Little Prairie on the Upper Neuse: Horton Grove Nature Preserve

The sidewalk ended. The billboards, gas stations, and fast food restaurants of Durham, North Carolina, faded from view. I spotted a pumpkin stand and a large banner announcing a “Holy Ghost Weenie Roast” before the landscape changed to fields and ponds, livestock and horses. I passed a sign for “Free Frogs.” I blinked hard and looked again. “Free logs.” I pondered the questionable nature of my new contact lens prescription until I was interrupted by Siri, my iPhone personal navigator.

“You have arrived at your destination, 7360 Jock Road.” Siri stated, then fell silent.

I stared down a gravel road with forest on both sides. Was this really Horton Grove Nature Preserve?

It was. All 700-some acres of it.

About a mile down the gravel road, I saw the wooden sign for the preserve and pulled into the wide circular parking area.


North Durham County, North Carolina

Established in 2012, the preserve offers approximately four miles of trails surrounded by tall grasses and forested areas that meander along the Upper Neuse River Basin. Horton Grove, itself, dates back to pre-Civil War times. The preserve was part of Stagville Plantation. (Stay tuned! I’ll be writing all about that historic place soon.)

There wasn’t another car in sight. And, I have to say, it was a bit eerie. Beautiful, yes, but also a bit too remote for a lone explorer. My window was rolled down—as it ought to be on a temperate, sunny day ride. The gentle breeze swept through the pines and oaks like a trumpet call. Insects offered their own harmonious strains, and birds of various voices sang the melody.

I stayed within sight of my vehicle and photographed scenes from the 20-acre meadow surrounding the parking lot.


Information stations by the parking area at Horton Grove Nature Preserve tell about the history of the area, the nature of a prairie and its inhabitants, and a map of the trail system. (North Durham County, NC)


From my bird’s eye view in the parking lot, I could see bird feeders stationed throughout the meadow and along the prairie trail. Perfect for bird watchers! — Horton Grove Nature Preserve; North Durham County, NC


Wildflowers sprout up among the tall Indian grass, a native prairie grass that is allowed to mature to heights of up to 8 feet tall. Pollinators such as butterflies, moths, and bees (like the one pictured here) help sustain plant life and ensure the growth of our food.


God’s amazing creation at work: Did you know that 1 out of every 3 bites of food that we eat are brought to use by pollinators? — Horton Grove Nature Preserve; Durham County, NC


Just off the parking area, in the 20-acre meadow, is the 0.8 mile Holman Loop. There all three trails at Horton Grove Nature Preserve, each one named after a slave family that endured on the Stagville Plantation. The other two trails are the Justice Loop (1.6 miles) and the Hart Trail (0.6 miles). — North Durham County, NC

There are plans to extend the trail system (from four miles to ten) and to link the preserve to the Stagville Historic Site. If you’re exploring Durham and its surrounding resources, consider Horton Grove Nature Preserve. It’s quiet, primitive, and picturesque. Also, consider taking a friend or two. Have fun exploring and be safe!

2 thoughts on “Little Prairie on the Upper Neuse: Horton Grove Nature Preserve

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