Duke Pond: Pretty on Purpose

Duke_Pond_Entrance_SignDuke Pond, one of Duke University’s most recent sustainable projects, isn’t just a pond with a purpose, it’s pretty as a picture, too.

The 5.5-acre pond, which is hemmed in by Towerview Drive, Erwin Road, and Circuit Drive on the west campus of Duke University in Durham, NC, will reclaim campus rainwater and runoff in order to save an estimated 100 million gallons of potable water a year. Duke’s Chilled Water Plant, adjacent to the reclamation area, will use this water to cool the buildings on campus.

Yesterday evening, I paid the first of what I hope will be many more visits to the pond. The space was better than I had anticipated—and I had anticipated great things!

The pond sits on 15 acres, with nearly a mile of walking trails around it. A stairway (with railing) along Circuit Drive serves as the main entrance to the pond. There are smaller entry points (paths) off Towerview Drive and the Circuit Drive parking lot as well.

The walking trails form a figure eight of sorts and are made of either a wood-chip surface or packed gravel. Portions of the trail are slightly hilly, but the course is designed so that one could walk a fairly flat loop around a section of the pond, if desired.


Already, Duke Pond is proving to be a great place to jog, walk, or simply sit and enjoy the general splendor. The hilliest part of the larger trail “system” can be seen at about 3 o’clock in this picture, along the wood-chip path. Visible in the foreground of this photo is the mostly flat, pressed gravel walking loop around part of the pond. (There is a slight incline on the left side of this loop.) Along this route, a foot bridge over the water enables a close-up view of several types of aquatic plants. — Durham, NC


On Duke Pond, aquatic plants, such as these water lily pads, are thriving…and promising to bloom very soon. — Durham, NC


These Pickerelweeds provide just the right amount of pop along the the edge of the Duke Pond. —- Durham, NC


There’s a subtle quality about the wildflowers around the Pond. Upon closer inspection, they are simply beautiful displays of creation. Pictured here: Plains Coreopsis, also known as Golden Tickseed — Duke Pond; Durham, NC


A pollinator is busy at work on a Stokes aster, which have been planted in clumps along the path. Duke Pond; Durham, NC. — Durham, NC


In total, some 41,000 native plants have been installed around Duke Pond, creating a wetlands community that graduates into upland piedmont plantings along the periphery. Pictured here is what I think to be a Sweetbay/Swamp Magnolia. — Durham, NC


At least two Canada Geese have found their way to Duke Pond. During my visit, they were quite active, squawking and flying across the water’s surface several times. — Durham, NC


There are essentially four places where the Pond can be viewed fairly close-up, with one of them being this rustically pleasing “dock.” It was just before this point that I heard the rum-rum of a bullfrog! On the pond, I spotted a duck. — Durham, NC


Geese, ducks, and bullfrogs aren’t the only wild things occupying Duke Pond. High up in the pines, I spied a very vocal hawk. (Can you see it in this photo?)


Upon closer inspection—I put my 20X zoom to work!—it appeared to be a red-tailed hawk. — Duke Pond, Durham, NC


It’s easy to forget Duke Pond is a reclamation site, but there are subtle evidences here and there—such as the stone structure in the far right corner of this photo. When I passed by it, I heard the sound of rushing water. — Durham, NC

I couldn’t be more pleased with how Duke Pond has turned out. I hope it provides the environmental benefits it was designed to achieve, and I look forward to seeing how the natural landscape grows and changes.Duke_Pond_Wildflower

Duke Pond is open from 8 A.M. until dusk. I encourage you to experience it in person, if possible!

2 thoughts on “Duke Pond: Pretty on Purpose

  1. Hi Lori,

    Enjoyed learning about the Duke Pond. Photos are lovely.
    Aunt Kay

    Sent from my iPad


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