Category Archives: Durham Creek Week

Tributary C of Northeast Creek: Where does your water go?

Creek Week is coming March 16 through 24. During that week Durham is focusing attention on how individual citizens and property owners can with modest efforts deliver significant benefits to the quality of water moving downstream, especially to Jordan Lake.

A fun activity during Creek Week is to find the path that water from your roof, sidewalk, driveway, and patio or deck takes as it goes to Northeast Creek, down Northeast Creek and into Jordan Lake, and down the Cape Fear River to Wilmington.

To do that, we must perceive streams and their tributary flows of runoff (the water) in the foreground and land in the background. Focusing on the flash flood zones at full flood (the flood zones identified on the maps) shows the land as necks extending into the fully flooded lake headwaters. After all, one of the primary purposes of Lake Jordan was mitigation of the flash flooding that often occurred in the Haw River and New Hope Creek basins.

The coloring of the flood zones represent the following:

  • Solid blue: 1% annual chance flood hazard
  • Blue with red diagonal stripes: Regulatory floodway
  • Gold: 0.2% annual chance flood hazard
  • Black with gray diagonal stripes: Future conditions 1% annual chance flood hazard.

A previous post showed that Parkwood comprises parts of three sub-basins:

  • The main stream of Northeast Creek on the east;
  • Tributary C feeding Parkwood Lake in the center;
  • Tributary D draining the western part of the McCormick high land and streams from Hunters Woods joining and running down Wineberry to the west.

This post presents maps to help find the path that the water takes from the roof of a particular house to Tributary C of Northeast Creek, which feeds the Parkwood Lake.  Future posts will look at Tributary D and the main stream of Northeast Creek.

Skim through the maps to the part of Tributary C that you want to examine and then click on the map to enlarge.  To enlarge further use the + keys in your viewer or Ctrl-+ on the keyboard.  There will be some street references in the text following each map.

Yellow lines mark the sub-basins of Tributary C.  Blue lines are the creeks in the area in the map title.  Dotted blue lines are intermittent creeks inferred from the topography or known significant stormwater pipes.  The impervious surfaces of roofs are orange, and the impervious surfaces of parking lots, driveways, and other concrete structures are gray.

Looking from the mouth of Tributary C and Northeast Creek, the sequence of maps examines each upstream branch and the main stream of Tributary C back to its source near NC 54.

A map of the mouth of tributary C at Northeast Creek with flood zones marked
Mouth of Tributary C at Northeast Creek

The mouth of Tributary C is a wetland flood plain that cycles between swamp forest in drier times and then snags (dead trees that are habitat for wildlife) and freshwater marsh in wetter times.  You can see this same sort of landscape on the north side of NC 54 by Woodcroft Shopping Center.

Runoff from the roofs and drives flows through the yards or down the streets to the cul-de-sacs and down slopes into the bottomlands.

A map of Tributary C south of the Parkwood Lake dam
Tributary C South of the Parkwood Lake Dam

The main stream south of Parkwood Lake comes down the spillways from the lake through woods, under Sedwick Road, and into the bottomlands. An intermittent stream drains the runoff from the houses on Dedmon Court, Donnelly Court, Newhall Road, and Sedwick Road.  An intermittent stream on the west side of the bottomlands drains the runoff from two houses on Sedwick Road and one on Grandale Road.

A map of the west side headwaters of Tributary C at Parkwood Lake
Tributary C as Parkwood Lake and the West Side Headwaters

The runoff from the houses on the west side of Parkwood Lake primarily flows down the streets, across Pelham Road and into the lake. The runoff from the houses on lake flows directly into the lake.

The runoff from the east side of Grandale Road just north of Sedwick Road is directed into the ditch on the north side of Sedwick Road and is a part of this section of Tributary C.

A map of the development east of Parkwood Lake that drains into the lake.
Tributary C – East Side of Parkwood Lake

The east side of Parkwood Lake drains the west side of Revere Road and Larkspur Circle in addition to the houses along Newhall Road and the lakefront houses. There seem to be two more-or-less permanent streams draining from either corner of Larkspur Circle.  There is significant Parkwood common land in the center of this block that aids in soaking up rainfall from Larkspur Circle and Revere Road.  Another stream drains Temple Lane and Buttonwood Court.

A map of the west fork of Tributary C and the development that is in its headwaters
Tributary C West Fork Headwaters

The west fork headwaters drain part of The Ridges of Parkwood, part of Parkwood Village, and some of the houses on Wenonah Way,  Runoff from the west fork headwaters flow directly into the Parkwood Lake forebay (former lotus pond).

