The Catawba River and Freedom Trail Greenways are paved trails that follow more than 4 linear miles of the Catawba River and encompass more than 250 acres of land. The trail at the Rocky Ford Access end tends to be less busy and provides more productive, uninterrupted birding. The most productive birding is during April and May, when many migrating songbirds pass through, including American Redstart, Blackthroated Green, Blackpoll, Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Blue-headed Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Louisiana Waterthrush, Orchard Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Throughout the summer, Yellow-throated Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Blue Grosbeak, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Purple Martin, White-eyed Vireo, Summer Tanager, Gray Catbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Northern Parula, and Wood Thrush can be found. In the early successional riparian habitat about 1 mile east of the Greenlee Ford access and along the edges of the agricultural fields about 0.5 miles west of the Rocky Ford access, look for Common Yellowthroat, Indigo Bunting, Field Sparrow, and Yellow-breasted Chat. In the large pines at the Catawba Meadows access, Brown-headed and White-breasted Nuthatch are often present. In winter, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, and White-throated Sparrow are common. The Greenlee Ford and River Village access points offer shoal views, favorite places for migrating waterfowl.
Species of Interest (Full Bird List)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Tree Swallow, Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-breasted Chat, Northern Parula, wintering waterfowl
floodplain forest, oak forest & mixed hardwoods/pine, dry coniferous woodlands, river/stream
Access and Parking
The greenway is open daily during daylight hours. Parking is available at each access, where kiosks contain maps and educational information. Benches are located approximately every tenth of a mile along the trails. A canoe launch is available.
In Morganton, there are four access points to the Catawba River Greenway (Greenlee Ford, River Village, Catawba Meadows, and Rocky Ford) and one access to the Freedom Trail Greenway. Directions below are given for the Greenlee Ford access. Visit the Web site for maps and additional access information. Greenlee Ford Access: Starting from the Old Courthouse Square in downtown Morganton, travel 2 miles southwest on W. Union Street/US 70, through five traffic lights. Turn right on Greenlee Ford Road. Access parking is at the end of the road on the right.
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