Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Murray's Mill Historic District

Here's a fun field trip. Ever heard of Murray's Mill Historic District? I hadn't either until I started poking around for some new trails and educational destinations to supplement our remote learning.

Murray's Mill historic site is located in Catawba, NC, a little under an hour north of uptown Charlotte. It's a pretty straight shot up NC-16 (Brookshire Freeway) a little past Denver, NC. This destination is compelling for a number of reasons.

First, the history. The original Murray's mill was built by William Murray in the nineteenth century. His son, John, replaced his father's mill in 1913, building the two-story structure and a waterwheel you can still see there today. Surrounding the mill are a number of other historic buildings, including a wheat house and the Murray family dwellings.

For $7, visitors can take a self-guided tour of the grounds (during non-pandemic times, guided tours are an option).

The next draw: The 1890s general store. One of our favorite things to do when we're exploring the state -- particularly in rural mountain towns -- is to find old-fashioned general stores. The creakier the wooden floors, the better. The Murray & Minges General Store checks all the boxes for a fun, authentic old-timey shopping experience, including soda in glass bottes (from an antique Coca-Cola refrigerator) and bulk candy bins. We bought giant pinwheel lollipops to enjoy along our hike. 

Finally, the trail. The Murray's Mill Trail, a Carolina Thread Trail, is a 1.4-mile (one way) natural surface trail good for hiking. The mill is at the mid-way point of the trail. Take a right at the dam to follow the banks of the beautiful pond (while the CTT trail is technically out-and-back, you can also follow a footpath around the entire pond to return to the parking area. See this map.). This section of the trail is well marked with CTT blazes.

Or you can take a left just after the bridge across the road from the dam to take a wooded trek. This section is not as well marked and we found ourselves walking in circles a couple of times. That said, we found both ends of the Murray's Mill trail to be pleasant.

One other fun feature to mention is the StoryWalk (a children's book posted one page at a time along a short walking path) that begins and ends at the field just above the parking area. This is especially fun for tiny visitors.

If you've got kids who have been stuck in front of a screen all day and could use some fresh-air mental and physical stimulation, I think you'll find Murray's Mill to be a lovely afternoon field trip destination. Easy to get to, lots to do, and there's a Chick-fil-a on the way home Win, win, win, right?

How to get there: Parking for Murray's Mill Historic District is located at 1489 Murrays Mill Road, Catawba, NC 28609. From here, you can see the mill, take a tour, visit the general store or hike the trail.

Don't forget to pack: 
  • Comfortable walking shoes: Sneakers will do
  • Some spending money: It's free to walk around, but just in case you want to do some shopping at the general store
  • Bug spray: Particularly during warmer months
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: This area is partially shaded, but not entirely 

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