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North Carolina

North Carolina State Parks

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USA Parks
North Carolina
Coastal - Eastern Region
Pettigrew State Park
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Pettigrew State Park Somerset Place © Kerry Gillette Basnight
Pettigrew State Park Somerset Place © Kerry Gillette Basnight
Pettigrew State Park Somerset Place © Kerry Gillette Basnight
With Lake Phelps in the background.
Pettigrew State Park Somerset Place © Kerry Gillette Basnight
Pettigrew State Park Somerset Place © Kerry Gillette Basnight
Pettigrew State Park Somerset Place © Kerry Gillette Basnight
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2252 Lake Shore Road
Creswell, North Carolina   27928

Phone: 252-797-4475
Reservations: 877-722-6762
Email: park email button icon
With more than 1,200 acres of land and 16,600 acres of water, Pettigrew State Park is an ideal blend of nature, history and recreation.

Explore Lake Phelps and examine dugout canoes as ancient as the pyramids. Or cast your line into crystal-clear waters where largemouth bass reign. Take a trip back in time at the grave of a great Confederate general. Or hug a tree as wide as an elephant.

Pettigrew exhibits its history among picturesque natural surroundings. Majestic cypress trees tower above as the branches of tulip poplar and swamp chestnut oak provide perches for songbirds. Wildflowers decorate the landscape with a splash of color.

Park Hours:

November-February, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

March and October, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

April, May, September, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

June-August, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Closed Christmas Day

Park Office Hours:

8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays

Closed state holidays
History of the Area
efore colonists discovered Lake Phelps in 1755, area residents called the swampy area the Great Eastern Dismal and the Great Alligator Dismal. The wilderness was so fearsome that explorers refused to enter its borders. Tradition maintains that a group of hunters ventured into this "haunt of beasts" to hunt and to look for farmland. Most of the men turned back, but just as the remaining few were about to leave, Benjamin Tarkington climbed a tree and saw the lake a short distance away. His companion, Josiah Phelps, ran into the water while Tarkington was still up in the tree. The first in the water, he claimed the right to name it Lake Phelps.

Josiah Collins, who immigrated to the United States from England, developed the area surrounding Lake Phelps. He and his partners in the Lake Company drained the swamp, transforming the land into productive agricultural fields and prosperous plantations.

In 1787, Collins established Somerset Place, named for his home county of Somersetshire in England. He brought slaves from Africa to dig a six-mile canal connecting Lake Phelps with the Scuppernong River. The canal, a remarkable feat of engineering for its time, served as both a transportation route and a channel for draining the swampland between the river and Lake Phelps. Later, Collins developed an extensive system of canals with locks to irrigate the area's corn and rice crops.

The Civil War brought an end to the prosperity of Somerset Place. Unable to maintain it, the Collins family sold the plantation, which then passed through several owners until the Federal Farm Security Administration acquired it in 1937. Today, Somerset Place is a state historic site occupying eight acres of land within Pettigrew State Park. Tour historic Somerset Place and sample a taste of cultural life in the antebellum South. The Division of Archives and History of the NC Department of Cultural Resources administers the site.

Civil War buffs will find the grave of one of the Confederacy's great generals, James Johnston Pettigrew, a mile east of Somerset off the old carriage road. Gen. Pettigrew, for whom the park is named, and his family left an indelible mark upon the history of the state. Pettigrew led the North Carolina troop's famous charge at Gettysburg. He died just two weeks after his 35th birthday from wounds received during Gen. Robert E. Lee's retreat following the battle. Gen. Pettigrew, and his father and grandfather, are buried in the oak-shaded cemetery. Their gravestones relate both the triumphs and tragedies of a North Carolina family.

Next to Somerset Place is what was once the Pettigrew family farm, Bonarva. All that now remains of the plantation, built by Pettigrew's grandfather in 1790, is some rubble near the carriage road and several large trees planted by the family. But in the 1830s, Bonarva was nationally recognized as a model of scientific farming and management.

Upon their purchase by the Federal Farm Security Administration, the Collins mansion and surrounding land were incorporated into the Scuppernong Farms Resettlement Project. The state gained control of the land in a 99-year lease with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and in 1939 Pettigrew became the sixth state park in North Carolina.
Family camping: The family campground is located between the park office and Somerset Place. Thirteen campsites, each with a picnic table and grill, are well-suited for tents and trailers.

