NC State Parks: William B. Umstead State Park

“Walk in nature and feel the healing power of the trees.”   – Anthony William

We move east, LKN readers, and journey to William B. Umstead State Park. As you enter the park, there is an immediate sigh of relief as nature supports the realization that you have left the stressful, hustle and bustle of Raleigh, Durham, and Research Triangle Park and have entered a most peaceful haven. The dense forest surrounds you like a comforting friend and offers a quietness that calms even the most frazzled nerves.

The first stop can be the visitor’s center, where you will find all the information you need to make a day trip or a multi-day vacation within the park. While there, be sure to tour the interesting and multifaceted exhibit hall with the rich history and the varied ecology of the park with several interactive components that will engage all ages. The courteous and knowledgeable staff are there to answer questions and guide you in the direction of the activities that most interest you while in the park.

Brief History

“And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.” – John Muir

“Long before the first settlers, the area now known as William B. Umstead State Park was wilderness. American bison, elk, bobcats, and wolves roamed forests of oak, hickory, and beech,” according to the NC Department of Parks and Recreation website. While these animals no longer roam the area there is a diverse array of flora and fauna within the park.

In 1943 the state purchased the 5,000-plus acre area, known as Crabtree Creek Recreational Demonstration Area, for $1 from the National Park Service. Prior to that purchase, the Civilian Conservation Corps, as well as the Works Progress Administration, under the direction of the National Park Service helped construct the site while providing much needed jobs in the area. Four camps along with day-use and picnic facilities were built and the park opened to the public in 1937 as a NPS Demonstration Area Park.

The website states that, “In 1950, more than 1,000 acres of the park were established as Reedy Creek State Park, a racially segregated park for African Americans. Crabtree Creek Recreation Area was renamed in 1955 after former Governor William Bradley Umstead in recognition of his conservation efforts. In 1966, the Crabtree Creek and Reedy Creek areas were desegregated and united under one park, the William B. Umstead State Park.”


“If bread is the first necessity of life, recreation is a close second.” Edward Bellamy

There are numerous recreational opportunities to keep you active and engaged during your visit. While most of the activities are free, some have minimal costs that will fit into most budgets. Prices are available at the visitor center for everything offered on site at the park with a fee. Below is a list of some of the many amenities and activities.

  • Hiking (34.5 miles)
  • Biking
  • Rowboat rentals
  • Canoe rentals
  • Fishing
  • Horseback riding
  • Auditorium and classroom
  • Community building
  • Picnic shelters
  • RV, tent, and group camping
  • Camper cabins

Unique Features

“Time spent amongst trees is never wasted time.” Katrina Mayer

William B. Umstead State Park has three manmade lakes within its 5,579 acres of picturesque beauty. Big Lake is the largest of the three with 55 acres of water for fishing, paddling, and birdwatching. Sycamore and Reedy Creek lakes are about half the size of Big Lake and offer fishing for bass, bluegill, and crappie to name the most common caught fish within the park.

A unique and must-see feature of William B. Umstead State Park is its stunning tree art carved by artists Jerry Redi and Randy Boni of Smoky Mountain Art. A 25-foot-long red oak was transformed meticulously into a gorgeous work of art featuring a series of animals, tree branches, and leaves. This stunning piece of chainsaw carving allows everyone who makes the hike appreciate the intricate detail found in the squirrels, rabbits, swans, and owls that are beautifully carved into the wood.

At the End of the Day

“Sunsets are proof that endings can often be beautiful, too.” – Beau Taplin

I hope this article inspires you to take a trip to William B. Umstead State Park and take advantage of the beauty, amenities, and activities available at this urban state park. Although within the big city landscape, William B. Umstead State Park, one of the state’s most visited parks, offers an oasis of tranquility and the opportunity to explore nature at its most peaceful setting.

William B. Umstead State Park is located at 8801 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27617.  Park, visitor center, and park office hours vary by month. For more information visit their website at or call 919-571-4170.

Be on the lookout for next month’s issue where we venture out to visit Stone Mountain State Park.

Bon Voyage,



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