Haw River – Guilford/Rockingham/Alamance Counties

The Haw River begins in Forsyth County and flows through Guilford, Rockingham, Alamance and Chatham Counties before entering Jordan Lake and joining the Cape Fear River. In addition to providing drinking water to many of the communities along its banks, the Haw River’s water has been harnessed as a source of energy for textile mills situated on its shores and used to support agricultural operations throughout its watershed. Finally, the river and its tributaries have provided a recreational asset to its communities and provided habitat for a variety of species including the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalos).

When working to protect water quality, it is important to protect and restore the source of the river and its headwater tributaries. Downstream water quality is only as good as the water quality upstream. Hence, Piedmont Land Conservancy has initially focused our work on protecting the Upper Haw River in Forsyth, Guilford and Rockingham Counties.

The Upper Haw River has hundreds of acres of undisturbed bottomland forests and high quality wetlands along Mears Fork, Benaja Creek, Little Troublesome Creek and Troublesome Creek. Many rare species populate the river, including the mole salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum), the Carolina darter (Etheostoma collis pop.2), river otter, wild turkey and populations of the significantly rare purple fringeless orchid (Platanthera peramoena).

Piedmont Land Conservancy began working with the Mears Fork Steering Committee and the Haw River Assembly to protect lands along Mears Fork in the late 1990s. This work quickly expanded to include additional areas along the Upper Haw River and additional partners including Guilford County Open Space Committee and Summerfield Conservation Council. Today, PLC continues to work with our partners to protect the Upper Haw River Watershed and its many unique and special places.

Protected Sites

  • Haw River State Park
  • Haw River Headwaters

    In partnership with the Haw River Assembly, PLC acquired a small property containing two springs that represent the headwaters of the Haw River at the end of 1999. As a major river in Guilford, Rockingham, Alamance and Chatham Counties, the Haw River provides recreational opportunities and drinking water for communities along its banks, including the Triangle region. Protecting a river’s headwaters is vital to ensuring that a river’s water quality will be safeguarded for all of the communities it serves.

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

  • Mears Fork

    With its wetlands and forested buffers, Mears Fork has some of the highest water quality in Guilford County. PLC has worked with neighbors along the creek to protect the stream and its significant conservation values.

    Mears Fork Wetlands

    MEARSThe protection of wetlands is an important part of protecting the water quality of rivers. Wetlands can be found in any location in the landscape and are identified by having three features in common: saturated with water during a portion of the growing season, hydric soils and wetland plants. In the Piedmont region of North Carolina wetlands are typically less than five acres in size. Although small, they serve many important functions including serving as a natural filter of sediment, pollutants and excess nutrients from adjacent roads and lands; providing natural flood control during wet periods of the year; and providing critical habitat for wetland plants and animals.

    In 1998, PLC completed its first project along Mears Fork, a tributary of the Haw River northwest of Greensboro. Simon Investments was building a development in the area and wanted to protect the water quality of Mears Fork by donating the land along the creek to PLC. Besides protecting the water quality of Mears Fork, this preserve also provides habitat for a variety of plants and animals including beaver. PLC holds occasional clean up days on this site to remove the trash and debris that accumulates from adjacent Lake Brandt Road.

    Project funding provided by the landowner and PLC.

    Bates Riparian Area

    A field botanist by profession, Moni Bates knows Mears Fork, the Haw River tributary that meanders behind her home, is a special place. Eager to protect the tributary, its natural communities and its wildlife habitat; the Bates built support within their community to protect it. The Bates donated an easement in 2002 along Mears Fork on their property. The Mears Fork Steering Committee and the Haw River Assembly helped PLC secure the necessary funds to protect this and two other properties.

    Project funding provided by the landowner, the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Mott Foundation via the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

    Payne-Smith Riparian Area

    Located on a tributary of Mears Fork, this easement was one of the first three donated along the Mears Fork Corridors. During the Guilford County Natural Heritage Inventory, Mears Fork was identified as having some of the highest water quality in Guilford County. This 2002 easement ensures the forested buffer along this Mears Fork tributary will remain untouched forever. In addition to protecting water quality, forested buffers along streams provide important travel corridor used by a variety of wildlife species.

    Project funding provided by the landowner, the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Mott Foundation via the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

    Voytek-Parks

    This parcel was identified in the Upper Haw Riparian Corridor Design as a high priority parcel for the protection of water quality along the Mears Fork Corridor. In addition to protecting the riparian area like the Bates and Payne-Smith Riparian Area Easements, this 2002 easement also protects adjoining upland pasture. Protecting the upland pasture ensures that best management practices will be used to minimize upland erosion thereby strengthening the water quality protection of Mears Fork.

    Project funding provided by the landowners, the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Mott Foundation via the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

    Peagram Tract

    Located within 0.6 miles of the previously protected Payne-Smith Riparian Area, PLC protected this 12-acre parcel in 2003. A retired schoolteacher, Vance Pegram wanted to do his part in protecting the rural and natural character of his community. This easement protects the water quality of Mears Fork and the wildlife habitat and open space character that this forested parcel provides. With the completion of this project, PLC has protected five sites along the Mears Fork Corridor encompassing approximately 76 acres.

    Project funding provided by landowner and the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.