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. Tours of the mill are available at various times and cost $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for children, and are free for kids under age 6.
The park hosts many events throughout the year. Some are free and some have a small fee. Many are for kids, but there are some programs that will appeal to adults as well. To see them all, visit the website.
Here are some of the upcoming free or very cheap events. It’s not a complete list. Some require pre-registration. To see the whole list, and to pre-register, go to the Historic Yates Mill County Park website, find the event, and you’ll see the link to pre-register.
13th Annual Mill as Muse Award Ceremony & Reception
Friday, Feb. 22, 6–7:30 p.m.
Yates Mill has served as a source of artistic inspiration for more than two centuries and continues to be the subject of numerous local works of art. Help us to celebrate the opening of the park’s 13th Annual community art and photography exhibit, applaud the art and photography contest winners, and meet some of the artists. For all ages; fee: FREE. Light refreshments will be served. Registration is not required.
Country Dancing in the Mill Yard
Saturday, March 16, noon–12:45 p.m.
Put on your dancing shoes! Come to the mill yard to join our costumed interpreters Jon and Karena Potter in learning and dancing 19th-century country dances. You do not need to have a partner to dance—just a willing heart and a desire to learn. No registration is required for this free, drop-in program, which will take place during our first corn grinding weekend of the year.
For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); fee: FREE. Registration is not required. Stop by the Finley Center exhibit hall anytime during the program time.
Wizened Woodchucks & Weather Predictors
Friday–Sunday, Feb. 1–3, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
How did people predict the weather before The Weather Channel and can animals really help? Come to the visitor center and check out some at-home weather equipment you can make with recycled and natural materials, and put our colonial “weather proverbs” to the test.
Discovery Table: National Birds
Monday–Wednesday, Feb. 18–20, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
See the Great Backyard Bird Count section for this description.
The Vernal Equinox
Wednesday–Sunday, March 20–24, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
The Vernal Equinox signals the beginning of Spring. 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 park’s Finley Center Exhibit Hall 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.
Great Backyard Bird Count
A Year of Birding at Yates Mill Pond
Friday–Monday, Feb. 15–18, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Come by the park center any time during the four days of the Great Backyard Bird Count to view a free slideshow of the birds of Yates Mill Pond. Over 150 photographs of birds are featured in the show, along with a few cool mammals. This slideshow, which has accompanying music, was put together a few years ago by photographer Paula Page.
Breakfast with the Birds
Saturday, Feb. 16, 9–10:30 a.m.
Enjoy doughnuts with a cup of shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee or hot chocolate for the kids, before leisurely walking the trails with a park naturalist to identify and count the birds. Please bring a reusable mug for each member of your family. For all ages; fee: FREE. Registration is required for all participants, and children must have adult accompaniment.
Afternoon Backyard Bird Count
Sunday, Feb. 17, 2:30–3:30 p.m.
Join a park naturalist on a one-mile hike around Yates Mill Pond and help to identify and count the birds that we see along the way. Learn how to identify backyard birds by sight, sound, and other signs. For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); FREE. Preregistration is not required.
Build a Bluebird House
Monday, Feb. 18, 2–4 p.m.
Learn about the history of the Eastern Bluebird and how you can attract them to your yard. Hike along our bluebird trail to check the park boxes and prepare them for the coming season. Then make your own nest box to take home. For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); FREE. We have 10 boxes available on a first-come, first-served basis—note that we will only allow one box per family. Registration is required for one family member.
Discovery Table: National Birds
Monday–Wednesday, Feb. 18–20, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Is it true that Turkey and Eagle once faced off to see who would be our national bird? Find out the answer and discover the natural characteristics that made each bird a contender. Celebrate Presidents Day and the Great Backyard Bird Count in one fell swoop! Learn about the use of birds in national symbols and make your own bird-themed Great Seal to take home. For all ages; fee: FREE. Registration is not required.
Art in the Park
Mill as Muse Creative Art Session
Sunday, Jan. 27, 1–4 p.m.
Explore your artistic side by creating a work of art to take home or to enter into the Mill as Muse art contest (entries due Feb. 10). A variety of inspirational arts and crafts materials will be provided, and a brief slide show will be shown featuring artistic creations related to Yates Mill. Come anytime during the program time-frame. Registration is required for all participants.
Tuesday–Thursday, Feb. 12–14, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Come join us in the park center for some Valentine’s Day arts and crafts! Create valentines for your friends, make some love bugs, and take home your own valentine tree. Registration is not required.
Saturday, March 23, 11 a.m.–noon
Do you love owls? If so, join us to learn all about them! Discover these amazing raptors’ adaptations and why they are important to the ecosystem. We will be practicing our different owl calls and learning all about these fascinating birds. Create a Snowy Owl craft and a set of owl wings to take home. Registration is required.
Millwrights, Millers & their Apprentices
Saturday, March 16, 1–4 p.m.
Milling is among the oldest of human occupations. While a miller operates water or wind mills, a millwright builds them and sets up machinery such as drive shafts, gears and mechanical belts. Most millers and millwrights were educated through apprenticeship programs where they received classroom education and on-the-job training. Explore this tabletop display to discover the similarities and differences of these historic trades, sign an apprentice’s contract, and use plastic gears to design your own machine!
