Duke Forest — Korstian Division

By Maury Graves

Getting there: Take Whitfield Road from Erwin Road or Airport Road to the New Hope Fire Station/Community Center, and park along the road.

What to look for: Basically forest birds, plus "bridge and creek" birds along New Hope Creek.

Background information: Duke University's Duke Forest, a 7050-acre collection of tracts in three counties, is one of the busiest parks in our vicinity, with an estimated 270,000 visitors per year. Although the Forest's mission is to be an outdoor laboratory for research and teaching, it is open for limited recreation and its well-kept trails are traveled by walkers, joggers, equestrians, and cyclists, with many dogs, leashed or free, usually rambling nearby. Note that the regulations stipulate that dogs must be leashed at all times.

Duke University bought the land in the 1920s and established a School of Forestry and Environment. Projects within its boundaries are sponsored by Duke, UNC, NC State University, the U.S. Forestry Service, and the EPA. They include studies on plant succession, plant communities, organisms in water, light penetration, effects of elevated carbon dioxide, and radar mapping.

Zeroing in: The two Divisions of Duke Forest lying within the Chapel Hill count circle are Blackwood, in Areas 2 and 3, and Korstian (in honor of the first director of Duke Forest) in Area 10. The Durham Division is just outside the count circle near Areas 9 and 12. Access to these tracts is gained from such roads as Whitfield, Cornwallis, Cameron (N.C. 751), Erwin, and Mt. Sinai. We will deal with just the trail loop in the Korstian Division where the Chapel Hill Bird Club (CHBC) has been going on morning hikes, especially in the springtime.

Coordinates for Google Earth/Maps: 35 58 39 N, 79 01 49 W

The CHBC Loop: Having parked at the Fire Station or along the road, walk a few yards westward to the driveway leading to the trail entrance. Then leave the traffic noise behind while heading northward into the woods. Three dead end side trails will be noted before sighting the power line; then a downhill trek and a bend eastward take you to first crossing of New Hope Creek on a good wooden bridge.

In spring, one should have detected by this time the calls of the ovenbird and several warblers. The legendary Mrs. Paul (Johnnie) Payne was a frequent visitor to Duke Forest who racked up astounding reports on warblers every year.

After pausing at the bridge, continue on the trail, keeping to the right at two intersections (unless one wants to explore the forest toward Mt. Sinai Rd.). This portion of the trail has a burned-over area, affording a different habitat. Ignoring two more dead-end tributaries, descend to the second crossing of New Hope Creek. This is a concrete dam, usually under water but fordable. To avoid wearing boots the whole way, one can carry a towel for drying off after a barefoot crossing. An uphill walk takes you back to Whitfield Road about one-half mile east of the point of origin. A few more species are often added during this last leg of the hike.

To ward off anxiety about becoming lost on the CHBC Loop, you might want to obtain maps of Duke Forest. You can order online at http://www.dukeforest.duke.edu, call the office, or send a check made out to the Duke Forest in the amount of $8 to: Office of the Duke Forest, Box 90332, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0332. You will receive a set of detailed trail maps for all Forest Divisions.

Revised 12/13/2008 cwcook@duke.edu

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