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A watershed is an area of land where rain water and snowmelt flow to a common body of water. Watersheds can be as big as an entire river basin or as small as a tiny creek area. In Chapel Hill, we are in the Jordan Lake watershed, which is part of the Cape Fear River Basin.
Watershed Protection Area [440 KB PDF]Watershed Assessments & Plans!
Chapel Hill is located in North Carolina's Cape Fear River Basin. It is the largest of the state's 17 river basins, and the only North Carolina river basin that flows directly into the ocean. The Cape Fear River is formed by the Haw, Deep, and Rocky Rivers, which meet in Chatham County below Jordan lake.
Photo credit: NC DEQ
History and Nature
Cape Fear River Basin Interactive Storymap (NC DEQ Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs)
Cape Fear River Basin Timeline (Clean Water Education Partnership)
Discover North Carolina's River Basins (NC DEQ Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs)
Photo: Haw River Assembly
History, Nature, & Recreation
Summary Description (Wikipedia)
Mark Chilton's Wandering through the NC Piedmont Blog: History and Mills of the Haw
Jordan Lake supplies drinking water to approximately half a million people; provides habitat to one of the largest populations of bald eagles on the east coast; and offers recreational opportunities such as swimming, boating and fishing. Yet Jordan Lake is not a healthy body of water and needed rules to improve its water quality and to protect human and animal life. Learn more by clicking on the links below.
"B. Everett Jordan Dam and Lake (Jordan Lake) are under the stewardship of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Wilmington District. The Jordan Lake project, originally known as New Hope project is located in Chatham County, North Carolina, 2.4 miles northeast of Moncure and 25 miles southwest of Raleigh on the Haw River in the upper Cape Fear River Basin.
Jordan Lake was authorized by Public Law 88-253, enacted by the 88th Congress on 30 December 1963. House Resolution 8667 authorized the project in accordance with the recommendations of the Chief of Engineers in House Document 508, Eighty-seventh Congress. The approved report recommended construction of an earthen dam with a multi-level Intake Tower in the interest of flood control, water supply, water-quality control, recreation, and other purposes.While hydropower was considered as a potential project purpose in early studies, it was later dropped because of local dissention. Navigation was never considered as a project purpose.
A contract to initiate construction was awarded on November 5, 1970 and after considerable litigation, construction was completed and Lake first reached normal pool level of elevation 216.0 feet mean sea level (msl) on February 4, 1982."
--From Introduction, Army Corps of Engineers: ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT And FINDING OF NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT Modification and Alteration of B. Everett Jordan Dam and Lake for Addition of Non-Federal Hydropower, October 2010
"The Jordan Rules" by John Manuel (Wildlife in North Carolina Magazine, August 2010)
Jordan Lake Rules (NC DEQ): The Jordan Lake Rules are a nutrient management strategy designed to restore water quality in the lake by reducing the amount of pollution entering upstream.
Interim Update - Jordan Lake Study (NC Policy Collaboratory, December 2018)
Clean Water Education Partnership (Triangle J Council of Governments)
NC Nutrient Scientific Advisory Board (DENR-Division of Water Resources)
Check the USGS flow gage at Village Drive!
History & Nature
History (Friends of Bolin Creek)
Nature found along the creek (Friends of Bolin Creek)
Umstead Park - Chapel Hill
Baldwin Park - Carrboro
The Booker Creek Watershed is approximately 6.3 square miles and five subwatersheds. It is composed primarily of residential (single-family and multi-family) and commercial land uses. The commercial land uses are concentrated along Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, Weaver Dairy Road, East Franklin Street, and Fordham Boulevard.
There are two private lakes - Lake Ellen and Eastwood Lake - in Booker Creek and several smaller ponds scattered throughout the watershed.
Booker Creek Watershed Map (PDF)
Current Subwatershed Studies
The Town has a multi-year subwatershed study underway for the Booker Creek watershed as part of its Stormwater Management Master Plan. http://bookercreekplan.org/
Watershed Organizations & Stakeholders
Lake Ellen Homeowners Association
Bolin and Booker Creeks merge to form Little Creek on the east side of Town, near the end of Emory Drive and east of Rainbow Soccer Fields. Little Creek flows into the Upper New Hope Arm of Jordan Lake.
Much of Little Creek’s water quality is influenced by upstream activities in the watersheds of Bolin Creek and Booker Creek. But what dominates the biology of the creek is the geologic area it flows through: the Triassic Basin. This is an old valley that has filled in with fine silts and clays.
