Millpond Day is Saturday

Published 9:41 am Thursday, April 26, 2012

GATESVILLE – Let’s do it again!

On the heels of last year’s successful 200th birthday celebration of Merchants Millpond, officials at what is now a popular state park will host Millpond Day from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 28.

The event, which will take place at the park’s Visitor Center (176 Millpond Road), will feature live music, activities for children and adults, vendors, food, canoe trips, a 5K run, wellness fair and farmer’s market.

Admission is free.

There is no registration fee for the first-ever Millpond Day 5K Run. It will start at 10 a.m. Those wishing to participate are encouraged to pre-register by calling 252-357-1191 or sending an email to Please supply your name, mailing address, phone number and email address. Each participant will receive a t-shirt.

From the hands of Kenchen Norfleet to the State of North Carolina, Merchants Millpond has transformed itself from a staple of life back in the early 1800’s to what is today an area of abundant natural beauty and recreational activities.

The first mill and dam was constructed around 1811. The Millpond’s first owner was Norfleet and it was known as Norfleet’s Millpond.

In 1812 the first corn was ground at the gristmill. That same year a wheat mill and a sawmill were built as well. About 1856, Norfleet sold the mill to two partners by the last name of Williams, so the name became Williams Millpond.

It was next owned by Leroy Smith. About 1910 Charles M. Lawrence acquired the mill and millpond.

A 19th century house and farmstead known as Merchants Mill was the most active site. The dam was very important in that waterpower was required to run the sawmill and millstones in the gristmill.

The millhouse, which was approximately 25 to 30 feet, was built over the water and supported on pilings. Planks nailed to the millhouse formed the base of a covered bridge to handle the traffic in front of the millhouse.

There have also been several owners as well but now the State Park is the home to one of the most beautiful ecological treasures in the state and one of Gates County’s finest treasures.

In 2010, Merchants Millpond was named by the Land for Tomorrow, a coalition dedicated to supporting the preservation of North Carolina’s land and water resources, as one of “North Carolina’s Ten Natural Wonders.”

Hailed as an “enchanted forest” – Merchants Millpond State Park is where coastal pond and southern swamp forest mingle, creating one of North Carolina’s rarest ecological communities. Together with upland forests, these environments create a haven for wildlife and humanity alike.

Canoeing is popular at the millpond. Individuals and groups can drift along the smooth, dark surface of the millpond and savor the many sights and sounds that come alive in the stillness of the forest.

Fishing is another key drawing card at the park, as well as an assortment of camping opportunities. There are picnic areas as well.

The park features a new 6500-square-foot Visitor Center, one that boasts of exhibit space, an auditorium, classrooms, workspace and administrative offices, plus a 600-square-foot outdoor classroom. A trail leads from to the outdoor classroom at the edge of the pond.

Park officials have moved the canoe rental area to the Visitor Center. The old canoe rental space now serves as a boating access area for the millpond.

The Center also features a working classroom used for environmental education. Teachers and students from throughout North Carolina and Virginia are invited to use the classroom. There is no fee for this service (call 252-357-1191 or toll-free, 1-877-722-6762 or visit to make reservations).

A short walk from the Center is an outdoor classroom/picnic shelter, which is open to the public. There are other short trails leading from the Center to the millpond, including one that is handicap-accessible.

Merchants Millpond, which attracts over 220,000 visitors a year, is open daily (except Christmas Day). Park hours are 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (Fall and Spring); 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Winter) and 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. (Summer).

Camping reservations can be made by calling 877-722-6762.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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