McDowell Nature Center and Preserve
The McDowell Nature Center is a hub for educational programs and serves as the gateway to 1,132 protected acres of the McDowell Nature Preserve. Touted as the oldest preserve in Mecklenburg County, the open space comprises of mostly-forested terrain that runs along the banks of Lake Wylie and is ripe with miles of hiking trails.
Home to a variety of local flora and fauna, the preserve offers nine moderately strenuous hiking trails. There are also shaded playground and picnic areas on a first-come-first-serve basis and campgrounds available for reservation. And if you fancy a boat ride or group kayak paddle there are several public boat ramps located at the nearby Copperhead Island. Learn about the natural environs of the preserve with a visit to the McDowell Nature Center. The center features live, native animals, educational exhibits, and an outdoor amphitheatre and demonstration garden with butterfly-friendly plants.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Dogs are allowed in the preserve but must be on a 6-foot or shorter leash at all times.
- Bicyclists must remain on the paved roads within the preserve.
- There are 56 reservable campsites ranging from regular plots to RV pads with full hookups.
- Public restrooms are available at the center, campgrounds, and waterfront.
How to Get There
Located southwest of Uptown Charlotte, the McDowell Nature Center and Preserve is roughly 16.8 miles away along I-77 and NC-49 South.
When to Get There
The center is open Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm. The preserve is well known for its incredible diversity of wild flowers. To catch the spectacular bloom visit the McDowell Nature Preserve during spring (March through June). The area is also regarded as one of the best places in Mecklenburg County to view the Pileated Woodpeckers (the largest and least common of woodpecker species). Catch their nesting season in spring, or visit in early summer for a glimpse at the new fledglings.
Just a few miles from McDowell Nature Center and Preserve, Copperhead Island is a 14-acre park that features public boating access and rentals with direct launch sites into Lake Wylie. Campsites are available for reservation as well as access to designated fishing piers, picnic areas, a beach volleyball court, and horseshoe pit.
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