Camp North Carolina recently spoke with Jeff Turner, the Superintendent of Merchants Millpond State Park in North Carolina. He shared with us some of the top attractions in the park, where to go canoe camping, and why you need to drive 35 minutes to find a McDonald’s. Listen to our full interview here:
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Merchants Millpond State Park Camping NC
Camp North Carolina: I’m talking with Jeff Turner today. He’s currently the acting Superintendent at Merchants Millpond State Park. Jeff, why don’t you start with getting us acquainted with how long the Park has been there and how it got started?
Jeff Turner: Merchants Millpond State Park has been a State Park in North Carolina since 1973. It gets its name from the Mill Pond that has been here for 200 years. Some local folks that dammed up Venice Creek and the Mill Pond was formed. And in 1973 a land owner named A.B. Coleman donated the pond and a few acres to the State and the same year the Nature Conservancy donated about 900 acres, and Merchants Millpond got its start. The name came from the businesses that popped up while the mill was in operation. In the 1940s, the Mill went out of operation and the name has stuck. Merchants Millpond has been here since 1811 and a State Park since 1973.
We have camping, canoeing, hiking, picnic shelters. We’ve got a nice, new visitor center. And granted it is a nice, new visitor center, but the enjoyment – the pearl – of the State Park is getting outside the doors.
CNC: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, specifically why types of camping do you offer there? Is it tent up to RV or just tents?
Jeff Turner: We have three different types of camping. We have drive-up campsites, a platform, picnic tables, a bathhouse with hot showers and running water. That sort of thing in the middle of a group of campsites. We also have canoe tube camping. Actually, two types of canoe tube camping. One where you can canoe out on the pond or you can canoe four and a half miles down the creek through a new set of platforms that we have. We also have backpack camping, where you can hike two and a half miles out to your campsite.
CNC: Oh, I like that a lot. Does that tend to be pretty popular? The backpack ones.
Jeff Turner: Actually that’s one of our least popular ones. Being that we offer the canoe camping, a lot of people like that idea of being able to canoe out to the campsite and then explore the pond, especially in the summer months.
CNC: Okay. Now, what are some of your favorite attractions in and around that area?
Jeff Turner: Besides the Mill Pond? We are located in northeastern North Carolina and Merchants Millpond State Park is the highlight of Gates County. Anything else, and I mean anything else, you have to really go outside the county to get to.
Jeff Turner: For instance, the closest McDonald’s is 35 minutes away. The closest Wal-Mart is 35 minutes away. Pretty much the closest hotel room is 35 minutes away
Jeff Turner: And it makes no difference which direction you go. It’s all 35 minutes way.
CNC: Sure. Just two more questions for you, Jeff.
Jeff Turner: Sure.
CNC: If you were going to spend just one hour at Merchants Millpond State Park, how would you spend your time there?
Jeff Turner: One hour, by gosh. We do have three trails that you can take in an hour. One of them is a third of a mile trail that sticks out onto a peninsula that you can get a good look at the Mill Pond. I would spend at least 30 minutes on that trail, looking around, and the next 30 minutes planning out how to come back.
CNC: Okay. And if you could spend just one night at Merchants Millpond State Park, which specific campsite would you stay at and why?
Jeff Turner: I would stay our family canoeing and campsites. The pond is unique for this area and it’s almost unique for the United States. It is a southern swamp. A southern swamp flows into the Mill Pond. It is a coastal pond. If I only had one night to spend here, I would very much explore as much of the pond as I could. The hiking trails are great, but the pond is unique.
CNC: Very cool. Well, thank you so much, Jeff, for taking some time out of your day to chat with us about Merchants Millpond State Park.
Jeff Turner: You’re very welcome.