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Eno River State Park

By Emily McIntosh

September usually marks a return to school and the ushering in of pumpkin spice lattes, the official start of autumn is September 22nd. So while the days are still long and the temperatures high, I took a trip with some friends to Eno River State Park to do some hiking and enjoy the river waters.

Though the Eno river has been appreciated and stewarded by Eno, Shakori, and Occonneechee tribes long before recorded history, the land became a North Carolina State Park in 1975 after efforts to conserve the area.

The NC State Park-sanctioned sign “Orange County” designating the line in the trail between Durham and Orange counties.
Friends walking along the Cole Mill trail at Eno River State Park in the heat of the afternoon sun.

Eno River State Park intersects between Durham and Orange counties, northwest of Durham and east of Hillsborough. There is an abundance of trails to choose from, but we decided to take the Cole Mill and Bobbitt Hole trails to walk along the river’s edge.

The wildlife on this hike was evident — I was greeted around every corner by various animals, insects, and plants enjoying their time in the sun. I’ve learned about the joys of being alone with nature on my solo hikes, but there’s something special about walks with a group of friends.

Bright green foliage along the river
A small lizard climbing a tree
A heron standing along the banks of the Eno River hiding in the shade
The same heron, having heard the camera shutter, flying away farther down the river.
A red spider spinning an intricate web.
A turtle swimming underwater, its brown shell camouflaged by the brown water and dirt along the bottom of the river.

Can you spot some of the more hidden creatures? I was grateful to my friends for spotting much of the incredible nature beside which we walked. There were more eyes to discover the wildlife I might have otherwise passed over if I were out trekking alone. As we went on our little scavenger hunt, we forgot all about the day’s temperature of 96 degrees. Well, we almost forgot.

A small red mushroom growing around other green foliage along the ground.
A dragonfly sunbathing on a tree branch
A bee pollinating a sunflower
A three-turtle family sitting on a log in the river.
Bobbitt Hole at sunset, featuring the rocks and small waterfalls surrounded by trees.

Our journey led us to Bobbitt Hole, where we stopped for a break and a chance to beat the heat.

The Cole Mill trail along the Eno River, with trees growing along the riverbank.
The park trail, lit above by the canopy of the leaves in the trees, but heavily shaded on the ground by the same leaves.

On hikes like these, I sometimes think about the more than 100,000 people that move to North Carolina each year and how for many of those new residents, it’s probably the first time they’re experiencing North Carolina nature. If they were to ever ask me what I love most about my collective North Carolina hiking experience, I’d say I love how each trip to a North Carolina state park is unique. Weather, elevation, and other natural factors play a part in this uniqueness, and it makes each trip as memorable as the last.

Landscape photograph of Eno Quarry, with various green trees and foliage and water below reflecting the trees.
Another landscape photograph of Eno Quarry, with the blue sky above and the trees and water below.
A close up look at some lichen on a tree.

Finishing out the rest of the Cole Mill trail loop, we got back in our cars and drove to the Eno Quarry trail, where we made our way to the quarry. The Eno Quarry was mined in the 1960s to help pave Interstate 85 and was filled with water before being abandoned. Years later in 2002, the quarry became part of Eno River State Park.

Thankfully, once we arrived, the sun made its way down past the trees, so shade was abundant. We walked on the trail surrounding the quarry, enjoying the views and more of the foliage through the trail.

Wooden stairs along the trail leading up to the quarry.
The three friends on my hike walking in front of me, while I wait behind to take pictures.
The sunset appearing behind the trees to mark the end of the hike.

The trip concluded with a lovely sunset in the parking lot, with the moon making an appearance. Like most of us, I’m excited to lace up my hiking boots and I’m looking forward to all the wonderful parts of fall, especially the cooler weather. On the other hand, switching out my sandals for my boots, I am looking back at summer 2021, a warm but beautiful season of the great outdoors.

As I mentioned earlier, there are still a few days left of summer. If you haven’t made the trip, I highly suggest a visit to Eno River State Park.

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