Image of old postcard

The old cotton mill - Pearl Mill
The old cotton mill - Pearl Mill

In 2006, the Duke Energy Corporation donated these 3 acres of urban nature to create ECWA's third preserve in Durham. Located along the East Branch of the South Ellerbe Creek, the Pearl Mill Nature Preserve is part of a corridor of wetlands and floodplain woods bounded by the Trinity Park, Old North Durham and Duke Park neighborhoods. It includes a portion of the popular South Ellerbe Creek Greenway Trail, just south of Green Street.

The property was named the Pearl Mill Preserve because of the old textile mill - Pearl Mill - that is nearby - just upstream, near the headwaters of the South Ellerbe. The mill has been converted to apartments and the old tall smokestack is visible from all around. There are mill houses just east of the creek. In short, the name reflects this history, and folks in the area still call the creek Pearl Mill creek.


View Pearl Mill Nature Preserve in a larger map
The Location of the Pearl Mill Nature Preserve

Since its original opening, hundreds of ECWA members and volunteers from the surrounding community have fought off an understory jungle of thorny olive, Japanese privet, English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, multiflora rose, climbing euonymus, and other invasive weeds and have begun to restore the riparian ecology. The existing canopy of native trees is surprisingly diverse, including oaks, hackberry, walnut and persimmon. The addition of a kiosk, native forest understory plants, and a lovely handmade bench make this a great urban nature getaway, (maybe you’ll see the Barred Owl that sometimes frequents there), only a five-minute bike ride from downtown.

ECWA's long-term goal is to establish a string of preserves from the creek's headwaters near Bennett Place to its terminus at Falls Lake. Our vision is of a Durham where residents can simply walk or bike to a natural area from their home or place of business and can walk or bike across the watershed stopping at preserves, neighborhoods and points of interest along the way.