Jordan Lake ramblings

Jordan Lakeshore seen from Transis Camp Game lands. Photo by ©Maria de Bruyn.


By Maria de Bruyn

Jordan Lake, a man-made body of water covering 13,940 acres, was made possible by a 1963 measure passed by the U.S. Congress. Several North Carolina communities had to be abandoned to make way for the new reservoir. Today, divers can still find remnants of towns and farms underwater. Upon completion of the dam in 1982, Jordan Lake became a flood-prevention asset and a major source of drinking water and recreational opportunities for Triangle residents.

Numerous access points provide opportunities for running, hiking, walking, nature observation and photography. Two of my favorites for long nature walks are the Jordan Lake State Educational Forest and the Transis Camp Road Game lands. When visiting the latter area during hunting season, it is advisable to wear an orange vest and stick strictly to trails. Birders and equestrians do go there often.

Top left: common buckeye butterfly. Top right: red admiral butterfly. Bottom left: sleepy orange butterfly. Bottom center: pollinating bee. Bottom right: yellow jacket wasps emerging from ground nest. All photos by ©Maria de Bruyn.

If you’re interested in entomology, there are plenty of creatures to find. All during spring, summer and fall you will find dragonflies and pollinators at work as the natural surroundings are replete with many varieties of native plants. Butterfly species vary throughout the spring, summer and fall, while bees are consistently busy pollinating throughout the growing season.

During my last visit to Transis Camp, I was, fortunately, paying attention to the path so that I didn’t stumble into a yellow jacket wasp ground nest. The wasps didn’t go after me, and I could walk on without worries.

Left: great horned owl. Right: osprey with fish. Both photos by ©Maria de Bruyn.

Many birds are interested in finding insects, as they form a large part of their diet. Some species frequenting the lake border areas are birds visiting my yard, like Carolina chickadees and Carolina wrens. Others are avian varieties that don’t come near my home or only visit very sporadically. My latest “find” at Transis Camp made me very happy when I spotted a raptor that I’ve only seen in person a few times.

When I stopped to look at the field on one side of the path and then the woods on the other side, I saw movement that I guessed might be a hawk. Looking through my long camera lens, however, I was surprised to see a great horned owl, which I had heard at Transis Camp a few times but not seen. The large bird was quite some distance away, so it was interesting to see that the owl had spotted me watching and was keeping an eye on me, too.

My favorite raptors, the ospreys, can be seen all along the lake. At both the Educational Forest and game lands, I can watch them nest and raise young (at a distance) each spring. At the Transis Camp site, I can sometimes see them fishing a bit closer by.

Top left: orchard orioles. Top right: indigo bunting. Bottom left: yellow-breasted chat. Bottom right: red-headed woodpecker. All photos by ©Maria de Bruyn.

Other beautiful birds that appear regularly include blue grosbeaks, indigo buntings, red-eyed and white-eyed vireos, orchard orioles, red-headed woodpeckers and yellow-breasted chats. During spring and autumn migration seasons, Jordan Lake areas are especially attractive for birders because many birds tend to rest there during their long flights.

Top photos: black rat snake. Bottom left: Eastern fence lizard. Bottom right: Southern toad. All photos by ©Maria de Bruyn.

There are mammals at the Jordan Lake sites but other than squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks, you might not see them often. Spottings for herpetologists are easier to come by. One day, I came across a large black rat snake at the Educational Forest — we were both startled, but the snake was more so than me as it turned tail and slid quickly up a tree, coming to rest above me, where it watched me intently.

On another recent day, I felt like I was playing a game of “spot that toad”. Small Southern toads appeared every few feet as I walked a long trail. After counting 14, I stopped the tally but admired each new amphibian that appeared. It was fun seeing the Eastern fence lizards coming out to sun on logs on various occasions, too.

If you’re looking for new places for nature-based outings, I highly recommend the Jordan Lake recreational areas. Several have swimming areas; all have hiking paths. The Educational Forest trails have numerous signs explaining facts about vegetation and birds. More photos from the Forest and Transis Camp sites will be up on my blog in a few days. Stay cool and hydrated in the hot days ahead!

Maria de Bruyn participates in several nature-oriented citizen science projects, volunteers at Mason Farm Biological Reserve and the Orange County Senior Center, coordinates a nature-themed book club, posts on Instagram ( and writes a blog focusing on wildlife at

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