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  • Writer's picturePeter

Beaver Marsh Preserve - Durham, NC

A while back, I was listening to a podcast with Parker McMullen Bushman (@kweenwerk), who is a pioneer for outdoor inclusion. She was talking about how “nature” is all around us - not just being out in the woods, or at a national park. Nature can be found in cities, urban areas, and places that don’t traditionally scream “nature.”

So why am I telling you this? Because the park in this post, the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association’s Beaver Marsh Nature Preserve, at first blush might not seem very… nature-y. The parking is next to a storage facility. One side is flanked by private backyards. And another side is… the back alley of a supermarket and Big Lots.

But let me tell you, we had the BEST time at this park. We saw more nature up close here than we’ve seen on some walks at Umstead. A beautiful hawk perched on a tree next to us. Tons of tiny frogs at the water. Amazing fungi growing on fallen logs. And a magnificent beaver lodge in the middle of the marsh, which, ironically, can best be seen from the alley behind the Big Lots (there’s even a viewing bench). We honestly laughed when we could see the commercial area in the distance as we entered the park, but we left impressed and remarking at what a hidden gem this place was.

Some logistics:

* No bathrooms.

* Not stroller friendly.

* No official parking lot - just park at the end of the street by the entrance.

* Trails are not difficult or long - a great easy hike for families.

* The alley behind the Big Lots is listed as an “Other Trail” on the preserve’s map. It was admittedly odd doing that walk to get from one side of the park to the other, but it worked out fine, and it is the best place to see the beaver lodge.

* There ARE beavers who live in the lodge. Dawn and dusk are their active times and the best time to possibly catch a glimpse of them.

* Likely because of the proximity to the back alley, we did see some garbage, personal belongings, and a shopping cart at one of the alley entrances to the preserve.

With the days so short now, we hope to make it out at dusk sometime and hopefully catch a glimpse of a beaver.

What are some of your favorite non-traditional nature spots? Let us know in the comments!

(Note: We're currently working on updating our website with our reviews. This review was originally posted on Instagram and Facebook on December 2, 2022.)

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