McDowell Nature Center serves as the gateway to 1,132 acres of McDowell Nature Preserve and is the resource for educational programs and information on the preserve's natural communities, flora, and fauna. This oldest preserve in Mecklenburg County protects mostly forested, rolling terrain along the banks of Lake Wylie. Download a Map.
The Nature Center features live native animals, a discovery hall, and a gift shop. Visitors can stop and observe nature in action at the Ozone Garden or the demonstration compost area, or enjoy a natural play area. Self-interpretive trail guides are available for miles of hiking trails.
A variety of programs are offered, including paddling tours of Lake Wylie and environmental education courses for all ages.
Other facilities located in the preserve include:
McDowell Campground, offering a total of 56 reservable campsites. Options range from primitive sites to RV pads with full hookups.
Copperhead Island - A 20 acre island with hiking trails, group camping, fishing access and more. Open daily for public use unless reserved for a special event. Reserve the entire island or just the main shelter.
The preserve offers numerous ways to enjoy the outdoors. Boating enthusiasts can take advantage of the public boat ramps at Copperhead Island or participate in a guided kayaking tour. There are a number of fishing docks for public use. Anglers age 16 or older must have a NC State fishing license.
Shaded playgrounds and a variety of picnic areas can be used on a first-come-first-served basis, while a few larger shelters and the waterfront deck are available for reservation. Public restrooms available at the large shelters, nature center, campground, and waterfront.
McDowell Nature Preserve has over 7 miles of trail offering hikers and nature enthusiasts the opportunity to explore a variety of terrain with scenic views of Lake Wylie, forests, streams, and a piedmont prairie restoration area. Dogs are welcome but must remain on a 6-foot or shorter leash at all times. Bicycles are restricted to paved roads within the preserve.
15222 South York Road
Charlotte, NC 28278
980-314-1128 - NEW PHONE NUMBER
Mon - Sat 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sun 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Campground and shelter reservations - 980-314-2267
When to Go
This is a fun place to visit anytime of year. As with most outdoor spaces, it does get crowded quickly on the weekends and holidays.