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Wildlife and Birding Trails near Elizabeth City, North Carolina 

Posted on 04/26/2019 by Visit Elizabeth City

Waterfowl Home to a variety of birds and unique wildlife, the Elizabeth City, North Carolina area is bursting with outdoor activities to enjoy the season! Check out these trails unique to the Elizabeth City area and admire some of the surrounding wildlife in their natural habitats:


College of the Albemarle Fenwick-Hollowell Wetlands Trail 

Wildlife Bird 2 (c) Donna SmithLocated within the College of the Albemarle, the Fenwick-Hollowell Wetlands Trail is a 1/2-mile, raised boardwalk above the Pasquotank River that takes you through a wetland area with uprooted trees and thick vegetation. 

Its gazebo is a great place to see Green Heron and other wading birds on the water’s edge. In fact, the whole area is prime bird-watching territory, so be on the lookout for cardinals, flycatchers, vireos, and other songbirds, too!

Along with the wildlife, you’ll see beautiful, bright wildflowers and cypress trees draped with Spanish moss typically habited by various creatures.


Dismal Swamp State Park 

Kayaking the Dismal Swamp (c) Jeff ByrdIn the historic Dismal Swamp Canal a 300-foot boardwalk winds into this lush swamp forest, giving you an up close and personal view of a wide variety of wildlife such as frogs, turtles, snakes, birds, and even the occasional bear or bobcat.

There is also 16.7 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails where black bear, herons, and ducks are frequently seen, and you might even encounter a bald eagle. Further observe wildlife and birds from the water along the Dismal Swamp Canal in a canoe or kayak! Be sure to check out the Dismal Swamp Trail Map to plan your visit! 


Merchants Millpond State Park 

Merchant Millpond Alligator and FriendsWalking in the Merchants Millpond State Park, you’ll discover a magical landscape by massive bald cypress trees, beech groves, Spanish moss and exotic wildlife.To be fully immersed in the serene, untouched habitat, try renting a canoe to paddle the large pond or camp in the park. 

The pond is surrounded by picnic grounds, nine miles of hiking trails and visitor center exhibits - be sure to check out the map for more details. It’s full of wildlife such as snakes, turtles,birds, beavers, and even alligators that are frequently spotted sunning themselves!


Pettigrew State Park

Osprey Pair (c) Donna SmithThe 16,000-acre Lake Phelps and its surrounding landscape make up the Pettigrew State Park. As you hike along trails that wind past majestic old-growth forests, including bay trees, sweetgum, pawpaw, and persimmon, a variety of wildlife can be viewed, such as Ospreys, a variety of species of owls, hawks and if you’re lucky – a bald eagle!

While there, enjoy the clear water of Lake Phelps, which is believed to be more than 38,000 years old!  Not fed by streams, the lake depends upon rainfall, which makes for clean water with great quality.

Be sure to check out the Native American dugout canoe that was discovered sunken in Lake Phelps.  It is a huge at 36 feet long!  


Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

Waterfowl (c) Liza FrancoThe Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is located six miles south of Columbia, NC, and is a fantastic location for wildlife viewing. Together with an interpretive boardwalk along the Scuppernong River, there is an observation platform for optimal viewing of Pungo Lake.

Be sure to take a walk along the Duck Pen Trail to catch a glimpse of waterfowl and migratory birds on the lake. Get more information on the refuge by downloading a Visitor Information Brochure!


Whether its canoeing through the old-growth forests of Pettigrew State Park or camping amongst the habitats of the historical Dismal Swamp State Park, you’re sure to find optimal birding and wildlife viewing in Elizabeth City. 

Photo credits and thanks go to Donna Smith Rose, Jeff Byrd, Charles Richardson and Liza Franco.

For more outdoor opportunities during your visit, check out our website and be sure to share your outdoor adventures on social media with #VisitECity

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