The Double Park that Jim Crow Built- William B Umstead State Park-Raleigh NC

For an urban park this one is huge. William B Umstead State Park is located within the city of Raleigh. It is also on the edge of the Piedmont Plateau near the fall line. This provided some definite elevation change through the hike.

Today there is the Reedy Creek Access and The Crabtree Access. In the past there were two separate parks, Reedy Creek for the black citizens and Crabtree Creek (Umstead) was for the white citizens. The parks were divided by Sycamore and Crabtree Creeks. There is however one indistinct trail that connects them and I figured out where that was.

Reedy Creek Access
Crabtree Access

The State bought about 5500 acres of worn out farmland for $1 in 1934 as part of the Resettlement Act from the federal government. It was named the Crabtree Creek Recreational Demonstration Area. The CCC came in and began to build camp grounds and day use areas. The park opened in 1937. In 1950 1000 acres were separated from the park and Reedy Creek State Park was established for the black citizens of the area. Crabtree was renamed for William B Umstead a former governor of the state who was a huge proponent of conservation. It was for whites only.

bridge in Umstead State Park

Near this bridge if you know the way is the connection between the two sections of the park. There is still no direct road connection today, only this one indistinct trail.

This allows for a great 13 mile figure eight hike through both sections of the park. I usually started on the Reedy Creek side near the site of the old Company Mill, taking the Company Mill Trail . Two reasons for this, it was closer and easier to get to Reedy Creek as it was right off I-40. To get to Crabtree required a trip through town. The Spur trail at Reedy Creek leading to Company Mill Trail was a lot shorter then the Sycamore Spur Trail that lead to the Sycamore Trail.

Millstone from The Company Mill
remains of the Company Mill Dam

About halfway around the Company Mill Loop you reach the bridge pictured above. Cross the bridge and on the other side of the road is an unmarked trail. This leads you to the 7 mile Sycamore Trail. This Trail Follows Sycamore Creek for most of it’s length.

Sycamore Creek

Sycamore Creek starts at the Big Lake. Sometimes I would go to the Crabtree Access to do the Sal’s Branch, Pott’s Branch and Oak Rock Trails for an easier, shorter hike. These trails took you to the highlights of the Crabtree section of the park. Starting at the main parking lot I took the trail, it was actually the Sycamore spur but I took the Pott’s Branch Trail at the first junction. This trail stayed along Pott’s Branch past the ruins of another mill. It is said that 30 mills once operated in the park area.

Old mill dam on Pott’s Branch

Potts Branch also took me to the tailrace of the Big Lake’s dam. It was a beautiful area.

Tailrace area of the Big Lake’s Dam

from here I would go to the Big Lake and catch the Sal’s Branch Trail back towards the parking area.


The Big Lake

Once back at the lot the Oak Rock Trail left in the other direction. This short trail of about 3/4 mile went past another old mill site and the Oak Rock.

old mill dam on the Oak Rock Trail
Oak Rock

Oak Rock was a fascinating formation. The tree seemingly grew out of the rock!

I spent many days hiking at Umstead. It was the closest State Park to home. Not that exciting of a place but one where you could get in lots of miles over some fairly rugged terrain.

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