*** ALERT ***
Cowan’s Ford, Latta Plantation, Rural Hill and Stephen's Rd. Nature Preserves will be closed on Nov 4,5 and Nov 18,19 due to deer hunts.
Location and Directions
Latta Plantation Nature Center and Nature Preserve is located at 6211 Sample Road in northwestern Mecklenburg County. You can find directions here
Latta Plantation Nature Center serves as the gateway to the 1,351 acres of Latta Plantation Nature Preserve and is the source for educational programs and information on the preserve's natural communities, flora, and fauna. The preserve, Mecklenburg County's largest, forms a green peninsula extending into Mountain Island Lake and protects a natural heritage site and several endangered plants.
Getting Around Inside the Preserve
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve is a large facility. Although all amenities are located off of one main road, it is 1.5 miles from the entrance to the lake ( see map ). Visitors can walk between amenities such as the Nature Center, picnic area, Carolina Raptor Center and Historic Latta Plantation, but most prefer to drive. To help minimize traffic with the preserve, visitors with bicycles are encouraged to utilize them to travel from one amenity to another. Please remember all bikes must remain on paved roads and are not allowed on hiking and horseback trails.
In 1981, the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department first opened Latta Plantation Park, a 654-acre "Nature Preserve." After the creation of the Nature Preserve Master Plan in 1997, the name was officially changed to Latta Plantation Nature Preserve. In the 1800's, most of the area was a cotton plantation owned by Mr. James Latta, a traveling merchant who first purchased the land in 1799. A portion of the acreage was used as a Boy Scout camp in the 1940's. Military exercises have also been conducted on the property. The property was purchased from several different owners including Crescent Resources and The Nature Conservancy. R. H. Johnson Construction once owned the majority of the property. Crescent Resources had harvested timber in some areas of what is now preserve property. The 2,810 square foot Latta Plantation Nature Center was first opened in 1982 as the Ranger Interpretive Center. The Center's name changed to Latta Plantation Nature Center in 1998 and the facility underwent its first major renovation in 2002.
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve is the County's largest nature preserve and protects over 1,343 acres of natural communities including the Beatties Ford Basic Forest natural heritage site. The preserve forms a green peninsula extending into Mountain Island Lake, the drinking water source for over 700,000 residents in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties. Its diversity of natural communities includes upland and bottom land hardwood forests, open fields, streams, and a Piedmont Prairie restoration site protecting the federally endangered Schweinitz's sunflower and Michaux's sumac. The Preserve is part of the Mountain Island Lake Important Bird Area, designated by the National Audubon Society due to its diversity of wintering waterfowl, breeding and migratory songbird species, and protection of bottom land hardwood forests, a threatened natural community in North Carolina.
|| The new picnic area restroom complex|
Amenities and other Facilities
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Visitors can literally spend the entire day at the preserve. Canoe and kayak enthusiasts will find two landing areas that provide access to Gar Creek and Mountain Island Lake. Numerous fishing
opportunities are available. Anglers ages 16 and older must have a NC State Fishing License.
Our picnic shelter can be used on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Latta Plantation Nature Center features live, native animals, a discovery hall, an outdoor amphitheater, and a gift shop. Outside, visitors can stop and observe nature in action at the National Wildlife Federation certified Backyard Habitat Garden which includes bird feeding stations, butterfly gardens, garden pond, and demonstration compost area. Self-interpretive trail guides are available for several nature preserve trails.
Other facilities located in the preserve include:
- Carolina Raptor Center , an education and rehabilitation facility dedicated to the conservation of birds of prey and home to the Southeast's largest eagle aviary,
- Latta Plantation Equestrian Center , a facility providing guided horseback rides, pony rides, horse shows, lessons, and tack store,
Historic Latta Plantation
, a restored 19 th
century federal-style home and living history farm of James Latta, open to public tours and interpretive programs.
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve has 16 miles of trails offering hikers, nature enthusiasts, and horseback riders the opportunity to explore a variety of terrain while enjoying scenic views of the lake, forests, and streams. It is the only Mecklenburg County property open to horseback riding. Thirteen (13) miles are designated as horseback and hiking trails and three (3) miles are designated as hiking only. Due to the delicate nature of sharing trails with horses, mountain bikes are permitted only on paved roads within the preserve.
Visitors bringing their own horses can park their trailer in a designated horse trailer parking lot and base out of that location to explore the entire preserve. There is a $3/horse equestrian trail user fee
payable via a drop box located in the horse trailer parking lot. Proof of 12-month negative Coggins should be available for inspection. Visitors without their own horses can take a guided horseback ride from Latta Plantation Equestrian Center
. Dogs are welcome on preserve trails, but must remain on a 6-foot or shorter leash at all times. All trails are marked with color symbols. Download
a full-color, pocket-sized trail map.
In addition to protecting the water quality of Mountain Island Lake, Latta Plantation Nature Preserve preserves habitat for 97 species of birds, 17 species of mammals, 14 species of reptiles, and 9 species of amphibians. Among the unusual species that have been found at the Preserve are: Bald Eagle, Wild Turkey, red fox, gray fox, mink, and red-spotted newt. The Preserve also protects two federally endangered plants (Schweinitz's sunflower and Michaux's sumac), a federal candidate species (Georgia's aster), and the largest population of puttyroot orchid in Mecklenburg County. For a complete list of documented species, download
our vertebrate species checklist (247kB PDF) or contact us at 704-875-1391.
Latta Plantation Nature Center is a proud member of the North Carolina Association of Environmental Education Centers and supports Environmental Educator's of North Carolina. The Nature Center is recognized as a WNCW Oasis and accepts the Oasis member discount card for gift shop purchases. The Nature Center is also a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Water Quality Coalition, is a certified National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat, and serves as an ambassador for Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch.