S. 13 which parallels Falling Creek to the south. Turn right four miles later onto Grantham School Road (S.R. 1006) in Grantham. Grantham, located between Falling Creek and the Neuse River, was settled in the 18th century.
Follow Grantham School Road for three miles then turn left at the intersection with Oberry Road (S.R. 1120). Follow this road for 7.4 miles before crossing U.S. 117. Continue into the community of Dudley, settled in 1837 and named for North Carolina Governor E. B. Dudley. The road name changes to Sleepy Creek Road (S.R.1120). At this point you are about 10 miles south of Goldsboro.
About 2.5 miles east of Dudley, turn right onto Eagles Nest Road (S.R. 1933) and follow it for about three miles. Crossover Sleepy Creek one-half mile after turning on Eagles Nest Road. The Saponi Indians thought the waters had medicinal qualities and would drink it and fall asleep on the banks of the creek. Turn left from Eagles Nest Road and follow Indian Springs Road (S.R. 1744) for 3.8 miles to N.C. 111. The rich farmlands are all part of the Neuse River Basin. The soils are the result of thousands of years of flooding and the changing pattern of the river and creeks that feed the soil. At N.C. 111 the byway diverts north for one-half mile on N.C. 111 to the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park.
The cliffs, rising 90 feet from the Neuse River, were formed when a fault shifted. Erosion over thousands of years exposed the multi-colored sedimentary layers in a formation that makes it possible for laurel and other mountain plants to grow here. Nature trails and a museum are available to park visitors. Return along N.C. 111 to Indian Springs Road (S.R. 1744) to continue on the trip.
Turn left on N.C. 55 then 0.4 miles later turn left again on Spring Street (S.R. 1739). This well-groomed dirt road takes motorists by the Seven Springs Hotel, above the Neuse River. Now a privately owned residence, this hotel was named for the surrounding mineral springs and was once the site of a Victorian resort that operated between 1881 and 1944. Turn left onto Main Street (S.R. 1731) andventure to the Neuse River where the Confederate iron clad C.S.S. Neuse was built. This also was the site of an early Civil War skirmish, the Battle of Whitehall, where Union troops damaged the C.S.S. Neuse. Seven Springs was originally called Whitehall for the plantation house built in 1741 by William Whitefield, a prominent pre-Revolutionary War settler.
Turn right on Main Street (S.R. 1731) in Seven Springs, climb the short hill and turn left onto N.C. 55. Follow this route for 4.7 miles crossing into Lenoir County. At the community of Strabane, named for an early Irish settler, turn right past the millon to Smith Grady Road (S.R. 1152) and follow it for 3.5 miles. As the road makes an elbow turn to the left, stay right on Old Pink Hill Road (S.R. 1111). Look to the right for the 180-acre Tulls Mill Pond, formed in 1875 at the head of Southwest Creek.
At the intersection of Old Pink Hill (S.R. 1111) and Deep Run (S.R. 1143) roads, turn left toward the farming community of Deep Run. Deep Run was established in the 1880’s when a turpentine distillery was opened. It was originally called Red Town because all the houses were painted red. Deep Run is nine miles south of the town of Kinston where the C.S.S. Neuse is housed.
Continue straight for two miles from Deep Run on John Green Smith Road (S.R. 1141). Turn right onto Big Oak Road (S.R. 1138). One-half mile later turn left on Waller Road (S.R. 1137). Stop at U.S. 258 one mile later and cross the road diagonally, continuing on Lightwood Knot Road (S.R. 1925) for nearly five miles. The land between Deep Run and this point is part of the upland swamps of the Bearwell Pocosin on the south side of the road. Possibly named for Thomas Burwell, who lived in the area about 1750, the Bearwell Pocosin empties into the Trent River south of here. Turn left at Vine Swamp Road (S.R. 1922). Make a right on N.C. 58, one-third mile later. From the Lenoir and Jones County line it is nine miles to the Trent River and another three miles into Trenton along N.C. 58.
Trenton was established as Trent Courthouse in 1779 and was named for the river which was named for the Trent River in England. By 1784 the name Trenton was adopted. The route ends near the mill and pond on the south end of town at S.R. 1165.
Nearby places of interest include New Bern and the beaches of the Crystal Coast. New Bern, the colonial and state capital from 1746 – 1792, is 25 miles northeast of Trenton. About 35 miles southwest of Trenton is Bogue Sound and beach recreation areas. This route is an interesting alternative to U.S. 70 to Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach and Beaufort.
Length: 82 miles
Driving Time: 2 hours
Counties: Jones, Lenoir, Johnston, Wayne
courtesy of NC Department of Transportation
added: September 15, 2009
updated: September 25, 2009
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