The Eno is a relatively short waterway in central North Carolina, covering a little more than 30 miles as it winds southeast through Orange and Durham counties before joining with the Flat River to form the Neuse. Eno River State Park, established in 1975 between Durham and Hillsborough, encompasses more than 4,000 acres along the river.
What’s the draw?
Five access points provide entry to this rugged environment, providing opportunities for hiking, picnicking, fishing, camping and canoeing. Talk about the ease of getting here: The park is just 15 minutes from downtown Durham and just off Interstate 85.
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A variety of easy to moderate hiking trails covering more than 28 miles give you many options. The 1.5-mile Buckquarter Creek Trail skirts the banks of the Eno and offers views of the best rapids on the river. The 3.75-mile Cox Mountain Trail treats hikers to a bouncy trip over a wooden suspension foot bridge; signage on the bridge indicates how high floodwaters rose after Hurricane Fran in 1996. The trail rises 270 feet in elevation between the river and the hilltop, requiring a long and steep climb and descent, making this the most strenuous walk in the park.
Some of the prettiest scenery is found along the 1.65-mile Bobbitt Hole loop trail. Other walks afford glimpses into North Carolina’s past. Holden Mill and Cabe Lands Trails, for example, lead around the remnants of old mills, while the Ridge Trail, once a part of an old road leading to Roxboro, passes by the remains of three 19th-century homes. The Eno Quarry Trail, as the name suggests, runs past the site of an old rock quarry that, during the early 1960s, provided stone for the construction of nearby I-85. Detailed trail maps are available at all parking areas within the park.
Picnic facilities with tables, grills, water and restrooms are at Few’s Ford and Cole Mill Access areas. For large groups, two picnic shelters can be reserved for a modest fee. Fishing is an activity naturally associated with a river, and among the common catches along the Eno are largemouth bass, bluegill and Roanoke bass – a species native to a relatively small area in northeast North Carolina and southeast Virginia. The Eno is shallow enough to be waded in most places, and there are many spots along the banks from which to drop a line. State fishing licenses are required and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission fishing regulations are enforced.
Ten family campsites are located in the park, five each at two separate locations. Reservations are required and are available for a modest fee at the park office on a first-come basis. The campsites are located about a mile from the nearest parking area, and each has an impact pad for a tent and a fire ring. One pit toilet services each group of five campsites. All supplies, including water, must be carried to the sites, and all refuse must be carried out. Group camping for up to 26 people is also available, as is primitive camping for those who prefer roughing it.
More often than not, the shallow Eno is not conducive to canoeing. The most rewarding times for canoeing naturally come after a rain, when the water level can rise from 1 to 3 feet. Portaging is necessary in many places when the water level drops below 1 foot, while canoeing can become dangerous when the river rises above 3 feet. Information about current river conditions is available at the park office near the Few’s Ford entrance.
Park entrance is free. Hours at Few’s Ford access: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. May-September. Hours at the other access points vary slightly. Info: 919-707-9300 www.ncparks.gov
Durham offerings include the 55-acre Sarah P. Duke Gardens (www.gardens.duke.edu) on the campus of Duke University. No charge for admission.
Free-to-see historic sites include Bennett Place, which preserves the meeting place where Generals William T. Sherman and Joseph E. Johnston negotiated surrender terms that effectively ended the American Civil War (www.nchistoricsites.org/bennett), and Duke Homestead showcases the home of tobacco entrepreneur Washington Duke (www.nchistoricsites.org/duke).
Families with younger children will enjoy exploring the Museum of Life + Science (www.lifeandscience.org). Open Tuesday-Sunday; admission charged.
April through August, the Triple-A minor league Durham Bulls play baseball at their modern, family-friendly stadium in Durham’s historic downtown district (www.durhambulls.com). The Durham Performing Arts Center (www.dpacnc.com) is a state-of-the-art venue staging Broadway shows and concerts.
Diverse eateries abound in the revitalized downtown area, including the Parts & Labor Restaurant at Motorco (www.partsnlabor.com) and the Bull City Burger and Brewery (www.bullcityburgerandbrewery.com).
Major upcoming events include the Art of Cool Jazz Festival (May 6-8; www.aocfestival.org), American Dance Festival (June 16-July 20; www.americandancefestival.org) and Festival for the Eno (July 2 and 4; www.enoriver.org/festival).
Area info: www.visitraleigh.com.