Lewis Creek Nature Preserve
Lewis Creek Nature Preserve is an 8.3-acre conservation property located in the Edneyville community in Henderson County. The Preserve contains more than 1,500 feet of Lewis Creek which was restored in 2011 by the NC Environmental Enhancement Program (EEP). The creek had been channelized for agricultural purposes years ago, and its banks were significantly eroding, degrading water quality and jeopardizing wildlife. The restoration restored stream bends, called meanders, that mimic natural stream patterns in floodplains. These meanders improve water quality by slowing the flow of the water and reducing erosion. The preserve is home to a rare type of wetland, a Southern Appalachian bog. The bog is adjacent to the creek and covers 6.5 acres of the preserve.
Southern Appalachian Bogs
Southern Appalachian Bogs are one of the rarest habitats in western North Carolina. There are less than 750 acres of these bogs remaining in North Carolina today, an 83% loss from the 5,000 acres estimated to have once existed in our region. The word “bog” is of Gaelic origin – denoting soft or spongy ground. Southern Appalachian Bogs are generally found on poorly- drained flat terrain, where water collects in thick, wet soils that are high in decaying organic matter.
This unique environment is home to a large number of plants and animals that cannot survive in other habitats. Bogs are highly sensitive areas—susceptible to natural and human disturbance and invasive exotic species. Unfortunately, in the past bogs were often used for grazing or were drained for agriculture, which is why we have so few today. The processes which contribute to the creation of bogs are not well understood, which makes them a valuable natural community to protect in a rapidly developing world.
The bog at Lewis Creek has not escaped the problems facing many other bogs in the Southern Appalachians. The site was grazed for many years, and possibly timbered. Some areas of the bog are degraded and invasive species are moving in. Conserving Carolina and our dedicated volunteers have been working hard to remove invasive species and restore the delicate hydrology of this unique natural system.
In addition to stream restoration and invasive removal, Conserving Carolina has undertaken many different management activities to restore and improve Lewis Creek Preserve including establishing and maintaining a pollinator patch for wildlife, planting trees, building and installing bird boxes, and constructing a walking path (complete with boardwalks for wet areas) that allows local residents to more fully experience the Lewis Creek, and improves access for Conserving Carolina staff to conduct management in hard-to-reach areas of the site.
The Lewis Creek Nature Preserve is also notable for the variety of birds that stop at the site during their spring and autumn migrations. The bog habitat, as well as dense thickets, tree cover, and running water provide excellent habitat for many species. Henderson County Bird Club president Rich Leppingwell has called Lewis Creek one of the finest sites in the county for bird watching. Conserving Carolina is conducting bird inventories to document and better understand the birds that visit the site. In February, a pair of Sandhill Cranes were spotted overhead. These beautiful birds are very rare to our area. They stand 4-feet tall and have a 6-foot wingspan, and are white with red on the crown of their heads. When coming in for a landing, they drop their legs like landing gear on an aircraft! It is Conserving Carolina’s hope that our continued management work will attract more species of birds like these beautiful Cranes.