The edge of a cypress/sweetgum forest furnishes a shaded area for some of the campsites while others are located in an open, grassy meadow. Water and restrooms with showers are nearby. A fee is charged for the campsites, which are available on a first-come basis.

Group camping: Opportunities for outdoor learning abound in the group camping area. Located in the midst of a beautiful forest, primitive camping facilities include tent pads, grills and pit toilets. Water is located nearby. To ensure availability of the group camping area, reservations are advised.
Canoes, kayaks, rowboats and power vessels have ample room to enjoy Lake Phelps. The lake offers ideal conditions for sailing in shallow draft boats. Launch a canoe from Cypress Point or use the launching and docking facilities behind the park office.

A canoe trail winds through the park's nearby waterways, offering paddlers the chance to view the area's environment up close. Because of the map's large size, two pages of 8.5x11" paper may be needed for printing. Maps of the trail are available at the park office, as well.
Lake Phelps is known throughout the east for its bass fishing. The lake teems with largemouth bass, yellow perch and pumpkinseed. Enjoy the challenges of pickerel and catfish as the Algonquians did 10,000 years ago.

From land, try your luck on the fishing pier or boardwalk at Cypress Point. Wade fishermen can enter Lake Phelps at the Pocosin Overlook. Anglers must have a fishing license and obey regulations of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

Pettigrew State Park is

A large cypress grove supplies plenty of shade for picnicking. Tables and grills are provided with each picnic site, and restrooms and water are located nearby. The grassy field near the picnic grounds creates a great playground for all ages. Individual picnic sites are available on a first-come basis.

Picnic shelters offer a perfect setting for gatherings. The shelter located near the park office includes eight tables; the shelter at Cypress Point offers two. Use is free of charge unless reservations are requested.
In the days of the plantation, the Collins family enjoyed carriage rides on a promenade that passed Somerset Place and Bonarva and followed along the shore of Lake Phelps. Today, the carriage road makes up a portion of the Bee Tree Trail. Beginning at the park office, a one-mile section winds past the campground and Somerset Place. After wandering through a sweetgum forest, the trail leads to Bee Tree Overlook, a wooden platform offering a view of the lake and a place to observe wintering waterfowl. Between the site of Bonarva and the canal is a short trail leading to Pettigrew Cemetery.

Moccasin Trail leads northwest from the park office for approximately three miles to Moccasin Canal. After traveling through a cypress and hardwood forest, the trail stops at a 350-foot boardwalk, which cuts through a cypress swamp to Moccasin Overlook. This view of Big Point is one of the most impressive vistas in the area. Morotoc Trail continues from the overlook to Cypress Point. Bicycles are allowed on parts of the trail.

The Pocosin Natural Area has a short trail to an observation tower and carnivorous plant management area. See the park map for distance and difficulty.
Nature Programs
Rangers hold regularly scheduled educational and interpretive programs about Pettigrew State Park.

To arrange a special exploration of Pettigrew State Park for your group or class, contact the park office.

Educational materials about Pettigrew State Park have been developed for grades 4-8 and are correlated to North Carolina's competency-based curriculum in science, social studies, mathematics and English/language arts. The Pettigrew program introduces students to archaeological research and also focuses on the significance of Lake Phelps, hypothesis testing, Native Americans and preservation of cultural resources. Accompanying the program is a teacher's booklet and workshop, free of charge to educators.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
November 29 Beautiful state park
park review stars; one to five We stopped by the office , the ranger gave us a lot of very useful information & suggestions for our visit. We were very impressed & really enjoyed our walk to Moccasin Landing. We are already looking forward to our next visit
March 22 A Beautiful Place to be....
park review stars; one to five We love to visit here in the early summer. The park is beautiful and the fishing is great. All the Rangers and staff have always been very pleasant and wonderful. Will return for many summers.
January 19 Great Park & Name by Kelly Pettigrew
park review stars; one to five Beautiful....
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Pettigrew State Park is located in Washington and Tyrrell counties, seven miles south of Creswell off US 64.

Pettigrew State Park is located in Washington and Tyrrell counties, seven miles south of Creswell off US 64. From US 64, take Meadow Lane toward the town of Creswell and turn right on Weston Road. Or, travel through the town of Creswell on 6th Street, turn left on Spruill Bridge Road and turn right on Weston Road. Turn left on Old Cherry Road and right on Mountain Canal Road, which ends at Lake Shore Road. Turn left on Lake Shore Road and travel to the park office, which is on the right.

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North Carolina

North Carolina State Parks