Hitchcock Creek, a tributary of the Pee Dee River, flows through Rockingham, North Carolina. Thanks to a dam removal and the creation of the Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail, the creek is experiencing a renaissance and the local community is reconnecting to this valuable natural asset.
Through the Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail, the City of Rockingham has renewed a natural resource that will provide paddling, fishing and economic growth through tourism and recreation today and for future generations. Clean, pure water in the middle of an urban area is not often found today and the Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail preserves this for future uses.
Once the economic hub of the area, all of the textile and paper mills in Rockingham many of them on Hitchcock Creek closed during the final decades of the past century. The city had a new vision for its community and turned to Hitchcock Creek as a focal point of its economic future. Following the removal of Steeles Mill Dam, American Rivers and the City developed the Blue Trail which runs 14 miles starting in Rockingham, courses through floodplain forests, passes remnants of old mills and is home to many rare plants and animals. The Blue Trail offers not only an intimate recreational setting, but also an opportunity to learn about the area’s history and natural places.
Virtually unused prior to 2009, thousands currently paddle Hitchcock Creek every year. Rockingham now sees their Blue Trail as an economic driver for the region and recognizes that a healthy Hitchcock Creek is vital its long-term success.
American Rivers helped to transform Hitchcock Creek in Rockingham, North Carolina into a destination for fishing, boating, and other family-friendly recreation. Until 2009, the Steeles Mill dam degraded Hitchcock Creek, blocking migrating fish and preventing the community from safely enjoying the river through recreation. Originally built in the late 1800s to generate power for a cotton mill, the 15-foot tall Steeles Mill Dam had fallen into disuse by 1999. The removal of the dam restored more than 15 miles of habitat for species including hickory shad, blueback herring, striped bass and Atlantic sturgeon. The dam removal was the result of efforts by partners including American Rivers, the City of Rockingham and NOAA. In June 2009, removal of Steeles Mill Dam began, marking a renaissance for Hitchcock Creek, and emblematic of a river restoration trend in North Carolina and nationwide. American Rivers and our partners removed the dam, and created a 14 mile Blue Trail.
As part of this effort, the City of Rockingham protected 90 acres of bottomland forest along the Blue Trail, protected 2-miles of riverside land through a conservation easement upstream of the former Steeles Mill Dam site, purchased two river access areas, and acquired a boat launch. Starting in Rockingham, the Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail offers paddlers an opportunity to explore the area’s diverse floodplain forests, historic mills remnants, and rare plants and animals. Rockingham sees their Blue Trail as an economic driver for the region and recognizes that a healthy Hitchcock Creek is vital its long-term success.
Steve Morris – Mayor of Rockingham, North Carolina: Through the Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail, we have renewed a natural resource that will provide paddling, fishing and economic growth through tourism and recreation today and for future generations. Clean, pure water in the middle of an urban area is not often found today and we will preserve this for future uses. The Blue Trail will have a positive influence on other outdoor programs throughout its ten mile run.