Ellerbe Creek flows 12 miles across northern Durham, draining 37 square miles of long-urbanized territory and feeding into Falls Lake.
It’s the most polluted stream in the Triangle and for 15 years the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association has worked at bringing it back to health. On Saturday, the group is holding a sort of open house to show off some results of its labors.
Formally called the Ellerbe Creek Nature Tour, the even is a five-point drop-in at four preserves and a private residence fitted out with pollution-reducing features such as rain gardens, cisterns and native-plant landscaping.
The stops are open 1 to 5 p.m., with different things to do at each. All are within eight miles of downtown Durham. And there’s no charge for paying visits to any of the locations:
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17-Acre Wood: Albany St. and Perennial Drive, at the east end of Hillandale Golf Course. Actually covering more than 20 acres, the preserve is a hot spot for birdwatching along a section of paved greenway. Besides birds, foxes and deer frequent the preserve where invasive plants have been cleared away to encourage native species to repopulate the stream banks.
Naturalist Steve Hiltner, one of the association’s founders, is to be on hand to talk about the organization’s beginnings, and other ECWA associates will offer birding advice and lead short hikes along the stream.
Pearl Mill Preserve: On the South Ellerbe Greenway between North Duke and Washington streets north of the Durham Central Park area. Here also ECWA volunteers have removed alien species to nurture a canopy of native oak, walnut and persimmon trees.
Old West Durham historian John Schelp will be talking about the area’s history and the Pearl Cotton Mill that helped spur development north of downtown more than 100 years ago, while ECWA Director Chris Dreps and N.C. State University forester Kathi Beratan talk about restoring piedmont waterways. There’s also an art project using dyes made from native plants.
Beaver Marsh Preserve: off Avondale Avenue behind Compare Foods. The preserve covers 32 acres including a 25-acre wetland with an inhabited beaver lodge, and a foot trail just blazed this summer. According to ECWA, the marsh is home to a variety of native plants and animals, part of a wildlife corridor extending almost unbroken to Falls Lake.
Naturalists Ron Grunwald and Deborah Robertson will be leading up-close contacts with some of the turtles and snakes that live along Ellerbe Creek, along with Durham artist Jim Lee. Visitors will also get to view the marsh’s aquatic birds with a spotting telescope and make molds of tracks made by some of the mammals that live in and around the preserve.
Glennstone Preserve: 3505 Glennstone Dr. off Glenn Rd. Members of the animal rescue and rehabilitation group CLAWS, Inc. will be on hand with some of the birds the group has aided.
Several rocky streams run through the 83 wooded acres, which are frequented by red-winged blackbirds and great blue herons, and a short trail leads to a sandy creekside beach.
Ecologist Tracy Feldman and others will lead hands-on explorations of the preserve’s ecosystems.
A "Creek Smart" house: 544 Primitive St. The private residence is an example of how local homeowners use innovative practices such as rain gardens, cisterns and native plant landscaping to reduce their impact on Ellerbe Creek.
Kids will get a chance to start their own garden plants and Peter Raabe of American Rivers will be onsite to talk about far-ranging water-policy issues.