Historic Yates Mill County Park, at 6420 Lake Wheeler Road in Raleigh, is a 174-acre wildlife refuge and an environmental research center.
The centerpiece is the Historic Yates Mill, which is the last operable water-powered gristmill in Wake County. The mill is on the National Register of Historic Places and was restored to working order in 2005.
Admission to the park is free. Right now, there are no tours or in-person programs taking place, but we hope they’ll resume soon. In the meantime, you’re welcome to explore the park on your own. There are also some virtual events coming up. Read on to see what’s coming up, as well as to learn more about the park and the mill.
The water-powered gristmill has been operational for more than 200 years. There were once 70 gristmills in Wake County, and this is the only one that is still in operation.
Gristmills are used for grinding corn, wheat and other grains into flour. A stream of water is guided into a waterwheel. This provides the power to rotate large millstones that crush the grain into smaller pieces. You’ll find gristmills near a source of running water, like a waterfall, or a dam.
Modern mills, on the other hand, use electricity to spin heavy steel or cast iron rollers.
In rural areas, before there were towns, gristmills were gathering spots for fishing, swimming and picnicking.
Today, you can fish at Historic Yates Mill County Park. There are also walking trails, gardens, a picnic area, and interpretive exhibits and trails.
Upcoming Events at Historic Yates Mill County Park
In-person events are back at Historic Yates Mill County Park. Here are a few in-person and virtual events that are coming up:
Self-Guided Storywalk: Are Trees Alive?
Available September 2-30
Read a children’s book while you enjoy a nature walk. The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. Our September story is “Are Trees Alive?,” written by Debbie S. Miller and illustrated by Stacey Schuett. This beautiful picture book offers a poetic comparison of plants and humans and shows how trees live, grow, and get their food. Join us for this fun self-guided activity, which will start at the kiosk near the Visitor Center and end near the mill.
In-Person Program: Speak with the Trees Hike
Wednesday, September 8; 9:30-11:00 a.m.
Are you interested in trees? Join a park educator on a hike all about the trees in the park. We will walk around slowly on small sections of both the Millpond and Creekside Trails so we can spot more varieties of trees. This program will last about 90 minutes. Come prepared with water, snacks, and good hiking boots. Participants are encouraged to wear long pants as we may venture a bit off the trail to look at specific trees. For ages 7 and up. Registration link: http://apm.activecommunities.com/wakeparks/Activity_Search/5109
In-Person Program: History Hike
Saturday, September 18; 10:00-10:45 a.m.
Join us for a hike to the gristmill and to the site of the miller’s residence (which is no longer standing) to learn about the history of some of the people who have lived and worked on the land that is now a park. We will learn about the old water mill and look for clues to buildings that used to be here, and we’ll use artifacts to talk about some of the people who lived, worked, or visited here. This program will be completely outdoors, so please dress appropriately for the weather and bring a water bottle. For ages 7 and up (designed for kids and adults). Registration link: http://apm.activecommunities.com/wakeparks/Activity_Search/5108
Self-Guided Window Display: The Autumnal Equinox
Tuesday-Thursday, Sept. 21-23
The autumnal equinox signals the beginning of fall. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the front entrance of the park’s visitor center to explore fun facts about this special time of year. Find out about how and why the equinox occurs, and also learn about seasonal folklore and related historical traditions. For all ages.
In-Person Program: Seasonal Birding Hike
Tuesday, September 21; 9:00-10:00 a.m.
Come join us as the ‘early bird gets the worm’ in this engaging bird walk with a park naturalist. As we sneak through the park, we will be on the lookout for some of the awesome bird species that live here, at Historic Yates Mill County Park, and learn about what makes them so unique, how to identify them among other birds, and much more! Be sure to bring binoculars if you have them, or you can borrow a cleaned pair from us. For ages 8 and up. http://apm.activecommunities.com/wakeparks/Activity_Search/5115
Virtual Program: Mill Power
Thursday, September 23; 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Explore basic engineering aspects of our historic mill and the systems of simple machines that make it work. Learn how simple machines helped to power the 260-year-old grist mill and how they are incorporated into commonplace objects that we use every day. Staff will wrap up the program by walking down to the old mill to provide an up-close view of the 12-foot-tall wooden waterwheel and main power train. For ages 7 and up. Registration link: http://apm.activecommunities.com/wakeparks/Activity_Search/5116