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Ellerbe Creek
Watershed Association
Working TogetherMeet the newest members of the team that keeps ECWA working - Director of Conservation, Cherri Smith and CTNC Diversity Intern, Val Quintero.
Join ECWAJoin ECWA. Your family can join ECWA for as little as 11 cents per day. Help us protect the creek, restore the creek and connect the community to the creek.
Explorer's ClubSign up for nature hikes, Family Explorers Club, preserve workdays, and Green Infrastructure workshops. They're all happening at ECWA nature preserves!
Creek SmartIntroducing the new, an easy-to-use and comprehensive resource for learning how to reduce your stormwater footprint!
The Rocks Nature Preserve
Youth Conservation Corps

at Glennstone Nature Preserve

Image from ECWA wildlife camera
at Glennstone Nature Preserve

ECWA 2014 Creek Tour

Glennstone Nature Preserve

Artwork by Melanie Middleton's kindergarten class from EK Powe Elementary School about their science class field trips to the 17 Acre Wood

Bald Eagle at Beaver Marsh Preserve
(photo by j meehan)

Introducing the 2017 Beaver Queen


photo by Lyn Steuart


Upcoming Events


Behind an abandoned movie theater, just off Interstate 85 and above an urban wetland, 10 young people spent last week blazing half a mile of trails.

Maybe not quite blazing – more like chopping, pulling, digging, filling, grading and bridging half a mile through heat, bugs, brush and matted tangles of English ivy,...

The Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, City of Durham Stormwater Services, American Rivers, Downtown Durham, Inc., and the Triangle J Council of Governments are conducting a study in the Ellerbe Creek Watershed to identify opportunities for small stormwater retrofits (e.g. green roofs, rain gardens) with the potential to improve water quality in the creek.

It’s bawdy, it’s irreverent, but it also bills itself as family-friendly, and all the money raised goes for an environmental cause — to improve the water quality of Ellerbe Creek.

It is the annual Beaver Queen Pageant, and the 13th annual contest for the queen of the wetlands will be held Saturday, June 3, in Duke Park. Just about everything that is said at the pageant or published on the Beaver Queen website is a pun...

“Fur-Eddie Mercury” on Saturday was crowned the 2017 Beaver Queen after a competitive Beaver Queen Pageant that included singing, comedy and lots of double entendres.

The annual Beaver Queen Pageant, held the first Saturday in June at Duke Park, is a fundraiser for the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. Funds are raised in large part by guests and contestants “bribing” judges — legally — to get their votes as well as participants paying $5 per vote.

The thirteenth annual Beaver Queen Pageant is this Saturday in Duke Park. The Clarion Content is a long-time fan.It is the big annual fundraiser for the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. Ellerbe Creek is one of our area’s most important watersheds and environmentally diverse habitats.

It all started with a group of individuals trying to save a beaver den from an Interstate Highway. This year the theme of the Beaver Queen is the Wizard of Gnaws. (eg. Oz).

While out fishing on a lake with her father, 7-year-old Laura Smith lost one of her baby teeth. As the tooth was falling out, she hooked a big fish.

“That’s one of our family folk tales,” said Smith, now a parent as well as a stormwater expert with the city of Durham. “When families spend time in nature together, they are building the foundation for a lifelong environmental ethic, not to mention forming great memories.”

From Allibay and Watery Branch to Pinhook and Allergy Creek, the history of Ellerbe and South Ellerbe creeks is long and colorful. During his 1701 trek through the wilderness of the Carolinas, John Lawson headed east from Occaneechi Town (near what is now Hillsborough). Lawson wrote of hiking 14 difficult miles, "a sad stoney way," to the next village, called Adshusheer.


Protected in the summer of 2016, The Rocks Nature Preserve is ECWA’s newest open to the public nature preserve. Located near Broad St. and Stadium Dr. this small, 1.8-acre piece of land protects one of the prettiest stretches of Ellerbe Creek. Named after its unique geology, The Rocks is special among ECWA nature preserves.

The Rocks features a nice, short loop trail that takes you around the property and gives great views of Ellerbe Creek. A second trail takes you down to the creek itself, allowing you to explore this rocky section of creek. The Rocks is accessible by foot and bike via the Stadium Drive Trail. A bike rack is located next to the preserve kiosk. A trail connects The Rocks to the Stadium Drive bicycle and walking trail via a public right-of-way access. The nearest parking to the preserve is located at Rock Quarry City Park. From there you may walk, run, or bike 0.6 miles along the Stadium Drive Trail. In 2018, the City of Durham will complete the West Ellerbe Creek Trail, which will extend from its existing location in Indian Trail Park and ECWA’s 17-Acre Wood Preserve to the Stadium Drive Trail nearby. This makes The Rocks a perfect stopping point for bikers or destination for walkers.

The Rocks montage

The Rocks is named after the ancient magma intrusions that lie underneath it, often called “Diabase.” Diabase magma intrusions are areas where magma rose to the surface and cooled to form rock. Most of the land surrounding Ellerbe Creek is sedimentary siltstone or sandstone formed by layers of sediment deposited more than 200 million years ago. Natural erosion by the stream and weather erodes away the softer sediments, exposing the harder diabase. The Rocks is one of a handful places where you can visit Diabase, and the only ECWA preserve with Diabase.

In 2013, the Birminghams, the family that developed many of the area neighborhoods, sold the property to ECWA Board of Directors President Steve Cohn, who generously bought the property to hold onto until ECWA acquired the necessary funds to purchase. Funding to acquire The Rocks was provided by the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative, the Clean Water Management Fund, and the Durham Open Space and Trails Matching Grants Program.

ECWA is working to restore the native habitat of The Rocks by eradicating the invasive exotic plants that are currently trying to take hold. However, this little preserve also hosts a surprising amount of native plant diversity. You will find many loblolly pine, river birch, southern red oak, paw paw, and many more species of trees. If you look down while you walk along the trails you will discover some beautiful herbaceous plants as well; cranefly orchids can be seen scattered throughout the preserve as well as the brilliant red flowers of the trumpet honeysuckle. Under the leaf litter in the late spring you will also find the strange red and brown jug-shaped flowers of the heartleaf plant. A section of open land near the kiosk will be the site of a prairie restoration project. Many different species of native grasses and prairie wildflowers have already been planted there to help attract bees, birds, and other local wildlife.

The Rocks sign

Google Map of The Rocks Nature Preserve