Pettigrew State Park

Pettigrew State Park is a North Carolina State Park. It sits in two counties; Tyrell and Washington. The park covers 5,951 acres of land. It is on the shores of the Scuppernong River and Lake Phelps. The park is named after a confederate general who lived nearby. His name was General J. Johnston Pettigrew. Pettigrew State Park surrounds Somerset Place. This is a restored historic site of the state. Somerset Place was a plantation house in the 1830s. It has some original outbuildings and some that have been reconstructed.


The park has a great variety of plant and animal life. The northern shore of Lake Phelps has an old-growth forest with sweet gums, bay trees, and persimmons. The cypress trees in the forest have trunks that measure up to 10 feet in diameter.

Large Atlantic white cedars line the Scuppernong River. Locally, these trees are known as Juniper. They are rare cedars that grow to 100 feet high and three feet wide.

Pettigrew State Park is littered with wildflowers. These add a lot of color to the lush green park. They are mainly found along the river and around the lake. Some of the wildflowers found at the park include;

1. Jewelweed

2. Atamasco lily

3. Jack-in-the-pulpit

4. Maypops

5. Buttercup

6. Periwinkle

7. Evening primrose

8. Blue leather flower

The park is in one of the least populated areas in North Carolina. This means that wildlife is free to roam and feel comfortable there. Lake Phelps is often populated by ducks, geese, and swans. Other birds found in the park are;

1. Tundra swan

2. Snow goose

3. Herons

4. Kingfishers

5. Egrets

Owls, eagles, and hawks perch on the trees and hunt rodents at the park. Butterflies are very prominent in and around the park. Other animals at the park are;

1. Opossums

2. Foxes

3. Bobcats

4. Muskrats

5. Raccoons

Lake Phelps

This is the second-largest natural lake. Its origin remains a mystery. The lake is believed to be 38,000 years old. It was formed on a large peninsula. It is between the Pamlico River and the Albemarle Sound. Many hypotheses have been formed on the lake’s origin. None of them have received global acceptance. Some suggestions on how it was formed include;

· Underground springs

· Wind and wave action

· Meteor shower

· Glacial activity

· Peat burn

Lake Phelps is at the highest point in the area. It is shallow, with a depth of between 4.5 and 8 feet. It is 5 miles wide. Unlike most of the lakes and streams in the area, Lake Phelps has clear waters. This is because it depends solely on rainfall for its water. It receives no water from surrounding streams.

The lake is a habitat for many species of animals and plants.


You can walk or ride a bicycle through the trails. There are cypress swamps and hardwood forests in and around the park to be explored. The shores of Lake Phelps offer great photography content. There is also a great opportunity for bird and wildlife watchers.

There are two main trails to follow at Pettigrew State Park. These are;

1. Bee Tree Trail

This trail starts at the park office. It is 1.3 miles long and is a very easy hike.

The trail goes past Somerset Place and the campground. It wanders through a forest of sweetgum trees. It leads to a wooden platform that offers a view of the lake. This is the Bee Tree Overlook. You can watch the wintering waterfowl from the overlook.

There is a short trail that leads to the Pettigrew Family Cemetery.

2. Moccasin Trail

Staring from the park office, this trail leads northwest to Moccasin Canal. It is 2.8 miles long and an easy hike. It travels through a forest of cypress and stops at a 350-foot boardwalk. The boardwalk cuts through a cypress swamp and leads to Moccasin Overlook. There is an incredible view of the whole park from Big Point.


Pettigrew State Park has many camping amenities. From wheelchair accessibility to water access, the park is ideal for camping. There are two options for campers;

1. Tent and trailer camping

People can pitch up tents or park their trailers at the family campground. The campground is between Somerset Place and the park office. There are a total of thirteen campsites. Each is fitted with a grill and picnic table. The restrooms constantly have water and have fitted showers.

Some of the sites can accommodate RVs.

The campsites are located in an open and grassy meadow. The sweetgum and cypress forest lines are a part of the campground, offering shade to some sites.

2. Group camping

The group campground is surrounded by a forested area. You can access Lake Phelps through the Boardwalk trail. The site has a few amenities, like a fire ring, tent pads, vault toilet, and water.


There are many things to do at Pettigrew State Park. These include;

1. Hiking and biking

The trails allow for walking and riding bikes. They are smooth and wide enough to offer ample room.

2. Boating

Lake Phelps offers many activities. These include; canoeing, kayaking, and using rowboats. The lake is perfect for sailing in shallow-draft boats.

There is a canoe trail through the park. It gives visitors a unique view of the park’s ecosystem.

3. Swimming

The shallow clear waters of Lake Phelps are perfect for swimming. There is a designated swim area for all. There are no lifeguards and adults are required to keep a watchful eye on children.

4. Fishing

Lake Phelps has yellow perch, pumpkinseed, and largemouth bass fish. There are excellent fishing spots along the banks of the Scuppernong River as well.

5. Picnicking

The cypress grove gives a great shade for picnicking. Picnic sites are available at the campground.

6. Bird watching

The park has many birds in the trees and all over going about their business.

Pettigrew State Park is a family-friendly location for all. There are many activities in and around the park to entertain all visitors. The park has a rich history and great recreational activities. It is the perfect place to unwind with nature.