No. Being on preserve property while the gates are closed is considered trespassing. Please visit the preserve during normal operating hours.
If I live next door to Hemlock Bluffs can I walk in through my backyard (neighborhood path)?
If you are lucky enough to be in the situation where your property borders Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, you probably already know that entering anywhere but through the main gate is trespassing. Resist the urge to expand your property boundaries into the nature preserve by putting wood piles, bird feeders, sheds and swing sets on the boundary line. The boundaries are GPS located and the Town relocates and marks boundaries on a regular basis. You could be disappointed when asked to relocate your tool shed.
On the other hand, if a preserve tree threatens your property, feel free to contact us and we’ll send a Town Arborist to investigate the situation and remedy it if it is our responsibility.
Can I access Harold D. Ritter Park from Hemlock Bluffs?
Ritter Park and Hemlock Bluffs are two separate properties. During the development of Hemlock Bluffs, the State of North Carolina specifically expressed their intention for Hemlock Bluffs to be a nature preserve for passive recreation and quiet reflection. Ritter Park is designed as a more active recreation area. Based on the mission of each of these areas, the State of North Carolina requested that Hemlock Bluffs remain separate from Ritter Park, to maintain the character of the nature preserve. In order to enter Ritter Park, use the main gate on Lochmere Drive or leave Hemlock Bluffs’ main gate and walk down the large sidewalk to enter via the Swift Creek Greenway.
Can I walk in Swift Creek?
All visitors are asked to stay on the trails while visiting Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. Climbing down into Swift Creek, walking into any of the tributaries or allowing your dog to run into the creek or tributaries is not allowed. Foot traffic on the fragile soils of the floodplain and wetland soils associated with these natural systems causes erosion and sedimentation causing pollution to enter the creeks. Your footsteps can also trample important plants which hold soil in place. Dogs especially do much damage by clawing away soil along the creek bank and damaging plants in the forest under story. While you are visiting help protect the natural ecosystems by remaining on the trails and keeping your dog on a six foot leash.
Can I Geocache at Hemlock Bluffs?
Geocaching, letterboxing or stashing hidden items anywhere in the nature preserve is prohibited. The nature preserve is designed to protect animal habitat, thus off-trail use is inappropriate. If caches are found, every effort is made to return it to the owner. However, all caches that are found on the property will be removed.
What is a Hemlock Woolly Adelgid?
Hemlock Woolly Adelgids are tiny aphid-like insects that originated in Asia and were detected in the western United States in the 1920s and later in eastern United States in the 1950s. The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) attacks and kills both Eastern and Carolina Hemlocks, the only two hemlock species native to North Carolina. The hemlocks usually die within a few consecutive years of infestation.
Hemlock trees are crucial for sustaining wildlife in North Carolina. The trees can provide shade that helps regulate stream and forest floor temperatures. Shade from the trees provides a favorable stream habitat for many native fish, amphibians and aquatic invertebrates. The branches are used by many species of birds as nesting sites, including some birds that are highly dependent on hemlocks, such as the black-throated green warbler. (Provided by the N.C. Division of Forest Resources)
How did the Hemlocks get here?
The origin of the Hemlock trees can be traced back roughly 10,000 years to the last glacial period during an era when average temperatures for the piedmont region were significantly cooler than those of today. Fossil evidence indicates that during that period, plant species now typically found in the mountain region were once widespread throughout the piedmont of North Carolina. Following the glacial recession from the northern United States a warming trend began which evidently caused these plant communities to gradually disappear in the Piedmont, with the exception of a few rare isolated groupings. The disjunctive plant communities of Hemlock Bluffs are believed to be one of these unique relics of the ancient past, surviving in this particular location due to the protective nature of the north-facing bluffs which provide a relatively cool, moist environment for the plants.
What does a hemlock tree look like?
The Eastern hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, is a common evergreen in the North Carolina Mountains. They are present at the preserve along the north facing bluffs because the bluffs provide a cool, moist microclimate in which the hemlocks thrive. Eastern hemlocks have feathery, short needles and the top of the tree is typically bent to one side. Eastern Hemlocks have cones about one inch in length. These trees are in the same family as Pine trees, and some characters may look similar: ridged, flaky bark; produce cones; have needles. Eastern Hemlocks are proudly displayed in the center of the courtyard of the Stevens Nature Center and this species grows naturally on the bluffs of Swift Creek.
What are the large wooden boxes I see attached to trees on the trails?
The boxes attached to trees are bird boxes installed throughout the preserve. The largest box is for barred owls. There is a diagram of other bird, mammal, and insect boxes installed through out the preserve on the outside of the Stevens Nature Center near the restroom area.
Does your facility provide group programs?
Yes. Group programs at the Stevens Nature Center are one hour, outdoor environmental education experiences. Programs are designed to be enjoyable, as well as educational outings to promote knowledge and appreciation of local flora and fauna. Group programs can be customized to meet your group’s desired topic. If your group has special needs, objectives, or badge requirements, please express them when scheduling your program. We will do our best to ensure your visit exceeds your expectations.
