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Address

Office Location:

Park and Recreation 5841 Brookshire Blvd Charlotte, NC 28216

Hours: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M - F

Contact

Patsy Houston
704-598-8857

Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge

 

Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge

 

 
 
 
 

Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge is a 850-acre peninsula extending into Mountain Island Lake, a reservoir of the Catawba River and primary drinking water source for over 700,000 people in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties. The refuge protects a diversity of natural communities, four miles of shoreline, and a natural heritage site.

Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge is located at the end of Neck Road in northwestern Mecklenburg County. Get Directions
 
Traveling North on I-77 from Charlotte
Exit 16B, Sunset Road West, to Beatties Ford Road. Turn right and proceed north for 6.5 miles until you reach Neck Road. Turn left onto Neck Road and continue 4 miles until the road bears left and turns to gravel. Continue 1/2 mile to the refuge entrance.
 
Traveling South on I-77 from Davidson
Exit 23, Huntersville. Turn right off of the exit onto Gilead Road and proceed west for 5 miles. At the stop sign, turn left on Beatties Ford Road and proceed south for 3.5 miles. Turn right onto Neck Road and continue 4 miles until the road bears left and turns to gravel. Continue 1/2 mile to the refuge entrance.
For wildlife and natural community protection, virtually all of Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge is designated as Protected Natural Area and therefore public access is restricted to specific areas. Visitors can drive the main gravel road leading through the preserve and park at the observation deck, located approximately 1 mile from the entrance. Visitors are restricted from all other areas unless participating in a public or group program conducted by Division of Natural Resources staff. There are no public trails at Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge.
 

For wildlife and natural community protection, virtually all of Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge is designated as Protected Natural Area and therefore public access is restricted to specific areas. Visitors can drive the main gravel road leading through the preserve and park at the observation deck, located approximately 1 mile from the entrance. Visitors are restricted from all other areas unless participating in a public or group program conducted by Division of Natural Resources staff. There are no public trails at Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge.

History and Description
On May 9, 1961, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission voted to proceed with the project creating Cowan's Ford Waterfowl Refuge. Four thousand acres were leased from Duke Power and other landowners along the Catawba River, just south of the Cowan's Ford dam (Lake Norman). From 1961 to 1992, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources in cooperation with Catawba Waterfowl Inc. managed the refuge which focused on waterfowl.

On May 9, 1961, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission voted to proceed with the project creating Cowan's Ford Waterfowl Refuge. Four thousand acres were leased from Duke Power and other landowners along the Catawba River, just south of the Cowan's Ford dam (Lake Norman). From 1961 to 1992, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources in cooperation with Catawba Waterfowl Inc. managed the refuge which focused on waterfowl.

In August 1992, Mecklenburg County purchased 668 acres of the refuge and renamed it Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge to reflect a change in management towards all wildlife, not just waterfowl. The entire property was designated as nature preserve following the approval of the Nature Preserve Master Plan in 1997.

The refuge's diversity of natural communities include: upland hardwood and bottomland hardwood forests, mixed pine-hardwood forests, and grasslands. In addition, several man-made features include: powerline right-of-ways, two ponds, and two small impoundments that function as temporary wetlands. The refuge protects the Duck Cove natural heritage site, known for its bottomland hardwood forests, a threatened natural community in North Carolina. The refuge is part of the Mountain Island Lake Important Bird Area, designated by the National Audubon Society due to its diversity of wintering waterfowl and breeding and migratory songbird species.
 
 
 
 

Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge contains few facilities with the exception of an observation deck. There are no restroom facilities at the refuge. The observation deck offers excellent views of a native grassland restoration and two ponds where white-tailed deer, Wild Turkeys, waterfowl, hawks, herons, and other wildlife can be readily seen.
 
Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge preserves habitat for 206 species of birds, more than any site in Mecklenburg County. In addition, 20 species of mammals, 22 species of reptiles, 12 species of amphibians, and 36 species of butterflies have been documented here.  Among the unusual species that have been found at the refuge are: Bald Eagle, bobcat, river otter, Wild Turkey, silverbell, and southern rein orchid. For a complete list of documented species, download our vertebrate species checklist (151kB PDF) or contact Latta Plantation Nature Center at 704-875-1391.
 

 

Address

Office Location:

Park and Recreation 5841 Brookshire Blvd Charlotte, NC 28216

Hours: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M - F

Contact

Patsy Houston
704-598-8857