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Penny's Bend Nature Preserve

Penny's Bend Nature Preserve is a small 85-acre natural area in northeast Durham that is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and managed by the NC Botanical Gardens.  The nature preserve protects a peninsula of land that is surrounded on three sides by the Eno River just upstream of where the river flows into Falls Lake.  The peninsula is composed of a diabase sill, a much harder and erosion-resistant form of rock than the surrounding sedimentary rock.  The flow of the Eno wore down the surrounding rocks, but went around the diabase sill, thus forming the peninsula.  The diabase sill produces a unique soil type characterized by high pH (basic) as opposed to the typically acidic soil of the Piedmont.  This unique soil type allows a variety of rare plants to grow in the nature preserve.  The history of the area dates back to 1836, when Duncan Cameron built a sawmill and grist mill on the northeast end of the peninsula near where the river now flows under Old Oxford Highway.  Frequent flooding on the Eno required continual repairs to the mill.  Duncan's son Paul Cameron commissioned a survey of his properties in 1890 and the peninsula in the Eno River on his Snow Hill property was designated Penny's Bend.  It's probably a family name but the true origins of the name are unknown.


GPS: 36.07334, -78.86329

From I-85 in Durham, take exit 177 for NC-55 west and almost immediately bear right on US-501 North/Roxboro Road.  Go just under 1.5 miles and turn right on Old Oxford Road.  In just over three miles, turn left on Snow Hill Drive just after crossing the Eno River.  The parking area will be immediately on the left.


The following map shows the trails in Penny's Bend.  By default, the MST layer is turned off.  Turn on this layer to see the Mountains-to-Sea Trail from Penny's Bend to Roxboro Road.

Penny's Bend Nature Preserve


Cash Point Trail:

Cash Point Trail leads from the parking lot across an open meadow in the middle of the preserve and then down to the river, about half-way through the Pyne Trail.  The trail passes by Cash's Point, the highest point in the preserve.

Mountains-to-Sea Trail:

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) follows Pyne Trail through the preserve.  Eastbound, the MST departs Penny's Bend from the parking lot, crosses Old Oxford Highway and picks up Section 23 of the Falls Lake Trail.  Westbound, the MST splits from Pyne and Natural Heritage Trail in the northwest part of the preserve and continues following Eno River upstream towards West Point on the Eno park.  I've included this section on this page, even though it departs Penny's Bend for lack of a better spot for it.

Natural Heritage Trail:

Natural Heritage Trail is a short trail that runs from the northwest corner of the preserve to Cash Point Trail.  Along the way, the trail passes Little Blowing Rock, a rock outcrop over the Eno River.

Pyne Trail:

Pyne Trail is the longest trail in the preserve at just over a mile. The trail runs along the peninsula from the parking lot the northwest corner of the preserve, following the Eno River for the length of the trail.  The Pyne Trail is part of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail as it passes through Penny's Bend.



The unique geology and soil of Penny's Bend supports a variety of rare plant life, making this one of the best places in the Triangle to view wildflowers.

Spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) are one of the first wildflowers to bloom in early spring.

Another early spring bloomer is the rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides).

I've found pretty large patches of the rue anemones.

Common blue violets (Viola sororia) are a viola species found in the preserve.

Star chickweed (Stellaria pubera) has small, white, star-shaped flowers.

One of the most interesting species is Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria).  The flowers are named for their resemblance to the pants that were popular in Holland in the 18th century.

Blog Entries:

08Apr2017: Horton Grove & Penny's Bend

05Mar2017: Early Spring Wildflowers on the Eno

12Apr2014: Wildflowers in Penny's Bend

External Links:

Eno River Association website: http://www.enoriver.org/what-we-protect/parks/pennys-bend/

NC Botanical Gardens website: http://ncbg.unc.edu/other-natural-areas/#pennys_bend_nature_preserve


Penny's Bend Nature Preserve