A map of the headwaters of the two middle forks of Tributary C and the development in it
Tributary C – Middle Forks Headwaters

The headwaters of the two middle forks of Tributary C drain the southeast side of the McCormick Road highland.  The southernmost of the two middle forks drains most of Parkwood Village.

A map of the flood zones and development of the section of the main stream of Tributary C north of the forebay. that is, the former lotus pond of Parkwood Lak
Tributary C – Main Stream to Lake Forebay (former Lotus Pond)

This section of Tributary C shows the main stream in the area of the trail from the Parkwood ballfield to the Parkwood Lake forebay (former lotus pond).  The lower section is a significant bottomland that has a variety of interesting native plants such as magnolia, red maple, and native honeysuckle with hearts-a-bustin’, pussytoes, wild oregano, and lyre-leaf sage in the uplands.

A map of the drainage of Tributary C from east of Revere Road. Major sections of the drainage move through stormwater pipes that go under the parking lot of the former shopping center (now the Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman mosque) and empty into Tributary C through a single outfall
Tributary C – Drainage from East of Revere Road

The area of Tributary C east of Revere Road mostly drains through stormwater pipes the run under the parking lot of Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman mosque (former Parkwood Shopping Center).  The stormwater pipes converge and empty through a single pipe outlet to Tributary C opposite Parkwood Village’s road to its swimming pool (the Pool in the Woods).  This area drains from the hill on Brentwood Road near Bradley Circle and an area north of Brentwood Road almost to Travis Circle.  It also drains the slope behind Parkwood United Methodist Church and the apartments up to the parcel that was set aside in the original design for a water tower and conveyed in that designation to the Parkwood Association.  (In 1961, there were no city water and sewer services this far out.  The Parkwood subdivision had a private utility that provided water from wells and owned and operated the package sewage plants.)

This elaborate stormwater system is the legacy of the philosophy of controlling stormwater that was prevalent at the beginning of the 1960s — pipe it away.  The site preparation for “Parkwood Center”, the commercial and institutional core of the community froze some of the original stream system into the landscape while concentrating the flow under parking lots into a single stream.  The object was to dump the excess water as fast as possible into Tributary C.  After almost sixty years we can see that that strategy leads to stream scour and transportation of soil down the creek system.  And creates erosional undercutting of the stream bank opposite the single stormwater pipe outlet.

A map of the headwaters of the main stream of Tributary C showing flood zones, development, and a retention pond for a town home complex
Tributary C – Headwaters of Main Stream

The headwaters of Tributary C lie completely south of NC 54 because NC 54 was built on a ridge between two tributaries of Northeast Creek and because subsequent engineering of the highway has sharpened the separations of the drainage.  The headwaters now are developed as the Meadows at Southpoint, a town home community that uses regulation-permitted retention ponds instead of open space to manage run-off from its newly constructed houses, driveways, sidewalks, roads, and other impervious surfaces.

During construction, the Parkwood community experienced the fact that  regulations are based on normal patterns of rainfall for construction of retention ponds.  When there was a pattern of heavy rainfall, the retention ponds released sediments, particularly colloidial clay, into Tributary C; that turned the Parkwood Lake brown.

Residents in the Auburndale Drive-Lamarck Court area were among the first to notice the sediments because they monitor their nearby creeks.

In principle, with the completion of construction, the permanent retention ponds will prevent a recurrence. Continued citizen monitoring of their local creeks is the principal way of catching these situations early enough.  And this is true for all of the streams draining into Northeast Creek.

That is why Northeast Creek Streamwatch is encouraging Upstream Neighbors/Downstream Neighbors, a volunteer program of monitoring neighborhood streams and conservation on your own property to harvest rainwater, conserve topsoil, and absorb water during abnormal rainfall.

Having attention on the portion of water flow from your house to the nearest creek is a critical part of what gets sent downstream.

Which Sub-basin of Northeast Creek Are You In? (For Parkwood Area Residents)

Creek Week is coming March 16 through 24. During that week Durham is focusing attention on how individual citizens and property owners can with modest efforts deliver significant benefits to the quality of water moving downstream, especially to Jordan Lake.

A fun activity during Creek Week is to find the path that water from your roof, sidewalk, driveway, and patio or deck takes as it goes to Northeast Creek, down Northeast Creek and into Jordan Lake, and down the Cape Fear River to Wilmington.

A map showing the main stem of Parkwood Creek, the watershed for Tributary C, and the watershed for Tributary D
Sub-basins of Northeast Creek in the Parkwood area

To do that, we must perceive streams and their tributary flows of runoff in the foreground and land in the background. Focusing on the flash flood zones at full flood (the flood zones identified on the Sub-basin map) shows the land as necks extending into the fully flooded lake headwaters. After all, one of the primary purposes of Lake Jordan was mitigation of the flash flooding that often occurred in the Haw River and New Hope Creek basins.

