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Dan River Watershed Protection Initiative

Stokes and Rockingham Counties - 2,248 Acres Protected

From its headwaters in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the Dan River travels between high rock cliffs and steep bluffs covered with rhododendron as it flows through Stokes County. As the river flows into Rockingham County, its waters slow and widen until it becomes typical of the Piedmont, where a successful mill industry once developed and flat bottomed boats ferried supplies up and down the river. From Rockingham County, the river re-enters Virginia and then dips back into North Carolina for a short distance in Caswell County before eventually joining the Roanoke River in Virginia.

Throughout its course in North Carolina, the Dan River’s outstanding beauty offers paddlers and fishermen miles of relatively undisturbed wilderness and excellent fisheries. The Dan River’s cleaner waters are home to several species of rare and endangered fish and freshwater mussels including the orangefin madtom (Noturus gilberti), bigeye jumprock (Scartomyzon ariommus) and the federally endangered James spinymussel (Pleurobema collina) while its shores are home to several rare plants including the state threatened Virginia cup-plant (Silphium connatum), state species of special concern goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and federally endangered small-anthered bittercress (Cardamine micranthera). The Natural Heritage Inventories conducted in Stokes and Rockingham County identified nineteen unique natural areas as regionally, state or nationally significant. Dan River Riparian Corridor Design Studies identified and set priorities for parcels in need of protection and/or restoration to maintain and enhance the water quality of the Dan River.

As with any river, the quality of the Dan River both in terms of its water and the habitat it provides is impacted by a variety of factors. Consequently, Piedmont Land Conservancy is partnering with several other agencies and organizations including Dan River Basin Association, Natural Resources Conservation Service, NC Plant Conservation Program, NC Department of Parks and Recreation to protect and improve the ecological function of the Dan River Watershed. By working together, we can pool our resources and expertise, then use available data to ensure this natural and recreational resource will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Sites Protected in this Initiative

Click each property to open and close the full story.

Farmland farmland water resources water resources natural heritage natural heritage urban natural areas urban natural areas

Farmlandwater resources Historic Dan River Ford ~ 41 acres, Stokes County

John and Sharon Nygren. Bargain Sale of Land.

Identified as a regionally significant natural heritage site in the Stokes County Natural Heritage Inventory, this property encompasses an excellent quality mature hardwood forest comprised of yellow poplar, river birch, beech, oak, hickory, walnut, and scattered sycamore. The forest provides critical habitat for declining neotropical migratory songbirds and other wildlife species. Additionally, the presence of a significant forested riparian buffer led to this site’s identification as a high priority for protection of the Dan River’s water quality in the Dan River Riparian Corridor Design Phase I (2000).

Accessible only by the river, PLC acquired the Historic Dan River Ford in 1998. Its steep slopes and rocky outcrops add geological interest to the site as well as provide habitat for several rare and uncommom plants including the federally endangered small-anthered bittercress (Cardamine micranthera), northern cup-plant (Silphium perfoliatum) and the significantly rare cliff stonecrop (Sedum glaucophyllum). Upon acquisition of this site, PLC granted a conservation easement to the State to ensure that the sites conservation values were permanently protected.

Project funding provided by the landowner and the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

natural heritage Flat Shoals Mountain ~ 338 acres, Stokes County

Milton Crotts. Bargain Sale of Land.

A regionally significant natural heritage site, Flat Shoals Mountain is viewed by the more than 500,000 visitors to the Hanging Rock Overlook at Hanging Rock State Park each year. Comprised of Pine-Oak Heath and Chestnut Oak Forest Communities, this site provides habitat for a variety of species including NC endangered peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus), NC threatened Wehrle’s salamander (Plethodon wehrei), and the NC species of special concern the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). Additionally, several caves have been identified on this property that provide shelter for a variety of bat species.

When the mountain was placed on the market in the late 1990’s, PLC worked quickly and purchased the large tract in 2001. Through PLC’s acquisition the view from Hanging Rock Overlook was safeguarded from the construction of cell towers and residential development. Throughout the acquisition process, PLC worked closely with NC Department of Parks and Recreation to ensure that this property would be transferred to the care of Hanging Rock State Park later in 2001.

Project funding provided by the landowner, PLC, Hillsdale Fund, and NC Natural Heritage Trust Fund.

natural heritage Tuttle Tract ~ 30 acres, Stokes County

John Fulton and Robin Tuttle. Sale of Land.

The North Carolina Department of Parks and Recreation requested PLC’s assistance in acquiring this parcel adjacent to Hanging Rock State Park, when the opportunity arose in 2001. PLC employed funds from its Land Protection Revolving Fund to acquire the property until the State had secured necessary approvals later that year at which time PLC transferred the property to the State.

 Project funding provided by PLC and the NC Department of Parks and Recreation.

water resourcesnatural heritage Dan River Bends ~ 19 acres, Stokes County

Brian and Laura Moretz. Sale of Land.

