by Riverdave Owen

Earth Day, April 22, 2019


       Wanda Ridge is an elevated Piedmont stony strip of land on the north bank of the Eno River in north central Durham County, North Carolina. The ridge has a length of approximately one mile running west to east, cresting in the middle at an elevation of 410 feet above sea level. Heading east, it is the last elevated ridge in Durham County, after which the terrain abruptly transitions to the lower lying Triassic Basin. Wanda Ridge is bounded by two creeks. On the west side is Miller’s Creek which descends through a chain of three small farm ponds just east of Guess Road and drains into the Eno River.  On its east side the ridge is bordered by Crooked Creek which drains the area just west of Roxboro Street and points further north. 



       The north facing slope of Wanda Ridge includes the 1960’s neighborhood of Lochhaven Hills, a community of one hundred homes where I currently reside. In the 1970s the steeper south facing slope was included in West Point on the Eno Park managed by the City of Durham. In 1999 it was also listed as an important county natural area for plants and wildlife by the Durham County Inventory Review Committee of which I was a member and documenter of fish species.  The current tribal leader of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation once told me in a personal conversation that he believed his Siouan ancestral town of Adshusheer was located within what is now West Point on the Eno Park. 


       Wanda Ridge’s warmer south facing slope is covered with a dry oak-hickory forest interspersed with shortleaf pine. Eight deep ravines direct intermittent streams directly down to the Eno River. Towards the eastern base of its southern slope is a perennial spring encased in a man-made stone lined pool. Beyond the spring stretches a low floodplain forest that remains partially flooded in Winter and Spring and contains a number of handsome loblolly pines with diameters of up to five feet.  As one descends from crest of Wanda Ridge into this lower section of the floodplain, the air temperature can drop as much as five degrees Fahrenheit and urban commercial and traffic noises disappear.


       Beyond the floodplain the Eno River flows eastward at an elevation of 290 feet above sea level, bordered on both sides by narrow strips of gallery riverine hardwood forest of sycamore, elm, birch, ash and ironwood.  Under the brow of the eastern end of Wanda Ridge, the river widens at the popular Eno swimming site known as Synott’s Hole.  This was the location of the river’s first grist mill built by Michael Synott in1750. Just upstream from Synott’s Hole for a quarter of a mile lies an attractive boulder garden of shallow river channels laced in willow grass and buttonbush. This yin habitat provides a lush and cooling compliment to the drier yang habitat of sun drenched Wanda Ridge above.