The site includes the bottomland forest and riparian corridor along the Catawba River from Lake Norman to Mountain Island Lake. Tracts along the Catawba
River were purchased by Mecklenburg County in 1992 to preserve wildlife habitat and open space and to help provide protection for the water quality of Mountain Island Lake, the primary source of drinking water for the city of Charlotte.
The site includes the Mecklenburg County Cowan?s Ford Wildlife Refuge. The most significant feature of the refuge is its mosaic of natural community types, including bottomland hardwood forest, that have been left intact along the river.

Ornithological Summary

As of August 1998, 189 species of birds have been recorded at Cowans Ford Wildlife Refuge. From Sept 1996 through July 1997 and from April 1998 through June 1998, a total of 360 point counts were conducted at CFWR as part of a habitat selection study of neotropical migratory land birds. Data collected from that study included a total of 115 species of birds, 54 (47%) of which were neotropical migrants. Of the 54 neotropical migratory species, 27 were transients to the North Carolina piedmont; at least 23 of the remaining species breed at CFWR. The Catawba River is a well-known migratory corridor and the Refuges proximity to the river not only makes it an important stopover site during spring and fall migrations, but also a wintering site for 21 species of waterfowl. Nineteen species of shorebirds have also been recorded at the site. Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation is currently in the process of establishing a Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) station at CFWR to begin operation in May 1999.

Conservation Issues

Introduced plants, cowbird parasitism, over-browsing.

Invasive exotic plant species have spread into many areas. An overabundance of white-tailed deer has
caused serious damage to vegetation due to overbrowsing. An obvious browse line is evident in many areas of deciduous and bottomland forest. Past management practices have resulted in forest fragmentation and increased predation by forest edge predators. Management programs are being implemented by Mecklenburg County and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to address these issues.


Tracts within the area are protected by Mecklenburg, Lincoln and Gaston Counties, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. The remaining land is in private ownership.


The site includes Mesic mixed hardwood forest, dry oak-hickory forest, dry-mesic oak-hickory forest, piedmont bottomland forest, Piedmont Alluvial forest

Land Use

Other conservation, wildlife conservation.

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