Haw River Park in the Fall

One last blast from 2021 before we get started on 2022. So many events have already been planned for 2022, I started the 2022 Events page to try to keep track.

But here’s the last hike from 2021.

The Iron Ore Belt Access trail in Haw River State Park is about 45 minutes south of Martinsville. The official address is 6068 N Church, Greensboro, North Carolina. Somehow the address makes it sound like it is in or near a developed area but it has a remote feel to it as you are driving out to get to it.

Iron Ore Belt Access Welcome Sign

This trail is in the Haw River State Park, a 1,485 state park that straddles Rockingham and Guilford counties in North Carolina. This is a newer park with the first trails having been built in mid-2016.

The Dan River Basin Association, which announces their monthly hikes and kayaking trips on Meetup, met here in November of 2021 to hike the Iron Ore Pit Trail and take in the changing leaves.

Picnic Facilities at the Trail Head

There are actually two trails here. The primary trail is the 3.2 mile long Great Blue Heron Loop Trail, which winds through hardwood forest, along wetlands, and by old farm fields. The Iron Ore Pit Trail is a .35 mile cut-off from the Great Blue Heron Trail.

Well Marked Trails Wander Through the Park
Trail Map from State Brochure

The Iron Ore Pit Trail is essentially a cut-through that takes you by one of several historic surface level pits that has been used for mining ore from the 30-mile long iron ore belt that stretches from Salem to the Haw River.

Hikers Gathered Around the Fenced Off Iron Ore Pit

There is nothing actually in the pit except for some Christmas ferns. In fact, if it didn’t have a fence around it, you might miss it.

The Iron Ore Pit

But if you pay attention to the area around you, there are whispers along the trail to tell you that this place is a little different. Our Hike Leader, Wayne Kirkpatrick, encouraged us to pick up one of the rocks along the trail and feel the weight. Iron ore makes them a great deal heavier than you would expect.

Hike Leader Wayne Kirkpatrick

If you are the type to enjoy contemplating the passage of time and people through a space, these rocks are the tip-off to let you know that you have arrived.

Lesley, J. P. (1871). Note on the Titaniferous Iron Ore Belt, near Greensboro, North Carolina. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 12(86), 139–158. http://www.jstor.org/stable/981685

According to the state brochure for this trail, the Speedwell Furnace was established about 5 miles north of the park in 1770 and could very well have harvested ore from this site. There are now only remnants of Speedwell, later Troublesome Creek Ironworks, but this belt was actively harvested from at least that time until after World War II.

Evidence of the Iron Ore Belt

River fans will appreciate that these are the headwaters of the Haw River. It is spring fed and moves imperceptibly. It seems like little more than a swamp just off of the trail; however, in reality, this is the beginning of a 110 mile journey down to Cape Fear River.

If you are interested in kayaking the Haw River, check out the Haw River Trail site. It lists several area outfitters and gives descriptions of what you can expect from the river at each put-in. The Haw River Trail is part of a state-wide Mountains-to-Sea Trail and extends 80 miles from the Haw River State Park to Jordan Lake in Chatham county.

Headwaters of the Haw
Grassy Plains along the Haw Headwaters

The Haw River is enjoying a resurgence in interest and, per American Rivers, is the most popular whitewater paddling river in the North Carolina Piedmont Region.

It looks like the first available put in on this part of the Haw is Brooks Bridge. According to the River Kings, a local group of whitewater kayakers and prolific YouTubers, anyone can run this stretch. It’s just a beautiful 4.5 mile stretch of river with nothing to trip anyone up.

All in all, a beautiful hike.

I really recommend taking advantage of guided hikes when you can. Wayne Kirkpatrick is a one of the hike leaders for both Homestead Hikers and Dan River Basin Association and is a wealth of information.

For instance, he taught us how to identify Christmas ferns by the odd notch at the base of the pinnules. (I had to look up “pinnule”. It’s the individual leaf that connects to the stem up the middle, or “midrib”).

Identifying a Christmas Fern

And, believe it or not, this is a muscadine vine crawling up the tree.

Huge Wild Muscadine Vine

One of the many things that I enjoy about living in the Martinsville/Henry County area is the number of trails available. I come home with a lot of pictures of trees but, can you blame me? I particularly like this one.

An Autumn Hike at Haw State Park

Roanoke Outdoor Adventure Group is currently planning “Hike & Pint” hikes that pair up a group hike with a visit to a local brewery. I haven’t been out with that group yet but this hiking series is tempting, even though the weather is questionable this time of year. Be sure to take a look at them if you are local and getting a little cabin fever.

Fall Creek Falls, North Carolina

Here in Henry County, we are very close (about 3 miles, depending on where you are standing) from the North Carolina border. In fact, when I head to the Ridgeway library, I actually cross the border into North Carolina and back into Virginia on my way.

Ever since we moved here, a neighbor who became a very close friend has been telling us that we had to go check out the waterfall on DeShazo Road.   From what he was saying, I was picturing a smaller stream with an abandoned falling-down mill and an arduous hike but I really couldn’t have been more wrong. Continue reading Fall Creek Falls, North Carolina