Sandhills Game Land represents one of the largest examples of intact longleaf pine ecosystem left in North Carolina. The 60,000+ acres are maintained through active management, including controlled burning, and support a robust population of Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Drowning Creek provides excellent opportunities to see migrating and breeding warblers in the dense, swampy creek-side habitat. The longleaf-wiregrass uplands off Derby Road are a good place to see Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and Bachman's Sparrow. The field trial course that winds through the woods west of Derby Road supports many early successional species such as Prairie Warbler and Field Sparrow. At the Fish Hatchery you will encounter a lake, hatchery ponds, and hardwood forest along the creek. Here you can also see Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, and migrating shorebirds. In the Cooperative Upland habitat Restoration and Enhancement (CURE) area you will see longleaf pine forests that have been restored through timber thinning, groundcover establishment, and burning. Several of the hardwood/evergreen shrub drains have been managed to restore switchcane-dominated habitat. The CURE area offers excellent opportunities to observe Northern Bobwhite, Red-headed and Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Bachman's Sparrow. Rare, fire-adapted plants and animals can be found throughout the Game Land.
Species of Interest (Full Bird List)
Northern Bobwhite, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Prairie Warbler, Field Sparrow, Bachman's Sparrow
dry longleaf pine, early successional, floodplain forest, creek
Hunting is allowed on Sandhills Game Land during certain times of the year. Birders should be aware of current hunting regulations and seasons, and take adequate safety precautions during those times. For more on hunting precautions, see the hunting season information at the beginning of this guide. A Hunter Camping Area is available on Sandhills Game Land during hunting seasons.
Access and Parking
The Game Land can be accessed daily during daylight hours. Parking is available at access area in fields, along road shoulders, or near gates on the Game Land. Avoid parking in soft road shoulders, especially after rain events, as your vehicle may get stuck. During dry weather, sandy roads may require 4-wheel drive. The US Army trains on Sandhills Game Land year-round. Do not block roads, gates, or fire lanes with vehicles.
There are multiple access points to good birding spots on Sandhills Game Land. The Thunder/Derby Road area can be accessed by turning west onto Thunder Road (SR 1102) off of US 1, approximately 0.5 miles south of Pinebluff. Proceed 6.2 miles to a set of 2 bridges over Drowning Creek. After this stop, continue west for 0.3 miles to merge onto Derby Road (SR 1003). After 0.52 miles you will see an abandoned road bed on the left that you can walk down toward Drowning Creek (est. 1.5-miles round trip). Continuing on Derby Road, over the next 2 miles you will pass through the Game Land with additional opportunities to walk on dirt roads. 4.8 total miles from the stop sign, Derby Road will dead-end at McDonald Church Road (SR 1475). Turn right (west), proceed 4.2 miles and turn left at the sign to the McKinney Lake Fish Hatchery. Proceed to lake and hatchery ponds. The Hatchery can be accessed directly from US 1 by turning west onto SR 1475 at the Hoffman BP gas station and proceeding 4.3 miles. Another good birding spot is the Cooperative Upland habitat Restoration and Enhancement (CURE) area, a 5,000-acre portion of the Game Land which lies southeast of US 1. From the Hoffman BP, go 2.2 miles south on US 1 and turn left (southeast) onto Old Laurel Hill Road (SR 1601). After 1.8 miles, turn left (east) at the first 4-way dirt road intersection. Proceed 1.3 miles and turn left (north) at the next 4-way intersection onto Hoffman Road (SR 1602), which will carry you back to US 1 in Hoffman. You may stop along the side of the road and walk into the CURE area at any point.
Delorme Gazetteer Page