Address: 358 New River State Park Rd, Laurel Springs, NC 28644
Phone: (336) 982-2587
Coordinates: Latitude: N36.467680 / Longitude: W -81.340350
Description: New River State Park covers over 2,000+ acres in Avery County, NC. The park runs along 26.5 miles of the New River, which despite its name, is one of the oldest rivers in the world. This park offers camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, paddling and of course birding opportunities.
The New River State Park is listed on the NC Birding Trail, and is also classified as an Audubon Important Bird Area.(IBA) At any time of the year you will be able to find a wide variety of birds such those mentioned in the local knowledge article below and the NC Birding Trail, Full Bird List.
Local knowledge: High Country Audubon Society member Judy Schnatter writes about part of the New River State Park, the Alleghany Access.
My HotSpot: Alleghany Access, New River State Park
by Judy Schnatter
I chose this as my "Hot Spot” because I can both hike and bird in a secluded area. More importantly, the land has moved my heart into action. As I walked and birded on this land, I became aware of its gentle effects on me. Step by step I developed a flow with the trail and the river which both calmed me and provided a base for wise choices. Thus, I felt moved to give back to this terrain. I clean and keep track of the condition of the trails, help nail trail markers to trees, and list the birds I see on a display board at the park’s Visitor Center at the US 221 Access.
The birds listed in this article are those seen during hikes taken from mid-April to the first week in May of 2014.
1. Approachable by canoe. Contact the Visitor Center @ 336-982-2587 for details.
2. Car: Four-wheel drive. Take US 16 N to Mouth of Wilson, VA. The road will end at a “T” at US 58. Turn right onto US 58. Take the first right onto Old Mill Road, and then take the first left onto Roundhouse Road (a gravel and dirt road). Stay on Roundhouse Road for approximately 4 miles. You will come to a small parking lot that accommodates about 3 cars.
3. You can obtain a trail map at the Visitor Center.
General Trail Description:
There are approximately 6 miles of easy to moderate hiking trails through various landscapes … hardwoods, mountain laurel and rhododendron, river accesses, open fields with vista views of the New River, old pine forest, and trails with bushes for the birds that like cover. Of course the various landscapes attract a wide variety of birds. All trails are well-marked both with pictorial signs and markers.
Riverview Loop Trail:From the parking lot walk back up the road until you reach a metal barrier on the right. Go around the barrier to start the trail. Along the way you will encounter beautiful long-range views of the river. Stop at the bench, sit and enjoy. The trail then continues into a hardwood forest valley. Birds seen: Field & Chipping Sparrows, Red-Tailed Hawks, Osprey, Turkey and Black Vultures, Ravens, American Crow and Red-Winged Blackbirds, Ovenbird, Northern Parula, Black-Throated-Green, Scarlet Tanager, and other common birds.
Farmhouse Loop Trail: Walk out to the road and back down to the walk-around barrier and the trail head begins several hundred yards down on the right. The trail eventually leads to the New River, going through mountain laurel, rhododendron, and hardwoods. Birds seen: Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey. Woodpeckers: Pileated, Downy, Hairy and Red-Bellied. Warblers: Black-and-White, Yellow-rumped, Yellow-throated, Prairie, Palm, Northern Parula, Yellow, Kentucky, Blackpoll, Black-throated Green, and Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. Vireos: Blue-headed, Red-eyed, Yellow-throated and Warbling. Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole, White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows.
Walk across a large field (where canoers camp) and go down to the river. Birds seen: Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, Common Raven, Canada Geese, and Wood Duck.
Road to Nowhere Trail: This is a 2-mile round-trip through an old pine forest. The trail name is fitting because while walking it, I found myself asking, “Where is this trail heading?”, but try to not skip it because it was here that the hike held the most mystery and wonder. Although the number of birds seen here decreases, there are clumps of owl pellets, various feathers, and a few surprises along the way such as the Yellow-throated Warbler and a flock of Palm Warblers taking advantage of the old pines. You also have good views of the river at the end of the trail to see possible river birds.
Enjoy this healthy parcel of land that the folks at New River State Park took the effort to preserve, the birds that it attracts, and hopefully a corresponding renewal for yourself.
High Country Audubon Society is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization Donations to High Country Audubon Society are tax-deductible as allowed by applicable law.
Banner photo of Saw-whet Owl courtesy of Jesse Pope.