Raven Rock State Park
Habitats: Fall zone natural communities, including mixed pine and hardwood forest, Cape Fear River.
Key Birds: Summer: Broad-winged Hawk, Yellow-billed Cuckoo Prothonotary, Black-and-white, Prairie, Yellow-throated, Pine, and Kentucky Warblers, Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Yellow-breasted Chat. Winter: Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Hermit Thrush, and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Year-round: Bald Eagle, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, Turkey and Black Vultures, Great Horned, Barred, and Eastern Screech-Owls, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Red-bellied, Downy, and Red-headed Woodpeckers.
Best Times to Bird: Spring through early fall.
Description: Raven Rock State Park is located in the eastern Piedmont along the Cape Fear River. Within 3,953 acres of land, visitors can find a rich diversity of bird and plant life ranging from mountain laurel and Catawba rhododendron along the high river bluffs, to pink lady slippers and Carolina wiregrass in remnant piedmont longleaf pine communities. Birding the park can be a very pleasant experience with approximately 11 miles of foot trails for birders to explore. There are two main trail groups, by which all trails may be accessed, ranging from easy to challenging.
Directions: Raven Rock State Park is centrally located between Raleigh and Fayetteville off Highway 421, near Lillington. From Lillington, follow Highway 421 West toward Sanford. Approximately seven miles outside of town look for the brown Raven Rock State Park State Highway sign. Turn right on Raven Rock Road and drive approximately 2.5 miles. The road dead-ends into the park.
Birding Highlights: The central trail in the Park is the Raven Rock Trail. This loop trail is 2.2 miles in length and winds through mixed woods of pine and hardwoods to the high cliffs, which hang over the Cape Fear River. Birders can search for warblers and songbirds along the mountain laurel-covered banks of Little Creek and view soaring birds of prey and waterfowl from the overlook. The other nine miles of trails are accessed from the Raven Rock Trail. The Little Creek Trail, which parallels the creek for which it is named, forms a loop trail down to the canoe camp and back to the Raven Rock Loop. Wild Turkey, Barred Owl, and migrating warblers can be seen along the trail. The Fish Traps Trail and Northington Ferry Trail both descend down to the Cape Fear. Spotted Sandpiper are often seen feeding along the rocks in the river during migration. The longest and most challenging trail is the Campbell Creek Trail. Because this trail is 5.1 miles long and has a steep grade, it is not as frequently used. Belted Kingfisher nesting tunnels can be seen in banks cut by the creek. Many birders prefer the quiet and beauty of this trail to the more popular trails located around Raven Rock.
Many warblers nest in the park including Prothonotary, Black-and-white, Prairie, Yellow-throated, Pine, and Kentucky Warblers, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Northern Parula, and Yellow-breasted Chat. There are records of Swainson's, Cerulean, Worm-eating, Black-throated Blue and Chestnut-sided Warblers, as well as other migrants.
General Information: Raven Rock State Park opens at 8:00 am every day of the year except on Christmas Day. Park closing hours change with the seasons and visitors are encouraged to note the hours of operation as they enter the park. There have been 183 species of birds recorded at Raven Rock and visitors may pick up a species checklist and trail guides at the park office.
DeLorme map grid: page 61, B7
North Carolina Travel Map grid: H3
For more information: Raven Rock State Park, 910-893-4888; http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/raro/main.php