We see that Parkwood comprises parts of three sub-basins:

  • The main stream of Northeast Creek on the east;
  • Tributary C feeding Parkwood Lake in the center;
  • Tributary D draining the western part of the McCormick high land and streams from Hunters Woods joining and running down Wineberry to the west.

To find out which sub-basin you are in, find where your house is on the map.

For reference, look for these landmarks:

  • Parkwood Elementary School
  • Parkwood Fire Station
  • Gas House Shell Station
  • South Durham (SoDu) Farmers Market at Greenwood Commons.

Click on the image of the map. Use Ctrl-+ to enlarge the map. Now look for the landmarks.

Now trace the path the water takes from your house to the main stream, Tributary C, or Tributary D.

Are any streams by your property?

Which sub-basin do they flow into?

Where does the runoff from your house enter a stream?

Does it flow through a stormwater drain or stormwater pipe? Where does the water drain into a stream?

Does it flow down intermittent creeks that only have water when it rains?

A fun activity is to put on your rain gear when it rains and follow the water where it flows until you locate the storm drain and stream into which the runoff flows.

Get Ready for Spring

Save the date:
Clean Water for the Triangle – How to Take Action, Monday, March 19, 2018, 6:00 PM 8:00 PM, Lowes Grove Middle School (map.) A talk with the Haw Riverkeeper and local advocates about threats to local watersheds and ways to defend safe drinking water for all. Register

Here are the tips to get spring off to the best of the Northeast Creek watersheed.

  1. Watch the arrival and departure of spring ephemerals. 11 Spring Ephemerals Native to Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge Lake Lure is in the mountains of Rutherford County, NC, between Rutherfordton and Asheville. How many of these same spring ephemeral flowers show up in the wetlands and uplands of the Northeast Creek basin some 220 miles along I-40? Check out the James Pullman Photos and the David Carter Photos on this site to get some clues to where they typically appear.
  2. Watch and listen as the spring migrating birds replace the winter migrants. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  3. Identify trees and shrubs by the ready condition of their axial buds. Winter twig keys to common, native, fully deciduous trees and phanerophyte shrubs of the North Carolina eastern piedmont Part of the NCSU Herbarium
  4. Listen for frog sounds in the morning and evening as the day warms and cools. Toads and frogs observed the the Northeast Creek basin include:Bufo americanus (American Toad); Hyla chrysoscelis (Cope’s Gray Treefrog); Pseudacris triseriata (Western Chorus Frog); Pseudacris crucifer (Spring Peeper); Gastrophryne carolinensis (Eastern Narrow-Mouthed Frog)
  5. Notice which insects awaken and are early to appear. NCSU Extension: Entomology
  6. Get your own yard ready for spring. Spring garden clean up done RIGHT
  7. Identify the erosion and drainage issues to address in your yard this year. Durham Soil and Water District: Community Conservation Assistance Program A key partner in Northeast Creek Streamwatch’s Upsteam Neighbors/Downstream Neighbors watershed improvement program using individual porperty-owner initiatives.
  8. Look for ways to save first inch of rainfall on your property during each rainstorm. Another piece of the Upstream Neighbors/Downstream Neighbors program for which Durham Soil and Water District can provide free consultation to homeowners. Durham Soil and Water District: Community Conservation Assistance Program
  9. Gather your neighbors to walk and clean your roadway of litter.
  10. Inspect the intermittent streams paths and creeks for litter to clean up during Creek Week, for excessive erosion, and for invasive plants. Invasive Plants found in the Piedmont of North Carolina
  11. Help Northeast Creek Streamwatch celebrate Creek Week 2018 Durham Creek Week, March 17-24— Events
  12. Come and talk to us at the Northeast Creek Streamwatch tent at the South Durham (SoDu) Farmers Market Saturdays 9am-12noon at Greenwood Commons (NC 55 and Sedwick)
  13. Attend Clean Water for the Triangle – How to Take Action, Monday, March 19, 2018, 6:00 PM 8:00 PM, Lowes Grove Middle School (map.) A talk with the Haw Riverkeeper and local advocates about threats to local watersheds and ways to defend safe drinking water for all. Register

For more information contact colleen@northeastcreek.org.

