An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

June 19, 2012

The Flooded Cathedral

Earlier in the month we enjoyed a visit from our friends the Sherpa Girls.  Always up for an outing, I knew they would enjoy a chance to kayak on Merchants Millpond in North Carolina, and that it would be unlike anyplace two Colorado girls could experience along the Front Range.  The millpond was formed about 200 years ago as an economic venture, and through a very generous gift is now a state park.  The word pond might give you the wrong impression as it is covers more than 700 acres and is nearly two miles long.  A very unique ecosystem, it is abundant with plants and animals, including bobcats, bear, many snakes, turtles, numerous bird species, primitive long-nosed gar and bowfin, plus there are now resident alligators.  I asked one of the rangers about the gators, commenting that this must be the most northerly population, but she said they have also been spotted just over the border in Virginia.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) the alligators were shy the day we visited, but there was still much to see.

Eastern River Cooter (Pseudemys concinna concinna (I think))
Merchants Millpond (3)

Merchants Millpond (17)

Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Cephalanthus occidentalis

Merchants Millpond (18)

Merchants Millpond (10)

The Sherpa Girls
Merchants Millpond

In places there were swamp rose (Rosa palustris) petals littering the water's surface. Many of the plants found a home in the rotting trunks of trees long gone.
Rosa palustris


Merchants Millpond (22)

Merchants Millpond (29)

Common Spatterdock (Nuphar lutea ssp. advena)
Nuphar lutea ssp. advena

Merchants Millpond (21)

Your Humble Blogger

Merchants Millpond (25)

Merchants Millpond (31)

Although I did not take any pictures of it, the new visitor's center at Merchants Millpond is worth a mention. It is an LEED building that harvests its rainwater, is built with recycled materials, takes advantage of passive solar, has no-flush urinals (that do not stink), has a great view and is quite attractive. If you are interested, here is an on-line article about the building with a slide show.  This is the same building where you rent canoes and kayaks, and the Sherpas were able to enjoy 4 hours in a two-person Cadillac of a kayak for a mere pittance of $14.  Bargains like this are few these days.

Merchants Millpond (23)

Merchants Millpond (32)

Merchants Millpond (30)

The pond can be lovely at night too.
Night Sky

Normally when I make time for church it is a solitary affair, occasionally a dog may join, but it was nice to have some company in the cathedral.


  1. Wonderful! My great-grandfather Michael operated the mill at Merchants. He and two brothers immigrated from Wales around 1865, and he somehow made his way to Gates County. My aunt says she still recalls the lilt of his Welsh accent. Thanks for this great photo set!

  2. Wow, How beautiful and calm looking! Your photographs are fantastic. I would think that in a place like that you might be eaten alive by mosquito's.

  3. Beautiful photos indeed! This is worth to visit. Thanks a lot for sharing such page.

  4. My first thought was mosquitoes too, but the scenery is worth a bite or two. Interesting tress grow there.

  5. I can why you'd worship at that cathedral. Stunning! The trees appear to be floating. I love that image of the dragonfly on the kayak. I'd sooner the gators kept their distance myself. I'm camping in Baxter State Park in Maine later this summer for some hiking and canoeing. Nothing like communing with nature.

  6. Love the Spatterdock! Is it a relative of water lilly. Also, I imagine there is an entertaining reason for that common name.

  7. Lovely photos, know it was a great trip. Those nightime pictures are really seeing the stars.

  8. I never thought you'd have swamps like that in North Carolina ! Reminds me of the everglades. I'm sure your guests were suitably impressed.

  9. Absolutely gorgeous, but is that last photo really night or the previous photo turned upside down and cropped? I think you cheated to see if anyone would notice.

  10. Oh, Les, this is my kind of church. Hallelujah!

  11. What a treat to come along on your divine journey. It was spiritual.
    I'm curious whether you took your good camera on your paddle. I've lost a couple of cell phones overboard while kayaking so just wondered!

  12. That's quite a beautiful outing. So much to see for sure! It looks quite tranquil too.

    Not sure why but your comment on my blog this morning disappeared. Thanks for letting me know what happened at the nursery.

  13. The trees are just so wonderful with those unique shapes. Beautiful pictures you have captured for us and at that price, I am surprised the water is not full of floaters!

  14. Your photos are beautiful -- they definitely make me want to visit Merchants Millpond.

    I'm dismayed by your last photo, though, which is clearly not a nighttime image, but as Carolyn pointed out, a manipulated copy of the previous shot. Things like that can really compromise a reader's trust in a blogger's reliability.

  15. Michael,
    I am glad I could prompt a family memory for you. When I was a young teen I had a grass cutting business and one of my best customers was Welsh. I loved to listen to her speak.

    Believe it or not there were no mosquitoes. However, we stopped for lunch at a campground and despite me being very careful with what I touched, and a heavy coat of DEET, I still came home with chiggers.

    Thank you for your comment.

    Many of the trees are not necessarily aquatic, but have learned to adapt.

    I do not so much worship as I commune. I hope you have a great time at Baxter. Please take lots of photos for blog fodder.

    Unfortunately I do not know the spatterdocks origins, but is has many other common names and seems to be fairly widespread.

    I was indeed a great trip.]

    We have swamps like this in Va. too, and I have seen this type of ecosystem as far north as Maryland and Delaware.

    It was a friendly cheat with the photographer taking artistic license. But apparently not everyone appreciates such gestures.

    Nice to have you in the choir!

    One of my delayed Christmas presents was a waterproof case for my good camera. This was its first test, but I was still petrified that something might happen to the camera. Fortunately this body of water is for paddle traffic only, no speed boats or jet skis.

    Who know the ways of blogger comments? We will need to ask the wizard when we get to Emerald City.

    Some of the trees looked too much like people.

    I am glad you took the time to comment. However, I thought it would have been obvious that the photographer was taking a little license. There are several examples throughout the history of this blog where I have only shown the watery reflection as a subject and not the actual subject. It is just how I see things.


  16. Hi Les, Thanks for taking us along with your guests. Great images as always. I find the bulbous looking tree trunks fascinating. Is that to do with the fact that they grow standing in water? Whatever the reason they look quite pre-historic. I love that last shot of the stars.It is the perfect ending for your post.

  17. These are great photos, Les. I really love the subject.

  18. This is definitely my idea of church:) The trees and area are pieces of art....but the star filled night is the icing on the cake. Very magical.