Yes, it’s a long drive. But it’s oh-so-worth it.

The millpond, which is where the paddling happens, is 760 acres. That may not seem like a lot of paddling for a nearly two-hour drive. But those 760 acres are peppered with bald cypress and tupelo gum trees that make every stroke an adventure. Sidle up to a trunk and see what creatures might be living in this microclimate. Or, conversely, let the enormity of the swamp wash over you and, before you know it, you’ll have no idea where you are or how you got there. A great place to paddle with a compass and map.

On the dark, tannic waters of Merchants Millpond you’ll paddle through green mats of floating duckweed and water fern. You’re often serenaded by a chorus of frogs: carpenter, leopard, bull, cricket, tree. Cooters abandon their sunning perch atop downed logs signaling your approach. Water snakes abound (yes, there are cottonmouths) and because this is such a rich, lush environment the trees are typically full of birds: more than 200 species of regulars and migrants have been recorded here. Pack a guidebook in your dry bag.

Canoe rentals are available and for whatever reason Merchants Millpond feels best explored in such a craft. The extra elevation comes in handy for wildlife viewing and for trying to figure out just where the heck you are. There is a marked canoe trail, but with so much to see at Merchants Millpond it’s easy to become distracted and veer off course. Only a problem come closing time.

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Getting there from downtown Greenville
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1 hour and 45 minutes from downtown Greenville
Time to complete: 1-3 hours
Address: 176 Millpond Road
City: Gatesville
State: N.C.
Zip: 27938
Latitude: 36.4371
Longitude: 76.70158