You are here

Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Guided tours
No
Backcountry camping
Yes
Lodging
No
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Merchants Millpond State Park is home of a classic southern swamp. It provides excellent hiking and kayaking options to explore this exotic ecosystem with its massive bald cypress trees, tupelo gum trees, beach tree groves, Spanish moss, and exotic wildlife that includes alligators! Merchant Millpond has the northernmost population of the alligators, and visitors regularly observe them sunning themselves.

Situated in the tidewaters of North Carolina near the Virginia border, Merchant Millpond provides a diverse ecosystem of mixed pine and hardwood forests surrounding the low swampy wetlands of giant bald cypress and tupelo gum trees, twisted and gnarled by mistletoe and draped with eerie Spanish moss. Snakes, turtles, frogs, beavers, and a few alligators enjoy the water, while squirrels scamper along the edge of the swamp. Over 200 species of birds live in the area including geese, egrets, woodpeckers, turkeys, and owls.

The 760-acre millpond is over 200 years old and was created to provide waterpower for gristmills and a sawmill, making it the economic hub of Gates County—hence the name Merchants Millpond. Operations continued into the 1900s but ceased just before World War II, when the land was sold to developers. Fortunately, the farsighted A. B. Coleman understood the uniqueness of the area. When he bought the area in the 1960s, he donated 919 acres to the state for the creation of the park. The Nature Conservancy also contributed significant acreage, and the park was established in 1973. Today it encompasses 3,519 acres, including Merchants Millpond, the ancient Lassiter Swamp at the upper end of the millpond, and a stretch of Barrett’s Creek downriver from the millpond’s dam.

Paddling Merchant’s Millpond, creek, and swamp is the best way to experience the park. For those who don’t have a canoe or kayak, the park rents canoes in season. For those who have their own boat, the park also has a great put-in with a large parking lot and hose to clean your boat when finished. There are several ways to spend the night at the park: the family campground, the 10 canoe-in sites for families, three group canoe-in sites, three walk-in group sites, and five backpacking backcountry sites reached through the 11 miles of hiking trails. Fishing and picnicking are also prevalent.

The park is easy to get to. It is close to the Hampton Roads metropolitan area just across the border with Virginia, so on pleasant weekends, the park gets crowded. Bugs can be bad when the weather is hot, so be prepared with your favorite repellant.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Swamp. Alligators. Snakes. Cypress.

Cons

Can be buggy. On weekends can be crowded.

Features

ADA accessible
Covered picnic areas
Boat ramp(s)
Backcountry camping
Historically significant
Wildlife
Fishing
Family friendly
Flushing toilets
Near lake or river
Bird watching
Wildflowers

Access

Vehicle

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.