The Raleigh Naturalist

April 10, 2009

Marsh Creek Meanders

Filed under: Nature Lore, Northeast Raleigh, waterways — Tags: , , — raleighnaturalist @ 3:33 pm

   I had the most nature fun OFF the greenway in a long time, searching the headwaters of Marsh Creek.  This prototypical Piedmont creek – running due Southeast and carrying red clay hills down to sandy flats – ends up dumping its large steady flow of water into a huge wetland at the Yonkers Road section of the Beltline – thus its name.  This lower section is full of treats, and will constitute part two of this post.  Recently I browsed through North Raleigh sewer cuts and subdivisions, climbing up Marsh Creek as I did.  My destination – the headwaters – came as a surprise, and emphasized the fascinating cross section of Northeast Raleigh this creek travels through on its way to Crabtree.


upper reaches of Marsh Creek on Google Maps

   Marsh Creek actually starts just above the blue line showing the creek on this map – at Sutton Square of Falls of the Neuse, its twin springs cradling one of the busiest – and for pedestrians, one of the most dangerous – stretches of four lane in Raleigh. This major creek, which runs for just over five miles from Spring Forest to its intersection with Crabtree, begins on the west side of Falls of the Neuse as a tiny landscaped pond (next to Northbend), and on the east side as the  rocky ditch seen below.

The little brook picks up size quickly as it travels downhill through Northeast Raleigh neighborhoods – alternating older large-lot subdivisions with newer townhouse projects.  It reaches a large natural area just above Old Wake Forest Road, and that’s where I had such fun.  A wide sewer cut gave access to a scrubby but rich haven tucked between neighborhoods, and I was able to see the deer tracks seen at the top of the post, a deer bedroom of crushed broomstraw, cute little coon prints on a sandbank, and a glimpse of a solemn woodchuck, who quickly scrambled into his hole.

Above, a mossy bank just north of Old Wake Forest Road.  Below is the sewer cut, which travels through several acres of undeveloped lowland.

After crossing Atlantic Avenue, where I found another hillside natural area covered with large, iron-rich boulders, the creek parallels that thoroughfare southward for a couple of miles – once again, touching on large older homes and much denser new developments. Before crossing New Hope Church Road it accepts the run-off from Mini-City to the east, and then enters Brentwood.  Here, the creek is the centerpiece of a long, narrow neighborhood park that runs down the center of the venerable and “transitioning” Brentwood subdivision.  It accepts the water from a neighborhood pond on Huntleigh (doubtless called a lake by the residents), and dives under Capital Boulevard, where we will pick it up the next time we visit Marsh Creek.

upper stretch of Marsh Creek

upper stretch of Marsh Creek

Photo album of upper Marsh Creek



July 4, 2008

Back to Basics – East Raleigh beginnings

Filed under: East Raleigh, Gems & Surprises, Greenways & Parks, Nature Lore — Tags: , , , — raleighnaturalist @ 6:35 pm
lower Longview Lake from south

lower Longview Lake from south

    This is the first picture I took with my new camera for this blog, in late January 2007.  Longview Lake was the big body of water in my childhood.  I was more familiar with the upper section, just below  Enloe, which has been surrounded by development and is filling up with silt.  This lower section is in good shape, and some of the homes have small docks, of which I’m quite envious.

   Longview temporarily collects the waters of Bertie Creek, coming down Bertie Drive below Enloe, which then crosses Milburnie at Peartree Lane and makes its way down to Crabtree as seen below.  This lowest stretch of Bertie, which parallels Milburnie and crosses under Buckeye Trail’s beginning, gets some interesting visitors exploring upstream from the larger creek.  Just below the Buckeye bridge over it, the small creek pools up, and I have seen large sliders and snappers meditating a climb over the partly submerged sewer pipe blocking their way.  Above the greenway bridge, there are some nice rock riffles, and I was once amazed ( and too startled to act) by lifting up a large flat rock to reveal an Amphiuma – my only sight ever of this huge, biting salamander.

Bertie Creek hits Crabtree

Bertie Creek hits Crabtree

    Crabtree and Bertie enclose a diagonal of East Raleigh neighborhood, east Rollingwood, that is bordered by rich upland woods.  These high areas surround a large rock outcrop that turns the creek right after it has absorbed the waters of Marsh Creek.   That union, Marsh Creek and Crabtree, creates a huge marshy area highlighted by Raleigh Swamp at Capital Boulevard.  Below that, after the rocky overhang, Crabtree is steadily on its way to becoming a coastal plain waterway.  It’s flat, meandering path is lined with deep, silt-lined walls of clay, gouged regularly by floods.  It is not a pretty creek – the banks give the impression of accumulated eons of ring around the bathtub.  But there are interesting tangles of trees  and the occasional surprise.

Marsh Creek floodplain from Rollingwood

Marsh Creek floodplain from Rollingwood

Crabtree at Milburnie

Crabtree at Milburnie

This “surprise” was a heron which scattered from behind a sewer tower and managed to get caught in my uplifting camera lense.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this easternmost section of Buckeye is very “birdy,” with all three kinds of local woodpeckers, hawks being harassed by crows, and plenty of herons.

Nature News

The Wake County Quarterly

Here, like usual, are so many opportunities to learn about and interact with nature.  Even if you don’t need the structured activities, it’s nice to be reminded of the beavers at Blue Jay Point, the farm history at Oak View Park, the bats at Crowder Park on Ten-ten, and the restored gristmill  at Yates Mill.

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