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State Natural Areas

The purpose of State Natural Areas is to preserve and protect areas of scientific, aesthetic, or ecological value. Facilities are limited to those needed for interpretation, protection, and minimum maintenance. Generally, recreational and public use facilities such as camping, swimming, picnicking, and hiking are not provided in State Natural Areas. However, with permission, these areas are sometimes available for ecological research and other low-impact uses.

State Natural Areas were established as a separate type of system unit in 1963 with the adoption of separate principles for management. The first State Natural Area, Weymouth Woods, was created that same year.

Baldhead Island State Natural Area
Brunswick County, Established: 1979

Adjacent to Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, this natural area preserves a large portion of the Smith Island Complex, which consists of barrier islands, salt marshes, bays, tidal creeks, and estuarine islands.
 
Bear Paw State Natural Area
Avery County, Established: 2008
Located just north of Grandfather Mountain State Park, this property protects Hanging Rock Ridge and the headwaters of Dutch Creek. The Cherokee name of the site is "Yonah-wayah," which means "Bear's Paw." It is managed by Elk Knob State Park.

Beech Creek Bog State Natural Area
Wautauga County, Established: 2002
This natural area protects a southern Applachian bog.

Bobs Creek State Natural Area
McDowell County, Established: 2017
A series of sheltered coves and ravines with unique rock formations, health natural ecosystems, and several rare plants in McDowell County. It is connected to a large area of forested lands that extend southward into Rutherford County.

Bullhead Mountain State Natural Area
Alleghany County, Established: 2000
Adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway, this natural area is just north of Stone Mountain State Park
 
Bushy Lake State Natural Area
Cumberland County, Established: 1977
Managed by Jones Lake State Park, this area protects wet pocosin and Carolina Bay forest.

Chowan Swamp State Natural Area
Gates County, Established: 1973
Located along the northern shores of the Chowan River, this area is leased by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for management as a part of the Chowan Swamp Game Land

Hemlock Bluffs State Natural Area
Wake County, Established: 1976
This property is leased by the Town of Cary for operation as Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve.

Lea Island State Natural Area
Pender County, Established: 2000
Lea Island, which has joined with Hutaff Island over time, is a largely undeveloped barrier island that provides important habitat for sea turtle nests and shore birds.

Lower Haw River State Natural Area
Chatham County, Established: 2003
This natural area is managed by Jordan Lake State Recreation Area and includes a two-mile hiking trail along the Haw River.

Masonboro Island State Natural Area
New Hanover County, Established: 1976
Managed by the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, this area preserves an undeveloped barrier island near Wilmington. It is only accessible by boat.

Mitchell Mill State Natural Area
Wake County, Established: 1976
This natural area protects granitic flatrock outcrops, a fragile and rare ecosystem.

Mount Jefferson State Natural Area
Ashe County, Established: 1956
Formerly a state park, this area preserves the prominent peak of Mount Jefferson and is managed as a satellite of New River State Park. It hosts a large picnic shelter, cliffside picnic areas, multiple hiking trails, and stunning panoramic overlooks.

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area
Orange County, Established: 1997
Managed as a satellite of Eno River State Park, this area preserves the highest point in Orange County. It hosts beautiful, long-range views of the surrounding landscape including the Eno River.

Pineola Bog State Natural Area
Avery County, Established: 2006
This natural area protects a southern Applachian bog (a type of mountain wetland mostly found in boreal ecosystems).

Run Hill State Natural Area
Dare County, Established: 1995
Managed as a satellite of Jockey's Ridge State Park, this area preserves Run Hill, a large sand dune north of Jockey's Ridge.

Salmon Creek State Natural Area
Bertie County, Established: 2017
Near the mouth of Salmon Creek, this area hosts 18 archaelogical sites including some that were once Native American villages and the remains of N.C. Governor Thomas Pollock's home. It is a haven for wintering and migrating birds.

Sandy Run Savannas State Natural Area
Pender and Onslow Counties, Established: 2006
This area preserves southern pine savannas in the coastal plain.

Sugar Mountain Bog State Natural Area
Avery County, Established: 2006
This natural area protects a southern Applachian bog (a type of mountain wetland mostly found in boreal ecosystems).

Theodore Roosevelt State Natural Area
Carteret County, Established: 1971
Managed by Fort Macon State Park and the N.C. Acquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, this area preserves Bogue Banks' only intact maritime forest. Maritime forests provide lasting protection from erosion on barrier islands.
 

Warwick Mill Bay State Natural Area
Robeson County, Established: 2017
An healthy Carolina Bay and a large inland rookery, this area is home to great egrets, little blue herons, anhingas, white ibis, and the federally threatened wood stork. This area is managed by Audubon N.C.

Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve
Moore County, Established: 1963
The first North Carolina State Natural Area, this property preserves stands of longleaf pine forests in the Sandhills region. Unlike most State Natural Areas, it hosts hiking trails and offers educational programming.

Yellow Mountain State Natural Area
Mitchell and Avery Counties, Established: 2008
This area protects a Grassy Bald in the Roan Highlands range. The area is adjacent to Pisgah National Forest.