The Friends of South Ellerbe Creek

Railroad bridge marks the point where Ellerbe Creek
flows into Falls Lake.

Bent trees guide Ellerbe Creek through a quiet stretch of eastern Durham.

The Friends of South Ellerbe Creek is an informal group of citizens dedicated to conserving and enhancing the scenic, recreational, natural and historic qualities of South Ellerbe Creek and its landscape in the upper-Neuse River Basin. From its headwaters near Greystone Baptist on Hillsborough Road, South Ellerbe Creek flows for three miles through some of Durham's oldest and most densely developed neighborhoods: Old West Durham, Walltown, Northgate Park, Trinity Park. Another branch of South Ellerbe flows north out of downtown Durham, through Durham Central Park and Trinity Park -- before joining her sister near Club Blvd Elementary. South Ellerbe then joins Ellerbe Creek in a small forest -- just northwest of the I-85/Roxboro Road interchange. Along some wooded stretches, the creek quietly flows through areas as scenic as any in western North Carolina. Elsewhere, South Ellerbe is a troubled creek.

On the site:

South Ellerbe flows past E.K. Powe Elementary School near Ninth Street...
...and under historic Durham Athletic Park (of "Bull Durham" fame).


Point where Ellerbe Creek flows into Falls Lake (near mouth of Eno River and the I-85 bridge)

DOT work zone at I-85 and North Duke Street. South Ellerbe flows through what was once a wooded area. As part of the effort to widen I-85, concrete channels are placed under future North Duke Street interchange. Discussions with DOT indicate that South Ellerbe will be shifted north and have a more natural stream bed (than at the interchange).

During the Prohibition, this house (at the corner of Virgie and Green) was one of the most popular destinations in all of West Durham. In the back yard were two doors. One was prominent and led nowhere. A second was small and mostly hidden. Visitors would pass through the smaller door to enter a large room filled with floor-to-ceiling cabinets -- each with a small padlock. Inside the private cabinets was a collection of favorite spirits. According to long-time residents, White Lightning was the brew of choice. Consumption only allowed off-site. One resident recalls a scandalous morning in the 1930s when a body was found in the creek across the street. Scared the neighborhood kids half to death. Turns out he was OK -- just an avid consumer of local moonshine. Today, a coalition of supporters is seeking to establish the South Ellerbe Creek Natural Area along the old creek.

History Near the Creek...


Cleanup Efforts

Many people have taken time out to clean debris from South Ellerbe Creek.

Citizens Integral Part of the Pollution Solution
(Waterways, May/June 2001 -- newsletter sent with every Durham water bill)

Efforts to clean up urban streams throughout the city of Durham are paying off. But nowhere is that progress more evident than in the Ellerbe Creek watershed... the Friends of South Ellerbe Creek and other neighborhood volunteer groups are helping to focus community awareness on the need to protect and restore streams in Durham... "Hey, you've got this resource in your back yard!" says Michelle Nowlin, coordinator for Friends of South Ellerbe Creek.

"Community groups like Friends of South Ellerbe Creek increase pride in our neighborhoods and our local streams through stream clean-up projects. We can also help the City find and eliminate sources of pollution, but the final chapter in restoring these streams requires people accept and understand that what they do in their backyards and neighborhoods has an impact on our streams and on our quality of life."

Want to do more? Get involved? The Friends of South Ellerbe Creek is an informal group of citizens dedicated to conserving and enhancing the scenic, recreational, natural and historic qualities of South Ellerbe Creek and its landscape in the Upper Neuse River Basin. More info can be found at /fosec

Update of Activities

1. Stream adoption: adopted the stream with both the state and the EPA. Thanks to the NC Department of Environment & Natural Resources, our "Stream Watch" and "Friends of South Ellerbe Creek" signs are now posted near the stream on Green Street (near Virgie), Broad Street (near West Knox) and Club Boulevard (near Onslow).

2. Storm drain stickers: currently organizing the placement of storm drain stickers near the creek with students from two local elementary schools and others,

3. South Ellerbe Creek Natural Area: built a community coalition and successfully lobbied the Durham City Council to help create an urban green space along the creek. Council voted to commit $150,000 in the Capital Improvement Plan for the green space. As a result, protecting this wonderful natural area near E.K. Powe Elementary is now part of the long-range plans for the City of Durham.

4. FOSEC has helped organize more than 40 creek clean-ups along South Ellerbe in West Durham, Walltown, Durham Central Park, and Trinity Park.

5. Education: telling and re-telling the story of South Ellerbe -- through our updated web site, emails and face-to-face encounters.

Read comments about FOSEC and its web site

See how our storm drain stickers, like this one, got placed in the neighborhoods along the creek.

Partial list of FOSEC partners:
  • Brogden Middle School PTA
  • Club Blvd Elementary School PTA
  • Duke University
  • Durham Central Park
  • E.K. Powe Elementary School PTA
  • Eno River Association
  • Environmental Defense Fund (NC)
  • Environmental Federation of NC
  • N.C. Department of Environment & Natural Resources
  • Neuse River Foundation
  • Ninth Street Merchants Association
  • Northgate Mall
  • Northgate Park Neighborhood Association
  • Old West Durham Neighborhood Association
  • Self-Help Credit Union
  • Triangle Land Conservancy
  • Trinity Park Neighborhood Association
  • Walltown Community Association
  • Walltown Neighborhood Ministries

Click images for larger views of certificates.

The Friends of South Ellerbe Creek links

Marvelled - Website Desing Auckland
Website Design Auckland

American Heritage Rivers

Cape Fear River Assembly

Center For Watershed Protection

Clean Water Mgt Trust Fund

Community Right to Know (EPA)

Drought Watch

Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment

Durham Central Park

Durham City Council

Durham City/County Planning Department

Durham County Commissioners

Earth Share NC

Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association

Eno River Association

Friends of South Ellerbe Creek

Map of Nearby Neighborhoods

Neuse River Foundation

Neuse River buffer protection regs

Neuse River Watershed

NC Big Sweep

NC Department of Environment & Natural Resources

NC Streamwatch

Old West Durham Home Page

River Network

Science Park on Broad Street

Sierra Club

Story of South Ellerbe Creek

Surf Your Watershed (EPA)

Triangle Land Conservancy

Trinity Park neighborhood

Upper-Neuse River Basin Association

UNC Water Resources Research Institute

Urban Parks Online

Walltown Community Association

Waterose Environmental Science

Weather Forecast for South Ellerbe watershed

If you'd like to be added to our growing email list (it's all free), please contact

Webmaster: Tom Clark