As a nature and trails enthusiast, I’ve decided to take advantage of the weather and visit some of Raleigh’s city parks. (I tend to frequent the American Tobacco Trail, which is a 22-mile converted railroad bed that begins in the city of Durham and runs through Durham, Wake, and Chatham counties, but there are so many other greenways in the area that beg to be explored!)
Of particular interest to me are Raleigh’s four lakes and nature preserves: Lake Johnson, Lake Wheeler, Lake Lynn, and Shelley Lake. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll visit them all (plus some other Raleigh parks), but Lake Lynn was my first destination. I chose it because reviews hinted at wildlife aplenty.
Lake Lynn is a man-made lake that was formed in the mid 1970s for flood control purposes by damming up Hare Snipe Creek. Around the lake is a 1.9-mile paved trail referred to as the Lake Lynn Loop. Colorful posts mark off every ¼ mile. The trail is part of the Capital Area Greenway trail system. (A large section of the Lake Lynn Loop is also part of Hare Snipe Creek Trail. Perhaps this is why there are not only Lake Lynn colored markers, but also a set of more rustic mile markers along most of the route.)
In addition to the lake, the park offers a community center, playground, and tennis courts; however, I didn’t investigate these amenities during my visit, choosing instead to walk around Lake Lynn and look for interesting things to photograph.
I parked in the parking lot off of Lynn Road. There are two main parking areas–the aforementioned one off of Lynn Road and one that can be reached by way of Ray Road. (It might behoove you to enter the park’s address into your GPS. I simply entered “Lake Lynn” and my GPS took me into the bowels of an apartment complex called The Reserve—which incidentally offers a scenic view of the lake and provides pathways for its residence that lead down to Lake Lynn Park.)
Within minutes of hitting the Lake Lynn trail, I encountered wildlife galore!
I heard the great blue heron’s distinctive honk before I saw it. I hustled around a thatch of trees just in time to (sort of) focus and snap the following photo:
Around the next bend, I came upon a quirky-looking bird that I later discovered, (thanks to my trusty American Birds by Roland C. Clement), was a double-crested cormorant.
A good part of the trail spans the lake itself with the use of wooden bridges. On one such bridge I stopped to ask a fisherman, who had cast his line over the side, what was biting. “Sticks,” he replied, then demonstrated this by reeling in a large twig.
I later encountered an older gent who was overseeing three fishing poles, so I asked him the same question. “Nothing today!” was his reply, but he proceeded to tell me that the lake is home to at least four types of fish and that he routinely catches bass.
Further down the same boardwalk bridge, a girl asked me if I had seen “the turtle with a HUGE head.” Turns out, it was a snapping turtle. He never fully surfaced, but his size and shape can be ascertained through the murky water in the photo below. I concurred. His head was huge. …And he kept snapping at me, which made me very thankful that there were two feet and a sturdy bridge between us.
Lake Lynn Park is a real gem within the Raleigh city limits. Nevertheless, if you are considering a visit, here are a few things you might want to know: For starters, the trail is rather hilly. Nice, but hilly. Secondly, although there are pockets of seclusion along the trail, generally Lake Lynn, (which can be accessed from various apartment complexes and subdivisions surrounding the park), is a busy place (if my visit on a Sunday afternoon in early May was any indication). The trail is wide, but sometimes it doesn’t seem wide enough when everyone is blissfully “doing their own thing.” There are runners, walkers, K-9s large and small on leashes, baby strollers, people fishing, and cyclists who’ve perhaps never heard of “On your left!” trail etiquitte. Then, of course, there are silly hearts with cameras taking pictures of the wildlife, talking to complete strangers, and otherwise getting in the way. Or so I’ve heard.