Robertson Millpond Historic & Natural Significance

Historical photo of the mill and dam

A Rich Cultural History

The millpond is part of Buffalo Creek, named for the herds of buffalo once seen watering there. Native Americans in the region would have likely lived and hunted along the creek.

The dam, part earthen and part masonry, dates to the 1820s and is still in place. The mill was removed in the mid-1970s. The dam and remaining foundation of the mill have been designated historic landmarks.

In the 1820s, William Avera operated a 600-acre farm and gristmill with his wife and two children. The Avera family likely built the dam and the mill.

Land sales in 1887 and 1914 led to the Robertson family ownership, for which the road and pond are named. The Robertson family farmed the land west of the pond and probably also operated the mill until the 1940s.

In 1960, the Charles Robertson estate was divided into 11 tracts for surviving heirs. The millpond was inherited by Nettie Robertson Fowler, whose family operated a boathouse on the pond in the 1960s, renting wooden boats for fishing.

A Significant Natural Area

The site has been identified by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program as a significant natural area in Wake County. The preserve has also been recognized as a Wetland Treasure by the Carolina Wetlands Association. Read this nice factsheet about the preserve created by them.

The blackwater cypress-gum habitat found at the millpond is unique this far north and this far west in North Carolina. The bases of the cypress trees provide habitat for swamp rose and several coastal plain plants, shrubs and vines, including the coastal fetterbush and sweetspire. In the spring, you can see Virginia blue flag blooming near the boat dock, which is another species found primarily in the coastal plain.

The blackwater Buffalo Creek flows southeast from Rolesville until it dumps into the Little River near Kenly and then the Neuse River near Goldsboro.

The pond is oriented north-south with a maximum depth of approximately 15 feet. It is dominated by medium-aged to mature bald cypress, which form a dense, closed canopy in most areas.

What is blackwater?

Blackwater is formed when a river or creek flows slowly through lowland forested swamps or wetlands. As vegetation decays, tannins leach into the water. The water is transparent, acidic and darkly stained, resembling tea or coffee.

Animal Species

The cypress swamp is also habitat for many animals. Common birds include wood duck, pileated woodpecker, prothonotary warbler, barred owl, great blue heron and more.

Look for signs of beaver, muskrat, raccoon, and otter. A variety of water snakes, frogs and turtles can be seen if you are patient. Fish populations include flier, pickerel, and a variety of sunfish.

There are numerous wood duck and prothonotary warbler boxes in the swamp, put in by Dr. Eugene Hester, NCSU students and staff. If you are lucky, you might get to see both of these species along the paddling trail.

Discover Nature at Wake County Parks and Preserves

Robertson Millpond Mobile Tours

We have developed two interpretive mobile phone tours that you can access from home or while you're at the park via computer or mobile device. You can access each tour from the hyperlinked titles below.

Robertson Millpond Tour
Learn more about the historical and natural significance of Robertson Millpond.

Robertson Millpond Paddling Tour
Learn more about the flora and fauna of Robertson Millpond. 

Mobile tours have also been developed for several other park sites and you can view them all here.

NRID - Natural Resources Inventory Database

Want to explore the wildlife and plants seen at our Wake County Parks and Preserves from home? Check out the Wake County Natural Resources Inventory Database! Anyone can use it – whether you're a birdwatcher, teacher, student, citizen scientist or just curious about nature. Explore data and photos, print checklists, or discover fun nature facts here.