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A N.C. Significant Natural Area

The preserve is included by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program as one of 47 significant natural areas in Wake County. The landscape of the preserve occurs in a transitional area between the coastal plain and the piedmont regions of North Carolina.

Special natural features include:

  • Granite rock outcrops and boulders. Enjoy looking at and touching these unique geological formations along the Boulder Trail.
  • A variety of high quality habitats: small wetland communities, floodplain forest, oak forest, mixed pine-hardwood forest, fallow agriculture fields and meadows.
  • Many wildlife species, including priority species of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Wildlife Action Plan.

Some species you may find include: beavers, otters, wood ducks, red-shouldered hawks, prothonotary warblers, common yellowthroats, white-eyed vireos, Louisiana waterthrushes and a variety of frogs, salamanders and reptiles.

Check out our NRID (Natural Resources Inventory Database) to learn about wildlife and native plants, print checklists and see photos.

Interesting Geology

In terms of geology, eastern Wake County is underlain by granite of the Rolesville batholith, as is much of neighboring Johnston and Franklin counties. A batholith is a very large body of granite (greater than 100 km2), and the Rolesville is one of the largest east of the Rockies. About 300 million years ago, older metamorphic rocks were intruded by granitic magma that cooled and hardened to form the batholith.

This occurred during the latter stages of the formation of the Appalachian mountain belt and was accompanied by movement along several major faults in eastern Piedmont region. The batholith is composed of several varieties of granite, distinguished by differences in grain size, texture and mineral content.

At Turnipseed, you see mostly medium-grained biotite granite, but also very coarse-grained granite (pegmatite), as well as porphyritic granite. This area is the last major exposure of crystalline rock heading east toward the Coastal Plain.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of high-quality habitats along the trail system: small wetland communities, floodplain forest, oak forest, mixed pine-hardwood forest, and fallow agriculture fields and meadows can be seen. 

Meadows like the one pictured at right are managed for wildlife through a prescribed burn-and-mow regime.

Evidence of beaver activity, such as the beaver dam below, can be seen along Gin Branch Creek.


The Marks Creek Community History

This history will include the area between Turnipseed, Lake Myra, Buffalo and Eagle Rock roads in southeastern Wake County. Three towns were settled in the early 1800s, based on when they received a post office. Eagle Rock was established in 1837 and was the primary commercial center through most of the 19th century. It was followed by Shotwell in 1883, and, finally, Wendell was established in 1891 and grew quickly in importance due to its tobacco market.

Some of the land that is now part of the preserve was historically farmed. Many families were important to the settlement and development of the Marks Creek community. In the early 1900s, families built their houses together, rather than hiring builders.

In 1947, one family’s home was completely destroyed by fire. Within days, the community had come together to build a two-room house where they lived while the site was cleaned up and a new house constructed.

(Tractor photo credit: Medlin family)

The area was more rural in the early 1900s, when cars were just becoming popular, and neighbors looked after one another because they were so far from any towns.

Since not everyone owned a vehicle, children often went to town in groups with the families who did. Since some families could not afford large farm trucks, the ones with a large truck hauled all of the crops to market.

Each family had vegetable gardens, chickens, at least one dairy cow, and a few hogs. Children owned few store-bought toys, played in the woods, and fished in the creek in their free time. If the tobacco harvest was late, school would start a little later than usual.

You can see evidence of farming at the preserve. All of the meadows used to be used to grow tobacco and soybeans. The picture to the right is of the last crop of tobacco grown at the preserve in 2015.

(Tobacco photo credit: Cheri Szcodronski)

Where did the name Turnipseed come from?

The name for the preserve came from Turnipseed Road, which runs along the south side of the preserve. The Turnipseed family established a farm in the 1920s, and in the 1960s the road was named for them. This road was also a main thoroughfare in the Marks Creek community and was previously known as the Wendell-Raleigh Road. It was also known as Burned Mill Road, and we are still investigating the history of that name.

If you have any information about the history of the preserve or the greater Marks Creek Community, we would enjoy hearing from you. Please email