Along with the magnificent opportunities and activities campus provides, a nearby off-campus site truly aided in my decision to come to Durham. I think it is fair to say most students at the Nicholas School enjoy being in nature. During Admitted Students Visitation Weekend this past spring, a few of the second-years recommended Eno River State Park. I pulled out my phone to map it expecting at least an hour drive but was pleasantly surprised when the drive time populated as only 18 minutes away. Now that I am a permanent resident here in Durham, I have made multiple trips so far. Student life can get hectic so being able to take a short drive to a beautiful state park such as this is a wonderful amenity to have.
Eno River State Park itself offers activities like camping, woodland trails, picnicking, fishing and even paddling. There are also regularly-scheduled education and interpretive programs offered by the park rangers. In addition to the park, nearby there is the Eno River quarry and Turtle Hole. Both offer enjoyable swimming spots to beat the heat in summer.
The past of the river offers much to the history buff as well. The river itself gets its name from the Eno tribe. The neighboring Occoneechee and Shakori tribes reaped the benefits of the river likewise. Settlers appeared in the mid 1700s and over time set up more than 30 gristmills along the length of the Eno. In the 1960s there was a proposition to build a reservoir in the river valley but that was struck due to a group of concerned Durham citizens. The Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley was formed, and a campaign launched to save the Eno. In May of 1972, North Carolina approved the state park and in 1975, with the help of the Eno River Association and the Nature Conservancy, the park opened with more than 1,000 acres of land.
My favorite part of the park, however, is the ecology. Despite the urban sprawl nearby, the woods are a peaceful haven. Previously, the farming and timber industry decimated much of the forest. Oak, beech, poplar, maple, dogwood, pine and hickory now dominate the uplands while sycamore, birch and hornbeam offer shade by the river banks.
Many mammals can be seen as well including deer, chipmunks and possibly a bobcat. Various birds like hawks, owls, wood ducks and wild turkeys are both seen and heard throughout the vegetation. At dawn or dusk beavers and otters have been known to emerge for visitors to catch a lucky glimpse.
I love being able to drive over to the park after a long day. Not having to wait for the weekend and dedicating an entire day to see such lovely landscape is a huge perk. Especially now with all the foliage changing in Durham, Eno River State park offers a peaceful escape from academia.
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