MERCHANTS MILLPOND STATE PARK
An "enchanted forest," primitive species of fish relatively unchanged over millions of years, towering bald cypress trees with massive trunks, luxuriant growths of Spanish moss?this is Merchants Millpond State Park. Here, coastal pond and southern swamp forest mingle, creating one of North Carolina's rarest ecological communities. Together with upland forests, these environments create a haven for wildlife and humanity alike.
Escape the hectic pace of life and find sanctuary in a canoe. Drift along the smooth, dark surface of the millpond and savor the many sights and sounds that come alive in the stillness of the forest. Journey into remote and undisturbed Lassiter Swamp, a place that embodies the spirit of adventure, and see what you can discover.
If canoeing is not for you, fish for game species. Choose from an assortment of camping opportunities or enjoy a picnic beside the millpond. The remarkable surroundings of Merchants Millpond State Park lend themselves to a variety of activities.
November-February, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
March and October, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
April, May, September, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
June-August, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Closed Christmas Day
Park office hours:
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays
Closed state holidays
Settlement in the Gates County area began in 1660. Residents of early rural communities made a living by farming and lumbering. In the early 1700s, Hunters Millpond was built at the head of Bennetts Creek to provide a means of processing and marketing regional produce. Highway construction destroyed this millpond in 1922. But further downstream, Norfleets Millpond, which was built in 1811, thrived. Gristmills, a sawmill, a farm supply store and other enterprises made the area the center of trade in Gates County. Thus, the pond became known as Merchants Millpond.
Shortly before World War II operations around the millpond came to a halt and millers sold the land to developers. In the 1960s, A.B. Coleman of Moyock purchased the property and later donated 919 acres, including the millpond, to the state. His generous donation led to the establishment of Merchants Millpond State Park in 1973. In the same year, the Nature Conservancy contributed an additional 925 acres of woodlands to the park that now encompasses more than 3,250 acres.
A variety of settings offer camping experiences for large and small groups. Drive to the family campground, paddle to the canoe camping sites or backpack to the primitive sites. A modest fee is charged for all types of camping. Facilities may be limited in winter months.
Canoe camping: Reach two canoe camps by way of canoe trails leading from the boat ramp. Orange markers lead to the family canoe camp with seven sites. Yellow markers lead to the group canoe camp, which offers three sites. Pit toilets are available, but campers must carry in all supplies, including water. Family sites are available on a first-come basis although organized groups providing their own canoes may make reservations.
Backpack camping: Reach five campsites for backpack camping by hiking a side trail off Lassiter Trail. Campers must pack all supplies, including water, to the sites. A pit toilet is nearby. These campsites are available on a first-come basis. Views of the "enchanted forest" and Lassiter Swamp await those who travel to the backpack camping area.
Family camping: The family campground is in the midst of a pine/hardwood forest just beyond the park office. Twenty campsites for tents and trailers offer picnic tables and grills. A washhouse with drinking water, restrooms and showers serves the campground. Water or electrical hookups are not available at individual sites. Family campsites are available on a first-come basis. The washhouse is closed from December 1 to March 15.
Group camping: Organized groups will enjoy a stay in the walk-in group camping area or in a canoe camping group site. Facilities for the walk-in sites include a small washhouse with a pay shower. Drinking water is available nearby. Reservations are required for group camping sites.
Rent a canoe or bring your own; the best way to explore Merchants Millpond is by gliding across the park's placid, shallow waters. A boat ramp and pier near the parking area offer access to the water. Marked canoe trails lead from the boat ramp to canoe campsites. Or, venture out of the millpond and take slow-moving, dark-water Bennetts Creek through Lassiter Swamp. Here, park visitors are transported into a world of mistletoe, hanging Spanish moss and ancient cypress trees.
Canoes may be rented by the hour or overnight when used with canoe campsites at the boathouse by the water's edge. Canoes, with paddles and life vests, are available on a first-come basis. Visitors must be at least 15 years old to rent a canoe. A maximum of three people may occupy each vessel.
Cast your line from the bank or journey into the millpond to fish in a pastoral setting. Small fishing craft (with trolling motors only) may be launched at the boat ramp. Largemouth bass, bluegill, chain pickerel and black crappie are waiting to bite the hook! The Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) manages the millpond fisheries. All boating and fishing regulations of the WRC apply.