Streams flowing through this area have very different characteristics than those elsewhere in the Piedmont, different enough that the NC Division of Water Quality (DWQ) does not have an index for rating biological conditions in Triassic Basin streams. Little Creek and small tributaries in the Triassic Basin have very shallow slopes, slow-moving water, and habitats more characteristic of coastal lowlands than do streams in the rocky Piedmont.
Little Creek Bottomlands and Little Creek Waterfowl Impoundment: Federal property in this area is leased to the State of North Carolina and is designated by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) as Permanent Wildlife Lands and managed as game lands. In addition, this area is managed as a waterfowl sub-impoundment and is open to public hunting and fishing by licensed individuals in accordance with all NCWRC Inland Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping Regulations. (ACE 2007)
NC Wildlife Resources (hunting & fishing regulations and information)
Full Morgan Creek Watershed
University Lake (Upper Morgan) Watershed
Lower Morgan Creek Watershed
Stillhouse Bottom Conservation Area
Orange County, NC State of the Environment Reports
Godfrey, Michael A. 1997. Field Guide to the Piedmont The Natural Habitats of America's Most Lived-in Region, From New York City to Montgomery, Alabama. UNC Press. 536pp.
University Lake was constructed by UNC-Chapel Hill as a drinking water reservoir in 1932 by damming Morgan Creek. It holds 450 million gallons and has a 213 acre surface area, with a watershed spanning 30 square miles. Tributaries Morgan Creek, Phils Creek, Neville Creek, Price Creek and Pritchards Mill Creek feed the lake. Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) owns and manages the lake as a primary drinking water source for Carrboro and Chapel Hill.
Recreation information and map: http://owasa.org/whatwedo/recreation.aspx
Much of the land along Morgan Creek is conserved and maintained by the NC Botanical Garden and The NC Botanical Garden Foundation. Some of these areas are open to the public; other areas have restricted use. Please respect restrictions and private property as you plan your outings.
Town of Chapel Hill Greenways Map
Stakeholders and Resident Groups
Morgan Creek Valley Alliance
Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA)
University Lake is one of OWASA’s primary drinking water sources. Sewage from OWASA customers is gravity fed or pumped to OWASA’s wastewater treatment plant on Mason Farm Road where it is treated and released into Morgan Creek.
UNC Stormwater Management
Details the activities of UNC’s Stormwater Management program, including illicit discharge detection, plan review, stormwater maintenance, planning, projects, aquatic organism sampling, and stream monitoring stations in the Morgan Creek and Booker Creek watersheds.
Mason Farm Biological Reserve http://ncbg.unc.edu/mason-farm-biological-reserve
Jones, Charlotte A. 1980. Thesis: An interpretive plan and resource inventory for the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Goddard College. Plainfield, VT. 206 pp. (UNC Libraries)
Jones-Roe, Charlotte A. 2009. "Mason Farm Biological Reserve: A guide to the old farm trail." North Carolina Botanical Garden. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC. 28 pp.
Terres, John K. 1993. From Laurel Hill to Siler's Bog: The Walking Adventures of a Naturalist. University of North Carolina Press.
Many small streams on the eastern side of Chapel Hill flow to New Hope Creek, which flows into the Upper New Hope Arm of Jordan Lake. Those include Old Field Creek in the Eubanks Road vicinity, Dry Creek, partially located behind East Chapel Hill High School, and the stream leading from Clark Lake off Pope Road on the Durham border. A portion of New Hope Creek’s watershed is in Durham.
Photo: Triangle Land Conservancy - Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
History of Patterson Mill and New Hope Creek (Book by Stuart Dunaway)
USGS Monitoring Station - How much water is flowing through New Hope Creek?
Nature & Recreation
Meadow flats is a large wetland area northeast of the intersection of Eubanks Road and Old NC 86.
Johnston Mill Nature Preserve -Publicly accessible park-preserve north of Chapel Hill.
Watershed Organizations & Stakeholders
Duke Forest - There are many pieces of this experiment and research forest scattered across the middles of Orange and Durham Counties. Many, but not all, parts of Duke Forest are open to the public.
Orange County Landfill - All areas of the landfill drain towards New Hope Creek through Old Field Creek. The landfill uses several methods to prevent surface water and groundwater contamination.
Town Operations Center - The Town Operations Center's Public Works facility and Transit buildings straddle Old Field Creek.
New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee - This organization is oriented towards preserving land around New Hope Creek, especially the large wetland complex between Chapel Hill and Durham.