Save the Date: Durham Creek Week, March 17-25, 2017

picture of the 2006 clean-up crew at Grandale Drive bridge
Clean-up – Grandale Drive Bridge – 2006

It is time to save the dates again for Durham Creek Week. During Creek Week, Northeast Creek Streamwatch is encouraging volunteers to come out in neighborhood groups just to discover their local stream, explore it, clean it of litter or bulkier items. Northeast Creek also encourages volunteers to explore the wetlands that form the boundaries between many of our neighborhoods.

To participate in official Northeast Creek Streamwatch events, contact Colleen Haithcock (colleen@northeastcreek.org) to register. Also visit us at the South Durham Farmers Market during March.

To see announcements of events as they are scheduled, “like” Northeast Creek Streamwatch on Facebook.

Northeast Creek Streamwatch has been cleaning up locations on the creek since 2006; we have been participating in the Durham Creek Week clean-ups since 2009. Creek Week is a time to discover and clean up our local streams. It has been celebrated in Durham since 2009, with 1,937 volunteers collecting 117,270 pounds of litter to date.

Durham Creek Week 2017 will have events from March 17 through March 25. Save the dates now for the events that interest you and your family from the list of Durham-wide events..

map of northeast creek stream system
Northeast Creek System

The Northeast Creek watershed drains the southeastern part of Durham County, the northeastern part of Chatham County and the western part of Wake County. Water from Northeast Creek flows into Lake Jordan at the NC 751 bridge and from there down the Haw River to the Cape Fear River and out to the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Fear, south of Wilmington. If you live south of Glover Road or Riddle Road in Durham and between Fayetteville Road and Miami Boulevard in Durham County, or east of NC 751 and north of New Hope Church Road in Chatham County, or north of Green Hope Road and west of NC 55 in Wake County, you likely live in the Northeast Creek basin.

So find your location in your watershed, gather up some friend, family, neighbors, and co-workers, and schedule a creek clean-up for Durham Creek Week. It’s a great way to welcome spring!

Statement of Appreciation – Mr. Barry Archer

barry archer with fox mask on top of head waiting for beginning of the 2014 Parkwood Christmas Parade
Barry Archer as Creek Critters fox in the 2014 Parkwood Christmas Parade
In March 2014 Northeast Creek Streamwatch participated in the Durham Creek Week stream clean-up by cleaning the banks of the creek that flows into the Parkwood lotus pond and lake. In preparation we had advertised in several local businesses. We set up a table with a banner announcing a creek clean-up, and people came out to participate. Among the folks who helped were several youth, one of whom rode by on his skateboard and went home to change and came back to work. Several of the youth belonged to a local youth group and asked if their youth group could do a another clean-up as they were looking for service projects..These youth were participants in a community leadership training program facilitated by Barry Archer of Barak Source for Learning; they came to the next monthly meeting of Northeast Creek Streamwatch and invited our group to meet with them.

As a result of that meeting, Northeast Creek Streamwatch collaborated with Spring Break enrichment program by locating a speaker from the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, who spoke about urban creek runoff and the problems of erosion and non-point-source pollution. The group then conducted two days of clean-ups and learned about the hydrology, plants, and animals of a section of Northeast Creek that included blooming paw-paws and spring ephemerals. This section includes meanders and oxbow ponds, which are normal flood plain features in the geography of the Durham Triassic Basin.

In December 2014, this youth group marched as part of the Northeast Creek Streamwatch unit in the Parkwood Christmas Parade, wearing costumes of a great blue heron, deer, and other creek critters.

In January 2015, this youth group helped make costumes of other creek critters in preparation for the Durham Creek Week kickoff parade. In March 2015, they marched as herons, frogs, and other creek critters in the parade. Adult facilitators and parents of the youth marched as a fox, a leaf and ladybug, an opposum, and a beaver.

The leader of this group Mr. Barry Archer trains the youth in leadership skills, and we have been very impressed with the ability of the youth to volunteer and seek out opportunities for service on their own.

Northeast Creek Streamwatch takes this occasion at the end of a summer program put together by Mr. Archer and Mr. John Apel to thank them for their continuing collaboration with the efforts of Northeast Creek Streamwatch and to the greater Parkwood community. We also thank the youth who have been involved in these several programs for their hard work in cleaning up Northeast Creek and their willingness to learn the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills involved in the creek and its care.

Durham Creek Week Kickoff features Northeast Creek Critters and Puppet Theater

The 2015 Creek Week Kickoff at Durham Central Park on March 21, 2015 saw the creek critters from Northeast Creek march in the parade with people from the other watersheds in Durham County.

One of the highlights of the event was the Northeast Creek Critter Puppet Theater featuring Woodrow the beaver and Clyde the raccoon and puppeteers Barry Archer and John Apel.