Can I just bring my own group on our own?
At Hemlock Bluffs, we encourage patrons to let the facility know when you are planning on having your group visit the preserve. With limited space throughout the park and parking lots, it is important for the facility to know when you plan on visiting so we can accommodate you, as well as other groups, events, or programs that may be scheduled on the day you plan to visit. There is no fee to sign up to let us know when you will be visiting, unless you would like a nature programmer to lead a small nature walk with your group.
Who teaches the nature programs at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve?
Nature programmers, or trained staff, teach the nature programs at Hemlock Bluffs. Courses cater to a variety of ages, as well as a spectrum of topics depending on the season and what animals and plants are in the preserve. Please visit the online brochure for a listing of our current programs.
Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve has mulched trails, a softer medium than paving and more sturdy than a dirt path. To protect the fragile natural resources and maintain the important wildlife habitat, we allow only foot traffic on our trails.
Can we picnic at Hemlock Bluffs?
There are no designated picnic areas at the preserve, but we do have an Outdoor Education Shelter that is used for programs and for groups on their own as a congregational area. The Outdoor Education Facility does not have tables, but there are benches available for patrons to use if the shelter is not already in use by an instructor or a registered group. Hemlock Bluffs does not have amenities for a large group to picnic, but we can direct you to Ritter Park, which is equipped with picnic areas and a playground.
Is there a playground?
No, there is no playground at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. If you are looking for a place to picnic and use a playground, we can direct you to Ritter Park, which is conveniently located down the street from the preserve.
Is there a charge/fee to get in?
Stevens Nature Center and Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve are completely free to visit. The exhibit hall is also free to visit, and includes some interactive and educational activities for visitors.
Can I bring my dog to the preserve?
Yes, dogs are allowed at the preserve, but dogs must remain on leashes while in the park. We ask that the leash be no longer than 6 feet. It is also expected for patrons to clean up after their pets if they use the bathroom in the preserve. We provide trash bags for patrons to use to pick up after their pets; bags are available at the majority of trash cans throughout the preserve and outside of the restrooms.
Are restrooms available at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve?
Yes. Restrooms are located next to the Stevens Nature Center, near the courtyard of the nature preserve. The restrooms are equipped with a baby changing table and handicapped stalls. The restrooms are associated with the nature center building and are only open during nature center hours. There is a water fountain for humans, and also one for dogs.
How can I make a donation?
A donation box is in the lobby of the Stevens Nature Center. Donations are also accepted at the front desk of the Stevens Nature Center. For a larger donation your name or organization will be placed on our sponsor wall. Donor levels:
$500 Plaque on donor wall for one year
$1,000 Plaque on donor wall for five years
$5,000 Plaque on donor wall for ten years
$50,000 permanent plaque on donor wall
Who is Colonel William W. Stevens?
Col. W. W. Stevens was a local scientist and a benefactor of the Stevens Nature Center. Stevens donated funds for the initial construction of the nature center, environmental education displays, and program supplies. He supported the center and its mission from 1990 until his death in 2002. He also provided additional funds for the nature center in his will.
Is Hemlock Bluffs a State Park or Town Park?
Hemlock Bluffs is a State Nature Preserve that is managed by the Town of Cary. The state of North Carolina purchased the first tract of Hemlock Bluffs’ property. The Town of Cary owns the land that the Stevens Nature Center and parking lots are located on.
How do I get to Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve?
The Nature Preserve is located at 2616 Kildaire Farm Road in Cary, North Carolina. The preserve is located between Penny Road and Lochmere Road on Kildaire Farm, and our sign is visible from the road.
What are the hours of operation for the preserve and the Stevens Nature Center?
The nature preserve is open from 9 a.m. until sunset, and the park is open seven days a week. Actual park closing times will be posted at the front gates of the parking lot and near the trail head of the preserve.
The Stevens Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1–5 p.m. on Sunday. The Stevens Nature Center and restroom facilities are closed on official Town holidays.
How long are the trails at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve?
The Swift Creek trail is approximately 0.8 miles long, measured from the courtyard in front of the Stevens Nature Center. This trail includes about 100 steps and a system of boardwalks which loop through floodplain areas rich in variety of plants and animals.
The Beech Tree Cove is approximately 0.9 miles, and is connected to the Chestnut Oak Trail (approx. 1.2 miles). These trails are generally level with a few small inclines.
When was the preserve established?
In 1976 the state of North Carolina purchased an 85-acre tract of land, which comprises the central portion of the present-day preserve. In 1979, the preserve was added to the State Registry of Natural Heritage Area and classified as a State Nature and Historic Preserve. In 1986, Tim Smith donated a 29-acre parcel of land to the Town of Cary, and in 1988 Lochmere Highlands and Regency Park donated the last 36 acres of land to complete the Nature Preserve.
How big is the preserve?
Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve is 140 acres, including a 3,700 square foot nature center.