Seasons on a Farm
Plowing & Planting
Sunday, March 17, 1–5 p.m.
For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a tabletop display about what tasks 19th-century farmers and their families would be doing each month as part of their life on a farm. In March, learn how farmers plowed the fields and planted crops in the 1800s, see sample farm artifacts, and plant a seed in a newspaper pot to take home.
A Side of History
The Legends of Saint Valentine
Saturday, Feb. 9, 11 a.m.–noon
Every February 14, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint, and where did these traditions come from? Find out about the history of this centuries-old holiday, from ancient Roman rituals to the customs of Victorian England. Then create a Valentine’s Day card to give to a special someone. For all ages; fee: FREE. Registration is required for all family members, and children must have adult accompaniment.
Field School for Kids
For ages 7–14; FREE. Registration is required. This is a drop-off program, but adults are welcome to stay.
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 10:30 a.m.–noon
How do animals survive and thrive in the wild? Study the behaviors and body parts that make animals successful. Examine animal mounts, skulls, tracks, scat and more in our science classroom and observe animals in action on an around-the-pond hike.
Mill Stories in Motion
Monday, March 4, 10–11 a.m.
What do you think a ride to the Old Mill felt like? Was it fast or slow? Long or short? Bumpy or smooth? And what were people traveling in? Make history come to life in this full-bodied transportation exploration. This program does not go inside the old mill, but a History Detective Mill Tour is offered from 11 a.m. to noon—we encourage you to sign up for that, as well, for the ultimate program experience.
Friday, Jan. 25, 11 a.m.–noon
Join us to read Jan Brett’s classic “The Mitten,” a whimsical story about a young boy, his white mittens, and the woodland creatures he encounters. Learn some knitting history and make your own paper snowflake mittens.
Slugs in Love
Thursday, Feb. 14, 11 a.m.–noon
Marylou loves everything about Herbie—how his slime trail glistens in the dark, how he can stretch himself thin to squeeze inside the cellar window, and how he always finds the juiciest tomatoes. But Marylou is a shy slug. How can she get Herbie to notice her? Find out how Marylou woos her beloved in this love story that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day. Hear this adorable story then make a valentine craft.
Turtle Splash! Countdown at the Pond
Thursday, March 7, 11 a.m.–noon
As they are startled by the activities of other nearby creatures, the number of turtles on a log in a pond decreases from 10 to one, in a splash-happy celebration of numbers and animals. Learn about North Carolina turtles and make a fun turtle craft to take home!
Monday, Jan. 21, 2–3 p.m.
Did you know that the gray squirrel is North Carolina’s state mammal and that field research on them took place historically at Yates Mill Pond? Join us on “Squirrel Appreciation Day” as we explore the adaptations that make this bushy-tailed mammal so mesmerizing through stories, a craft and a nature hike.
Animals in Winter
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2–3 p.m.
Winter days find many animals curled up in their dens. They sleep warmly, awakening in spring ready to enjoy the renewed Earth. Discover how animals prepare for cold weather and which ones hibernate during the winter months. Play some fun games and take a short hike around the pond to look for signs of wintering animals.
Wednesday, March 20, 2–3 p.m.
Celebrate the coming of Spring by going on a sensory hike around the millpond with a park naturalist. While exploring park wildlife, learn about the history, cultural traditions, and science associated with the Vernal Equinox.
Field Studies for Adults
Tree Bark and Buds
Sunday, Feb. 24, 1:30–3 p.m.
The leaves have fallen from the trees, but you can still learn to identify them by recognizing their bark and buds. After reviewing a short presentation on winter tree identification, we will hike out into the woods and practice keying out trees by their winter characteristics. Handouts provided. For ages 14 & up; FREE. Registration is required.
Yates by Night
Signs of Spring
Friday, March 29, 7–8 p.m.
Go on a night hike with a park naturalist to test your sensory skills after dark. We’ll hike past the pond’s edge and through forests, wetlands and fields to discover what happens in these habitats at night. The air will be crisp and the land will be alive with night sounds. Come prepared for a fun and engaging spring nighttime adventure! For ages 6 & up (adult accompaniment is required for all children); FREE. Registration is required.
A Poppin’ Good Time!
Friday, Jan. 18, 2–3 p.m.
Celebrate National Popcorn Day at Yates Mill! Learn about different varieties of corn and what gives popcorn that unique POP. Take part in a creative popcorn-themed craft and enjoy some fresh-popped popcorn. For all ages; FREE.
Friday, Feb. 1, 2–3 p.m.
The changing weather is probably the most easily observed part of the natural world and is experienced by everyone on a daily basis. Explore the four weather factors, observe the clouds and learn about extreme weather patterns. Then test your knowledge and forecast the weather! For ages 7 & up; FREE.
In Search of Leprechauns
Friday, March 15, 11 a.m.–noon
The mischievous leprechauns have been playing tricks at Yates Mill. Listen to Irish music, read leprechaun stories and build your own leprechaun trap to help us catch these clever creatures. Be sure to wear green! For ages 6 & up; FREE.