A View of Buffalo Creek Park for Nature Lovers

When you ask Clint Calhoun to talk about the ecology and biodiversity of Hickory Nut Gorge, get ready to learn things about this place that you never knew.

We recently sat down with Clint to ask him what kinds of discoveries that outdoor enthusiasts should look for when they visit Lake Lure's newest trail system - Buffalo Creek Park.

As naturalist and environmental control officer for the Town, his is the perfect brain to pick for some truly neat information about our area.

Lucky for the rest of us, that he loves to talk about this stuff!

What to Look for at Buffalo Creek Park:

The forests of the park were once used as timber land. There are clear signs of past logging, evidenced by the vast number of logging roads and the overall age of the forest. 

The park is divided into seven ecological community types, with the dominant community being Montane Oak Hickory.

Montane Oak-Hickory Forests are dominated by a mixture of oaks, of which white oak is a prominent part. Hickories are usually a minority component, but are sometimes absent.

While most trees on the property are small to medium diameter, there are some areas where immature trees were left during the last logging cycle, thus allowing the trees to become quite large. 

It is estimated that there are about 300 plant species on the property, a handful of which are considered rare. 

The site is also home to the state endangered green salamander, Appalachian wood rat and the lampshade spider, found in and around the extensive boulder fields scattered throughout the park. 

The green salamander has an unmistakeable lichen-like pattern of green or yellow-green on a dark background. This salamander is laterally flattened and has squared toe tips.  

The forest along Buffalo Creek and some of the other lesser streams is extensively draped with Rosebay (Rhododendron maximum), doghobble (Leucothoe fontanesiana), eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), and ironwood (Carpinus americanus). 

As you move upslope along the trail, oak and hickory trees dominate the more mature areas of forest, with tulip poplar and red maple found in less mature areas of the forest.

Other plants to look for are mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum), Carolina rhododendron (Rhododendron minus), little-sweet-betsy trillium (Trillium cuneatum), Catesby's trillium (Trillium catesbaei), foamflower (Tiarella cordifolius), galax (Galax urceolata), and jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

Not to be left out, poision ivy is also scattered throughout the park. Visitors are advised to stay on the trail in order to best avoid this nuisance plant.  There are snakes in the park and yes, encounters are likely. 

We encourage you to avoid them and to refrain from killing them.  Snakes do us a great service by reducing nuisance pest populations. 

Have fun in this special place. It is an ecologically valuable tract of land, teaming with a rich biodiversity of plants and trees, just waiting to be explored.

Share your pictures and stories about your visit here.