Update: Historic Yates Mill County Park Programs

Historic Yates Mill County Park ProgramsOver Memorial Day weekend, my in-laws visited from Maryland. Wanting to find something new to explore that is appropriate for both older and younger people, I researched the upcoming Wake County Parks & Recreation events. I found a fun event at Historic Yates Mill County Park called “Messing About with Boats” that featured a reading from The Wind in the Willows and boat-making craft. The event was super affordable at $2/person, only 1.5 hours long and for ages 6+. I formally registered everyone except Claire (who’s only 3) knowing that she would enjoy the story and “help” the adults with their crafts. The entire program exceeded my expectations!

DSC_0117The instructor started the class with a coloring activity as the participants arrived. We colored paper animal masks of characters Badger, Toad and Otter from the book. Then, we constructed our masks with either popsicle sticks or string. After the coloring activity, the instructor presented material about the mill’s history and different types of energy. She catered the presentation to all age groups and made it especially interactive for the young ones. Next, the instructor walked us through creating a boat from an Altoid box and powered by stored-up rubber band energy. She related the craft to the energy lesson and also read from The Wind in the Willows story.

DSC_0126After everyone finished making their boats, we headed outside to the docks to launch our boats. Sure enough, our wound-up rubber bands caused the plastic paddles to propel the boats a few feet into the water. The instructor came prepared with a net to scoop up the boats so the kids could try again. The entire program was a perfect combination of creating, science, and hands-on experimenting for this age group.

After the program finished, our family enjoyed a picnic lunch near the water. Ashley found a quiet spot on the dock to read while Claire continued to perfect her boat launch. Then, we walked a short ways to the old mill and snapped pictures of the dam. Finally, we headed back towards the main building and crossed the bridge over the pond admiring how many turtles we could spot.

While we’ve been to Historic Yates Mill County Park several times in the past, I’d never registered for one of their programs. The morning’s activities were perfect for our mix of little ones and grandparents. Each Wake County Park features a monthly newsletter that you can subscribe to for staying in the loop about upcoming programs. I look forward to finding another great event to attend soon!

Thumbs up: age-appropriate programs, instructor’s knowledge and enthusiasm of subject material, 

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Historic Yates Mill County Park


This post originally appeared on Southwestraleigh.com where you can learn more about how to live, work, and play in the Creative District.

Even though the Historic Yates Mill County Park has only been open for less than six years, Yates Mill dates back to the early 1800’s and is the only gristmill still standing in Wake County.  Throughout the mill’s history it changed ownership about a dozen times and the park is now owned through a partnership between NC State, Yates Mill Associates, Wake County, and the NC Dept of Agr & Consumer Services.

Historic Yates Mill County Park is located at 4620 Lake Wheeler Rd, about 3 miles south of I-40/440.  After winding down a short entrance road you arrive at a large parking lot with a beautiful research and education center as the backdrop.  The A.E. Finley Education and Research Center is a beautiful stone and wood building that contains an exhibit hall, classrooms, auditorium, and back porch complete with rocking chairs overlooking the pond.  They offer programs for people of all ages and here are just a few upcoming events to highlight:

After you’ve finished exploring the Park Center, head to one of the trails for a walk out and around the pond.  We explored the Millpond Trail (1 mile), which loops around the pond offering breathtaking views of the wildlife, water, and flora.  On this trail, you’ll pass by the old mill and dam, boardwalks along the pond that are great for fishing, several picnic areas, the Field Classroom, and tree markers that correspond to the “Tree Identification Trail” brochure at the Park Center.  Even though it’s an unpaved path, it’s quite wide and flat but not suitable for strollers in all areas.  Being a beautiful sunny day, I passed quite a few people jogging the trail too.  Whatever you do, be sure to stop by the mill yard and dam and take tons of pictures!

The two other trails we didn’t have time for today are the High Ridge Trail and the Creekside Trail.  The trail map shows that High Ridge Trail is more strenuous and about .78 miles and connects up with the Millpond Trail.  Creekside Trail is an out and back unpaved trail that is 2 miles in total length.

This park is jam-packed with activities and sights, but also has several peaceful areas if you just want to relax a bit.  Try your luck fishing from one of the boardwalks, enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the many spots along the Millpond Trail, or take a nap in the rocking chairs on the back porch.  So, whether you came for excitement and learning or quiet time and reflection there’s something for everyone.

Thumbs up: photo ops, serenity, educational exhibits, pond, mill and dam

Thumbs down: trail maps don’t indicate whether paths are stroller-friendly (thanks to the sweet mom-daughter team that helped us out)

Lassiter Mill Park

Lassiter Mill Park is a hidden gem of a park.  It is located inside the belt line at the intersection of Lassiter Mill Rd & Lassiter Falls Circle and is home to a beautiful dam where Crabtree Creek flows through.  You can see remnants of the old working mill on the far side of the creek. There is also a plaque with information about the mill on the bank of the water.

Ashley sitting near the information plaque for the old mill
View of the dam from the bank of the creek
Old mill on the opposite side of the creek

This is a great spot to bring a picnic lunch and eat in the open fields or on one of the few picnic tables. For the adventurers, shimmy down the rocky stairs for a closer view of the water. I wouldn’t recommend doing this with a baby unless you have a helper (thanks Bill).  There are also plenty of spots for fishing and signs along the water displaying fishing rules and regulations.

Bill with Ashley on the rocks near the dam
Ashley and I looking across the dam
Another view of the dam

Parking is rather limited so come early.

After you’ve finished exploring the park, walk on the paved path towards Lassiter Mill Road and make a left. After the bridge, cross the street where you’ll find access to the Crabtree Creek Trail, which is perfect for biking, walking, or running. We walked for about a mile on this paved section and then had a picnic on one of the many benches along the greenway. There is an open field with picnic tables but we weren’t up to pushing the stroller through medium-height grass. Along the way we also walked over a beautiful bridge that would make for great photo ops!

The open area with a few picnic tables
The bridge we crossed over is great for photo ops
Crabtree Creek Trail is paved and wide – perfect for all adventures!
The entrance to the trail from Lassiter Mill Rd

Thumbs up: beautiful scenery, walking trails, picnic/photo ops

Thumbs down: access to dam