The Wetland at Valle Crucis Community Park

The Valle Crucis Community Park looks dramatically different than it did in the early 2000s. Why? What was once a small, manicured pond in the heart of the park has been restored to a wild and diverse wetland.

Wetlands are incredibly important ecosystems that provide habitat for many species of plants, birds, amphibians, mammals, reptiles, and insects while also keeping our water clean and helping to store floodwater. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the lower 48 states contained over 220 million acres of wetlands in the 1600s. In 2009, surveys found only 110.1 million acres of wetlands, the result of hundreds of years of filling wetlands to make room for farming and development.

Restoration of the wetlands began in 2007 during a stream bank project. Thanks to a partnership with the N.C. Cooperative Extension and the High Country Audubon Society, various native marsh plants–arrow arum, swamp hibiscus, cardinal flower, pickerel weed, duck potato, rushes and sedges–have been planted over time to create a natural design and patterns of color and textures. Our beautiful wetland is a reminder of what wetlands throughout the Watauga River floodplain once looked like.

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina): The snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in North Carolina. It has a very large head, a long neck, and a long tail, which is saw-toothed along the top. Snapping turtles are omnivorous. Their diet is varied and includes aquatic invertebrates, fish, reptiles, birds (such as ducklings), mammals, carrion, and aquatic vegetation.

Mink (Mustela vison): These “water weasels” are primarily nocturnal with most activity spent feeding. Food items include small mammals, fish, birds and amphibians.
Mink are very active and curious creatures. You can find their tracks in the sandy spots between the wetland and the river.

American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus): Bullfrogs are native to North Carolina and are the state’s most prolific amphibians! Their mating is on full display at Valle Crucis in spring and summer where their “jug-o-rum” calls are heard throughout the wetlands. Females may lay up to 12,000 eggs, deposited as a surface mass.