Location and Directions
Located on Neck Rd. in northwestern Mecklenburg County, west of Beatties Ford Rd.
Traveling north on I-77, take exit 18, W.T. Harris Blvd. Turn left and proceed 1.7 miles west to Mt. Holly-Huntersville Rd. Turn left and go 1.2 miles to Beatties Ford Rd. Turn right and proceed north 3 miles to Neck Rd. Turn left on Neck Rd. and continue approximately 1 mile. Auten Nature Preserve can be seen on the north and south sides of Neck Road between SR 5588 and Arthur Auten Rd. There is no parking and no public access.
Traveling south on I-77, take exit 25, Hwy. 73/Sam Furr Rd. Turn right and proceed 1.3 miles west. Continue left onto Hwy. 73/West Catawba Ave. for another 1.9 miles to Beatties Ford Rd. Turn left and proceed 3.6 miles to Neck Rd. Turn right on Neck Rd. and continue for approximately 1 mile. Auten Nature Preserve can be seen on the north and south sides of Neck Road between SR 5588 and Arthur Auten Rd. There is no parking and no public access.
History and Description
This preserve consists of 269.3 forested acres in the Mountain Island Lake area. The site is valuable for watershed protection along McDowell Creek, a large tributary that flows into Mountain Island Lake. McDowell Creek winds through the preserve for approximately 1.5 miles.
Like most of Mecklenburg County, this preserve occupies land that was once cleared for farmed. From 1760 into the 1800's this was part of Major John Davidson's Rural Hill plantation. Major Davidson and his wife Violet lived in a plantation house about 1.3 miles west of here. (For more information about Rural Hill, see Rural Hill Nature Preserve, or go to www.ruralhill.net.)
The first parcel of land that would become part of Auten Nature Preserve was acquired August 19,1992, with additional acreage acquired in 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001 and 2009.
The preserve was named for its proximity to Arthur Auten Rd. One former landowner here was Asa Stephens. A sign identifying the location of the Stephens farm is located on the corner of Neck Rd. and SR 5588.
This sign reads:
Site of 146 acre Stephens Farm. The farm was purchased by Asa Stephens in 1901 and remained in the Stephens family until 2001 when it was conveyed to the Trust for Public Land and Mecklenburg County. Major John Davidson settled in north Mecklenburg County about 1760 and was given the land as a wedding gift in 1761. Now part of the Mecklenburg County Nature Preserve System this land helps to protect the water quality of Mountain Island Lake.
There are no public amenities
Flora and Fauna
Auten Nature Preserve is mostly forested and dominated by white oak (Quercus alba). There are some stands of loblolly pine plantation and mixed pine-oak forest. Scattered throughout the preserve are numerous dark, igneous rocks called gabbro.
Unusual for a white oak dominated forest is that there is a healthy population of pawpaw (Asimina triloba) forming a shrub layer in places. Typically, pawpaw likes moist conditions, while white oak prefers drier sites, so the combination is unusual and not readily explained. White oak acorns are an important food source for White-tailed Deer, Eastern Gray Squirrels and Wild Turkeys, all of which can be seen in this area.