Bates Old River

John Grego, 07/2009

I headed down to Highway 601 to visit the park's newest addition. While most of the new property is not yet open to the public, the property between Bates Old River and Highway 601 apparently can be explored. I crossed the northern Bates Old River bridge, ignored the first road to the property and parked on the 601 embankment. Just past the powerline easement is a sign with a useful map to the property (see photo). The first trail to the right leads you into the heart of the ridge-and-swale system that characterizes the property; after the trail ended, I travelled along one of the ridges a bit more, but turned back when it merged with another ridge. There were a lot of attractive mid-sized bald cypress in the swales.

After exploring the other side trails, I set out on the trail that follows the inner curve of Bates Old River--this trail has real potential as a park resource. The first part of the trail was excellent, with good views of the river and an open understory. The canopy seemed to be dominated by bald cypress, overcup oak, sweet gum, and water hickory, but I wasn't paying particularly close attention. The trail became much more intermittent as I proceeded, but it wasn't difficult to follow the edge of the oxbow lake all the way to the southern Bates Old River bridge. The embankment was steep (and covered in kudzu), but the walk on the causeway allowed for good views of soaring birds.

Birding List

  • Anhinga 6
  • Great Blue Heron 3
  • Great Egret 3
  • Little Blue Heron 3
  • Green Heron 1
  • Wood Stork 10
  • Black Vulture 2
  • Turkey Vulture 1
  • Mississippi Kite 3
  • Red-shouldered Hawk 3
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo 9
  • Barred Owl 1
  • Chimney Swift 5
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker 7
  • Downy Woodpecker 1
  • Pileated Woodpecker 3
  • Acadian Flycatcher 6
  • White-eyed Vireo 18
  • Red-eyed Vireo 3
  • Fish Crow 4
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow 10
  • Barn Swallow 9
  • Carolina Chickadee 1
  • Tufted Titmouse 6
  • Carolina Wren 17
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 4
  • Northern Parula 2
  • Common Yellowthroat 4
  • Summer Tanager 1
  • Northern Cardinal 12
  • Blue Grosbeak 2
  • Indigo Bunting 10
  • Common Grackle 1

I made a quick sketch of this map as a reference for my visit to the tract.

The hike along Bates Old River afforded many opportunities for visiting the oxbow lake's edge. Northern Rough-winged Swallows perched in the willows while feeding on the lake's surface.

Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos moscheutos). I also photographed Maryland Meadow-beauty (Rhexia mariana) and Rose-pink (Sabatia angularis)

Red-spotted Purple and Viceroy feeding on minerals from a deer carcass; Question Marks and a Zebra Swallowtail fed or hovered nearby.

Aquatic turtles climb all the way up the 601 embankment and some apparently make nests near the shoulder; this is one of three I saw as I walked back to my car.

Underwing moth (probably Catocala ilia); the hidden underwing is a brilliant orange when the moth is in flight.

Gustavo Pena's roadside memorial had been recently decorated

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Last modified: Aug 10, 2009 by Edward Kujawski (
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