The elms are flowering

This is an article I wrote for the February issue of the Parkwood Inside/Out. We are planning trash cleanups on March 28th and a hike, and will be participating in the costume parade downtown on March 21st and other events for Durham Creek Week 2015. Check this website for announcements and all events will also be posted at:

Creek Week Events

Parkwood’s elms are blooming

Red maples dotting the still bare landscape with blots of crimson are one of the first signs that spring is here, but elms are among the first trees to flower. These prominent trees might be less appreciated because an elm in flower is stormy grey or lime green. Winged elms are the most common species, especially in central Parkwood, but there are slippery elms along the streams and probably American elms, and there are scattered Eurasian ornamentals. The most prominent and beautiful elm I know of in the area is the classically fountain-shaped tree on Highway 54, across from . Because its limbs are all high above the ground, it is hard to identify the species.

Elms, especially American elms, are beloved for the fountain or vaselike shape of mature trees, and there is a graceful symmetry to elms generally. Their leaves and branches alternate, creating an airy lattice effect. The straight veins in their oval leaves, double toothed like a pruning saw, are straight and parallel, but elms also have a very unsymmetric feature – the leaf bases are lopsided, especially in American and slippery elms. Elms have thin, elegant branches, strengthened by very tough wood, and the bark of some species can be twisted into rope. They produce wind pollinated bisexual flowers in early spring, developing into small seeds with a circular flange that drift with the wind several weeks later. The elms generally like moist soil, but winged elms seem to grow in drier soil as well.

The massive, spreading elm in front of Carrboro’s Town Hall could be an American elm (it is big enough for a plaque, yet nothing identifies the species), and I think there are labelled American elms in the Coker Arboretum at UNC. American or white elms are around, but are less common after the arrival of Dutch Elm Disease, a fungus that came to the US around 1930, and is spread by introduced and native beetles that bore in elms. Many elms have been killed, especially American elms, but this seems to be a little less catastrophic than the introduction of chestnut blight and emerald ash borer beetles, and the disease can be managed. American elms are large trees with furrowed bark, brownish leaf buds, and their leaves and stems aren’t very hairy, or less so than slippery elms. Their seeds have some hairiness, while the seeds of slippery elms lack hairs. Both American and slippery elms have large, sandpaperlike leaves, but American elms have greenish flowers, unlike slippery elms. Because their wood is so strong and resistant to splitting, and grips screws tightly, American elms have been used to make things like sports equipment, boats, flooring, crates, and kitchen cutting blocks. Many were planted for landscaping in the northeast, though they grow throughout the eastern USA. In A Natural History of Trees, botanist and nature writer Donald Culross Peattie wrote “If you want to be recalled for something that you do, you will be well advised to do it under an [American] Elm – a great Elm, for such a tree outlives the generations of men; the burning issues of today are the ashes of tomorrow, but a noble Elm is a verity that does not change with time. And although Elms too are mortal, great ones are remembered as long after they are gone as are great men.”

Slippery elms are similar to American elms, but smaller and less vaselike. They have been called red elms, having hairy, reddish leaf buds and reddish flowers, as well as hairy twigs. Their inner bark is slippery and becomes mucouslike when chewed. This inner bark was used to make tea and flour and was used for a variety of internal and external problems and still has an FDA approved medical use. American elm bark was used medicinally by Native American groups.

Winged elms are named for the cork flanges that line their twigs to varying degrees. Sweetgums usually aren’t as winged as elms and their leaves are very different. Winged elms leaves are smaller, smoother, and more symmetrical than those of other elms, and large trees have light brown bark. I think these are the first elms to flower, with brownish flowers that turn into silvery, hairy seeds. As with most trees, winged elms grow a lot when they first leaf out in spring, delicately etched leaves surging forth from the twig tips at a fast clip. The tiny, silky looking new leaves hang as if limp, but are actually strangely stiff. Snow, ice, and maybe hurricanes smashed many of the spindly young loblollies behind the Fire Station around 2002, leaving winged elms, ash, and a few surviving pines as the dominant tall trees, to be replaced themselves by oaks, hickories, and beech in coming decades.

Many animals chew on elm branches, leaves, and seeds, including opossums, rabbits, and bobwhites. The caterpillars that fed on elms are like a who’s who of moths and butterflies, including many of the moths you might see at your porchlights this spring. Double-toothed prominent moth caterpillars feed only on elms. They bite into a leaf and then rest there, so their jagged backs appear like the missing leaf edge. It is surprising that this camouflage works, since elm leaves are emerald green, but the caterpillars are pale seafoam blue and green.