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Ecology

A summer day at Merchants Millpond State Park
Construction Site    

Access area to the Millpond behind the Visitor Center is CLOSED due to construction. Please stay out of the marked area. Thank you.

 Last updated on: Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Status of park facilities as of May 22   

The family drive-up campground opens on Friday, May 22 for ADVANCED RESERVATIONS ONLY. We will not be taking walk-up reservations during this time. You can reserve a campsite online or by calling 1-877-722-6762.

Primitive backpack and paddle-in campsites remain CLOSED. Group campsites are also CLOSED.

Trails and restrooms are open, but the visitor center, picnic shelter, and canoe rentals are CLOSED.

All events and programs have been CANCELED until further notice.

When visiting, please follow social distancing guidelines regardless of the behavior of others. Please try to stay 6 feet away from other visitors and park staff or wear a face covering. Try to touch as few surfaces as possible and do not enter areas that have been closed off. Wash or sanitize your hands before, during, and after your visit, and stay home if you are sick.

 Last updated on: Friday, May 22, 2020


Map of North Carolina – Merchants Millpond State Park


Contact the park
 

252-357-1191

merchants.millpond@ncparks.gov
 

Address
 

Visitor center

176 Millpond Road
Gatesville, NC 27938

GPS: 36.4371, -76.7016
 

Hours
 

► 

  • November to February:
    8:00am to 6:00pm
     
  • March to May:
    8:00am to 8:00pm
     
  • June to August:
    8:00am to 9:00pm
     
  • September to October:
    8:00am to 8:00pm
     
  • Closed Christmas Day
     

► 

  • November to February:

Open daily:​
8:00am to 5:00pm
 

  • March to October:

Open daily:​
8:00am to 6:30pm
 

  • Closed Christmas Day
     

 

 

 

Natural resources

Get plant and animal checklists at the park office.

The 760-acre millpond is more than 190 years old and has developed into complex, mature ecosystems. Towering bald cypress and tupelo gum trees, displaying growths of Spanish moss and resurrection ferns, shade the pond's dark, acidic waters. Numerous species of aquatic plants, such as the floating yellow cow lily and the submerged coontail, thrive in the pond. A red and green layer of floating duckweeds and water fern often covers the water's surface. Moved about by wind and current, these floating mats create a changing mosaic of colors and patterns.

At the upper end of the millpond is Lassiter Swamp, an ecological wonderland containing remnants of an ancient bald cypress swamp - an eerie "enchanted forest" worthy of a fairy tale. Mistletoe has twisted and gnarled the trunks and branches of tupelo gum into fantastic shapes. Surrounding the aquatic communities is an unspoiled wilderness. Stands of American beech highlight a mixture of pine and hardwood forests.

The diverse habitats in the park support a variety of animals. Wetland wildlife is particularly abundant. Frogs thrive in the aquatic environment of the millpond, and spring and summer rains bring a mixed chorus of carpenter frogs, leopard frogs, bull frogs, cricket frogs and species of tree frogs. Several species of pond turtles, often called cooters or sliders, bask on warm logs and stumps while the snapping turtle makes easy prey of other aquatic creatures. Water snakes are plentiful. Most of them are harmless, but the venomous cottonmouth is also present. Treat any encounter with a snake with caution and respect.

In addition to game fish, two primitive species of fish - the long-nosed gar and the bowfin - inhabit the millpond. These interesting species have remained relatively unchanged for millions of years. Both the gar and the bowfin are large and important predators in the blackwater habitats of the coastal plain.

More than 200 species of birds, ranging from graceful egrets to turkeys and owls, have been recorded in the park. Spring and fall bring migrations of swamp warblers, parulas, prothonotaries and yellow-throated warblers. In winter, a variety of waterfowl stop by on their journey south. Lucky visitors may catch a glimpse of the beautiful hooded merganser, a small fish-eating duck whose males flaunt a magnificent black-bordered white crest. Pileated woodpeckers, barred owls, and red-shouldered hawks also enjoy the swamplands.

Paddling on the pond or creek is a great way to see several species of interesting mammals. Though beavers themselves are rarely encountered, dams, lodges, and teeth marks attest to their presence. Mink, river otter and bobcat are occasionally spotted. Deer, raccoons and opossums are also in residence. Bats roost in clumps of Spanish moss and are often visible at dusk when they dip to the surface of the pond to drink.