Located adjacent to the North Carolina State University’s 4-H camp, Camp Sertoma, and a mile downstream of the previously protected Historic Dan River Ford, this property was identified as being part of the regionally significant Dan River Bends Site in the Stokes County Natural Heritage Inventory (1998). The site achieved its regional significance due to the presence of habitat for several rare and uncommon plants including the cliff stonecrop (Sedum glaucophyllum), the northern cup-plant (Silphium perfoliatum), and the federally endangered small-anthered bittercress (Cardamine micranthera). The site’s forested bluffs along the Dan River identified this property as a high priority for water quality protection in the Upper Dan River Corridor Riparian Design Phase I (2000).

PLC acquired this small, yet significant parcel in 2001 when the owners, aware of its conservation value, approached PLC prior to placing the property on the market. Since purchasing the property, PLC received funding through the Virginia Office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct on-site restoration work that included stabilization of the river access, tree planting in the former tobacco field in the bottomland, and culvert replacement on the access road. Currently, this preserve is only open for PLC-related events.

Project funding provided by PLC, the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

natural heritage Joyce Tract ~ 20 acres, Stokes County

Tanya Joyce. Sale of Land.

In 2002, the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation requested PLC’s assistance in acquiring this 20-acre parcel that abutted Hanging Rock State Park. PLC acquired the parcel at the end of 2002 using funds from PLC’s Land Protection Revolving Fund. In 2003, the State reimbursed PLC for the purchase price and incurred expenses and accepted the parcel to be managed as part of Hanging Rock State Park.

Project funding provided by PLC and the NC Division of Parks and Recreation.

Farmlandwater resourcesnatural heritage Hartman-Richey Riparian Area ~ 20 acres, Stokes County

John Hartman and Kay Richey. Donation of Conservation Easement.

John Hartman and Kay Richey chose a “simpler” life for themselves and their son, Emmanuel. A life filled with hard work, a respect for the land and its resources, and traditional family values. Together on their Dan River farm, they produce molasses, organic vegetables for local restaurants and farmers markets and raise rabbits, goats, and chickens. Their chosen lifestyle includes using draft horses to work the land, a hand pump for water, no electricity, and simple sticks as toys for the imagination. As PLC began focusing attention on protecting the Dan River Watershed, it came as no surprise that John and Kay willingly stepped forward to donate the first riparian easement along the Dan River on their farm.

PLC completed the protection of this 300-foot wide riparian easement in 2003. As part of the easement area was used for pastureland, the easement contains two zones. The first zone is 50-feet in width, adjacent to the Dan River and is essentially a no-touch area. The second zone which is 250 feet in width allows for limited use of the land such as pastureland provided that approved management plans requiring the implementation of best management practices that safeguard water quality are followed.

Project funding provided by landowner and NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

Farmland water resources Mayo River State Park ~ 1,797 acres, Rockingham County

Compass Avalon, LLC, Avalon Development Corporation, Ferguson Lumber, Inc., Doreen & James Hodge and Robert Brady, Janet and Charles Roberts, Ronda Walker, Lincoln Grogan, Sherry Thompson, John Skaggs, Red Leaf, LLC, Mike & Linda Arlidge and Ronald & Teresa Tindall, Jr. Family, Anne Smith & Robert Gorrell, Betty Robertson, Piedmont Stone and Estate of Mary Hawks. Sale of Lands. New Market Madison, LLC. Donation of Land.

The Mayo River, a significant tributary of the Dan River, is a regional treasure with cliffs, waterfalls, sandy beaches, Native American fish weirs or traps, unique plants and animals, and a class III rapid. Thanks in large part to the leadership of the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA), the North Carolina General Assembly authorized the creation of the Mayo River State Park in 2003. With a similar conceptual design as the Eno River State Park, this state park will consist of “pods” of protected land connected by the Mayo River and will provide canoeing, camping, and hiking opportunities.

Early in 2004, PLC, DRBA and NC Division of Parks and Recreation entered into a partnership to identify willing landowners and create the park. Within this partnership, DRBA works to identify landowners willing to sell their lands to be included in the Mayo River State Park. Once willing landowners have been identified, the State asks PLC to acquire the necessary real estate appraisals to ensure that the landowners are receiving a fair market value for their property. Once the appraisals are completed, the State reviews and authorizes an offer which PLC then provides to the landowner. If the landowner agrees, PLC secures an option agreement for the State to purchase the property in a specified time period at the agreed upon price.

Once the option agreement is secured, the State carries out the necessary transactional steps including title work, surveys, and governmental approvals. In some cases, PLC acquires property on an interim basis due to delays within the government’s approval process. Working together, DRBA, the State and PLC have acquired sixteen properties for the Mayo River State Park. For additional information regarding the Mayo River State Park visit the NC Division of Parks and Recreation’s website.

Project funding provided by NC Ecosystem Enhancement Program, NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, PLC and NC Division of Parks and Recreation.

natural heritage Ellison Tract ~ 0.5 acres, Stokes County

Tammy Davis Ellison. Sale of Land.

At the request of Hanging Rock State Park, PLC acquired this small parcel at public auction in 2005 using funds from PLC’s Land Protection Revolving Fund. Located on the southwest side of the park approximately 2,000 feet northwest of Moore’s Knob, its acquisition was important to maintain the integrity of the Park’s wildlife habitat by buffering the Park’s existing boundaries. PLC transferred the land to the State later in 2005 and was reimbursed for all associated costs.

Project funding provided by PLC and the NC Division of Parks and Recreation.