Little more than an hour east of Charlottes skyline, the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge offers a different landscape altogether. Here, the high-rises are the towering pines and the traffic moves without stoplights or congestion, though you may hear an occasional honk.
The refuge, between Wadesboro and Ansonville (off U.S. 52) is about a 50- mile drive.
To see and do
The Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1963, is one of more than 550 such sanctuaries across the United States, and the closest one to Charlotte. It covers 8,500 acres and provides habitat for migratory birds and resident wildlife.
The origins of the refuge go back to fall 1934, when Lockhart Gaddy, once an avid goose hunter, decided to befriend geese and other waterfowl by turning a 1-acre pond into a safe haven. Four live decoys were used to attract a small number of Canada geese to Gaddys Goose Pond. By the early 1950s, more than 10,000 Canada geese and 1,000 wild ducks wintered at the small refuge. Waterfowl werent the only visitors: Thousands of wildlife enthusiasts began coming as well. In 1952 alone, people from 47 states and 11 foreign countries signed the guestbook. Eleven years later, the federal government established the considerably larger refuge, mostly occupying land south of the Pee Dee River in Anson County.
Activities at the sanctuary are somewhat limited. As a haven for wildlife, numerous areas of the refuge are shut off from the public at various times during the year. The peak times to observe waterfowl are the cooler months mid-September through February. Layered clothing is suggested; during warmer months, visitors are advised to guard against chiggers, ticks and mosquitoes.
The aptly named Tall Pines Nature Trail is an easy 3/4-mile walk that loops through stands of loblolly pines and hardwoods. This path connects to the Brown Creek Nature Trail and boardwalk. The Gaddy Covered Bridge Trail features two quarter-mile segments.
No waterfowl hunting is allowed in the refuge. Fishing is permitted at Sullivan Pond, near the refuge entrance, at Arrowhead Lake (near the center of the sanctuary) and along Brown Creek and the Pee Dee River, mid-March to mid-December. A primitive boat ramp is at Arrowhead Lake. An North Carolina fishing license and a free refuge permit are required. Catfish and largemouth bass are common catches.