McDowell Nature Center serves as the gateway to the 1107- acre McDowell Nature Preserve and is the source for educational programs and information on the preserve's natural communities, flora, and fauna. The preserve, the oldest in Mecklenburg County, has been left 90% undeveloped and protects mostly forested, rolling terrain along the banks of Lake Wylie.
- 1,107.6 acres
- Nature Center
- 56-Site Camp Ground
- Copperhead Island - Fishing and Boating Access, Primitive Group Camping
- 7 miles of hiking trails
- Picnic areas
- Wildlife viewing opportunities
Copperhead Island (Shelter and Primitive Group Camp)
The preserve features 9 trails totaling nearly 7 miles. Download a full-color, pocket-sized TRAIL MAP.
- Cedar Ridge – 0.5 miles (Moderate)
- Four Seasons Trail – 0.4 miles (Easy, Paved Accessible)Sierra Trail – 0.3 miles (Easy)
- Shady Hollow Trail – 0.6 miles (Moderate)
- Cove Trail – 0.8 miles (Moderate)
- Kingfisher – 0.9 miles (Moderate)
- Pine hollow – 0.9 miles (Moderate)
- Chestnut Trail – 1.2 miles (Moderate)
- Creekside Trail – 1.2 miles (Moderate)
- Sierra Trail - 0.3 miles (Easy)
* All trails are marked with color symbols. Mountain bikes are not permitted on preserve trails. Dogs are welcome, but must remain on a 6-foot or shorter leash at all times.
McDowell Nature Preserve preserves habitat for 119 species of birds, 21 species of mammals, 21 species of reptiles, and 14 species of amphibians. Among the unusual species that have been found at the Preserve are: Seminole bat (first record in NC), spotted salamander, Gulf Coast spiny soft-shelled turtle, and Loggerhead Shrike. McDowell Nature Preserve is also well known for its diversity of spring ephemeral wild flowers and is among the best areas in Mecklenburg County to view Pileated Woodpecker. The Preserve protects a federally endangered plant (Schweinitz's sunflower), a federal candidate species (Georgia's aster), and one rare plant (prairie dock) at its two Piedmont Prairie restoration sites. For a complete list of documented species, download
our vertebrate species checklist (137kB PDF) or contact us at 704-588-5224
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McDowell 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, participates in the Groundwater Guardian program, and serves as an ambassador for Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch.
704-583-1284 (Information and Camping Reservations)
15200 Soldier Road
(Adjacent to the McDowell Nature Preserve)
Hours: 7 a.m. – sunset
Copperhead Island is operated and maintained by Park and Recreation in cooperation with Duke Power through a land lease agreement. It serves as the only public boat launch to Lake Wylie in Mecklenburg County. The site also offers bank and pier fishing, trails, and picnicking. Visitor may also reserve the picnic shelter for day-use or rent the entire "island" for overnight group camping.
4 boat launches *
Paved trails (hiking only)
2 Horseshoe pits
Sand volleyball court
6 Rent-A-Tent sites (group camping only)
Primitive camping on the shores of Lake Wylie is also available.