NC 54 impoundments

By Len Pardue and Will Cook

Overview: Easy to get to, two N.C. 54 impoundments offer woods, ponds, marsh, limited parking. The convenience of these spots plus the good birds they offer make them good quick stops at most any season.

Getting there: Exit I-40 at N.C. 54 southeast of Chapel Hill. To reach the Little Creek impoundment, go west approximately one mile. Look for a pull-off and gate on the right. Getting to a second eastern-most gate requires you to exit N.C. 54 onto an access road, follow that road west to its end, then turn right. The gate is a short distance ahead on the left. To reach the New Hope Creek impoundment, head east from I-40. The nearest (western) gate lies on the left a short distance east of the bridge over the interstate. A second (eastern) gate lies approximately one mile east of I-40. Parking is scarce when the gates are closed (open only during duck seasons), and traffic moves briskly.

Coordinates for Google Earth/Maps:
Little Creek Impoundment (western gate): 35 54 15.2 N, 78 59 58 W
New Hope Creek Impoundment (eastern gate): 35 55 03.2 N, 78 58 03.5 W

Where to go: Gravel paths (maintenance roads, really) lead to the floodgates on the dams that create the impoundments. An agile birder can climb the fences that close off the dams and proceed to the far side, but many of us will find that either too strenuous or too risky. A sewer easement leads through woods east and north from the New Hope impoundment. Woods adjacent to both impoundments are open to anyone willing to bushwhack through possible brambles, poison ivy and mud. If you bushwhack, be sure to stay inside the orange blazes that mark the extent of Corp of Engineers land. Also, use caution during hunting season.

What to look for: These impoundments are managed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Department. Both lie in the headwaters of Jordan Lake, on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. Both impoundments offer a variety of land and water birds at most any season.

Little Creek is a reliable spot for Red-headed Woodpeckers and Red-shouldered Hawks. On one visit to the New Hope Creek impoundment, I saw Hairy, Downy, Red-bellied and Pileated woodpeckers and Common Flicker. In the breeding season, Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-throated and Prothonotary warblers, Red-eyed, White-eyed and Yellow-throated vireos are usually present.

I have seen a Barred Owl at New Hope Creek, Red-tailed Hawks at both impoundments. Maury Graves and I spotted Hooded Mergansers one visit to Little Creek, and I saw a pair of Yellow-Billed Cuckoos on a visit to the New Hope Creek site. Other species observed include Great Blue and Green-backed herons, Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Rusty Blackbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and Louisiana Waterthrush.

Facilities: None

When to visit: Any time of year, though heat is an issue in the summer. During deer gun season (generally Nov.-Dec.), this area is best avoided except on Sundays.

Revised 12/28/2008

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