Merchants Millpond State Park
It had been over 20 years since my last visit to Merchants Millpond. Back then the park was just being established, with zero amenities, just a boat ramp, and a shed. Today it is a very popular destination that includes picnic areas, miles of hiking trails, boat launch areas, a campground and typical state park visitors center. Most popular are the kayak trails that weave throughout the millpond and down Bennetts Creek.
Settlement in the Gates County area began in 1660. Residents of early rural communities made a living by farming and lumbering. In the early 1700s, Hunters Millpond was built at the head of Bennetts Creek to provide a means of processing and marketing regional produce. Highway construction destroyed this millpond in 1922. But further downstream, Norfleets Millpond, which was built in 1811, thrived. Gristmills, a sawmill, a farm supply store and other enterprises made the area the center of trade in Gates County. Thus, the pond became known as Merchants Millpond.
Join us for a peaceful float into another world.
We took a mid-morning float down Bennets Creek, which flows into and out of Merchants Millpond. These dark, acidic waters support a wide variety of aquatic plant and animal species. Mink, river otter and bobcat are occasionally spotted. Deer, raccoons and opossums are also in residence. And birds, lots of birds.
It felt good to finally be getting our kayaks wet again. They performed well. Having kayaks light enough for us to easily load on the car roof is important to the enjoyment of flat-water paddling.
The Camping Experience
The park has about 25 non-electric sites, more than half can easily accommodate a teardrop or a little larger. The all important facilities were clean and the showers hot. Our T@B is a Q model, no bathroom, so we always hope for nice facilities, especially hot showers. The park office has a really nice museum quality displays about the natural and cultural history of the park
We enjoyed the cool mornings and the warmth of our little “Puff” teardrop trailer. The ALDE heating system worked great, as did the gas stove and water system. This was our first multi-night non-electric campout, and we were able to easily manage our power usage over two days. We cooked both inside and outside, including delicious steak kabobs on the campfire.
More about our T@B for T@BBERS – We added a door alarm purchased at Lowes for $12. It beeps or blares if someone opens the door uninvited. I have found the wheel lock to not be a necessary security item on the road, but I do try to keep it on at home. Vodka did a satisfactory (though more expensive) job of winterizing, without the lingering flavor of anti-freeze. The water pump, originally very noisy, has quieted down on its own and is working well. I plan to add a strobe light on the back of the trailer to alert speeding drivers of our slower pace, like the ones they use on NC school buses. We noticed a drop of 2 mpg with the added kayaks. Oh well. Hope to add our “Puff the M@gic Dr@gon” decals soon. Look for us soon in Ohio for birdings biggest week.
Birding is always part of our wild adventures but we were so busy paddling and enjoying the whole experience I did not take ONE single picture of a bird. Yeah, I know. Crazy. Photography while kayaking is risky for the camera gear, and its difficult to stay still. Even the finding or looking at a bird can be a challenge. I did take time to get some audio of some bird calls we were hearing, which you can listen to below.
Beppu, our travel mouse, oversees camp set-up
Getting ready to cook steak kabobs
Sheree at our campsite anxious to get on the water
Most enjoyable were the Barred Owls, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Scarlet Tanagers and dozens of Prothonotary Warblers.