Stephen's Road Nature Preserve
Stephens Road Nature Preserve is a property owned by the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, and managed as a nature preserve by Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation. The preserve protects 352 acres on the upper Mountain Island Lake watershed. Mountain Island Lake is the source of drinking water for the majority of Charlotte residents.
Location and Directions
Stephens Road Nature Preserve is located at the western end of Stephens Road in northwest Mecklenburg County, west of Beatties Ford Road.
From I-77, take exit 25, Hwy. 73/Sam Furr Rd. Go west on Rte. 73 and proceed 1.3 miles. Continue left onto Hwy. 73/West Catawba Ave. for another 1.9 miles to Beatties Ford Rd. Turn left on Beatties Ford and proceed 1.5 miles to Stephens Rd. Turn right on Stephens Rd. and continue for approximately 0.8 miles. The entrance to the preserve is gated and there is no parking and no public access.
History and Description
In 1994 the City of Charlotte acquired two parcels of land that would make up Stephens Road Nature Preserve. One tract of 79.8 acres was conveyed to the city by James B. and Germaine C. Culbertson on April 25, 1994. Another 210.03 acre tract was conveyed by Crescent Resources, Inc. on August 15. In December, 1994 the City granted custodianship of the land to Mecklenburg County, to be dedicated for watershed protection, scientific research, and conservation of habitats for plant and animal species and biotic communities.
Stephens Road now protects 343.3 acres of the upper Mountain Island Lake watershed. It is bounded on the west by the Catawba River. The preserve is primarily forested. There are also significant streams and wetlands. The area is especially important regionally for its diversity of salamanders. Uncommon species such as Spring Salamander, Red Salamander and Eastern Mud Salamander are found here.
Education and Programs
Current access only by guided walks led by Mecklenburg Park and Recreation staff.
There are no public amenities.
There are no public trails.
Flora and Fauna
Stephens Road Nature Preserve harbors a diversity of ecological communities. Nearly all of the preserve is forested. Some of the steeper terrain still holds some old growth trees, including a few large American Beech.
Along the Catawba River and associated coves are small wetlands and bottomland forests containing species such as Eastern sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), boxelder (Acer negundo), black willow (Salix nigra), river birch (Betula nigra), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), smooth alder (Alnus serrulata), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), arrow arum (Peltandra virginica), lizard's-tail (Saururus cernuus) and various rushes and sedges. These wetlands are home to an array of animals, including Raccoons, Great Blue Herons, Red-shouldered Hawks, Common Yellowthroats, Upland Chorus Frogs, Southern Leopard Frogs and various dragonflies.
On lower slopes can be found rich, "mesic" or moist hardwood forests of tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), painted buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica ), pawpaw (Asimina triloba), umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala ), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) and American Beech (Fagus grandifolia). Drier hilltops and upland areas contain species such as Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), White Oak (Quercus alba), Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata), and Post Oak (Quercus stellata ). Some upland areas were reforested with Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda).
The forests here are home to White-tailed Deer, Red-eyed Vireos, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Acadian Flycatchers, Eastern Box Turtles and Northern Dusky Salamanders. Other uncommon salamanders found in the preserve include Spring Salamanders, Red Salamanders and Eastern Mud Salamanders.