Cary nature preserve is serenity in suburbia

Posted June 25, 2010
Updated June 26, 2010

— In Cary, there's a nature preserve that time forgot, where a tree species flourishes hundreds of miles from its normal habitat.

A handful of Eastern Hemlock trees are the stars at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, off Kildaire Farm Road.

"They're relics from the Ice Age," program specialist Mark John said. "Ten to 12 million years ago, there were hemlocks all over this part of the state."

But the climate changed, and Eastern Hemlock trees died out east of the mountains.

"They retreated and were out-competed by oaks, hickory and pines, except for that place right here," John said.

Growing conditions in this cranny of Cary, though, stayed perfect for the Eastern Hemlock. North-facing bluffs above a shallow stream helped create the only place east of North Carolina's mountains where the Eastern Hemlock grows.

"Those big ones, they're old. Our research says they're probably between 300 and 400 years old," John said.

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve_01 Cary nature preserve is serenity

Today, those trees are enjoyed by visitors such as Julie Arnold, whose grandchildren wanted to come to the nature preserve for two straight days.

"We saw a deer yesterday – really cool," Arnold said.

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve covers more than 100 acres of dense forest, shoehorned into suburban Cary. Three miles of trails wind around the woods and a nature center. Admission is free.

"Nature is all around," John said. "The serenity and the quietness and being able to hear the birds sing and crickets chirp and the squirrels run through the leaves – it's just peaceful."


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  • rick_slick Jun 28, 2010

    Don't worry. We'll have that thing clear cut and bulldozed, and replaced with a Food Town, Kerr Drugs, and 2 banks before you can say "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees".

  • Dixiecrat Jun 28, 2010

    It was really nice place to go the thirty-plus years ago when I lived near there. The area was less developed and alot more isolated, and it was easier to lose yourself into the serenity of nature. I'm glad people enjoy it, and I hope the uniqueness of the hemlock trees being here isn't lost on them. But it just isn't what it was.