Up the road from Ebie’s house in Leland is a little-known nature preserve called Ev-Henwood. I’d never heard of it until last weekend when Ebie took us there to go hiking. Pronounced Heavenwood, I quickly discovered the small preserve lives up to its name.
The History of Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve
Like much of Brunswick and Columbus counties, the Waccamaw Sioux once roamed Ev-Henwood. The tribe used the area for hunting, fishing, and gathering before the arrival of Europeans in the 18th century.
In 1790, the property was purchased by John Bassett-Evans. Evans immigrated to America through Charleston during the Revolutionary War. He settled in Brunswick County, where he married Ann Gause. The couple lived at the Shrub Hill Plantation in Winnabow and used Ev-Henwood for farming. The land remained in the hands of Evans’s descendants for two centuries.
The family diversified their use of the property in the 1850s. After becoming involved in the naval stores industry, they began logging long-leaf pines for raw pinesap. The remains of the tar kiln used to turn the sap into turpentine can still be seen today.
During the Great Depression, the family collected mistletoe and holly branches from Ev-Henwood. They shipped them off to New York to be sold for holiday decorations. As a result, many of the holly trees lack lower limbs.
Ev-Henwood didn’t become a residence until 1954 when Evans’s descendant, Troy Henry, decided to make it his home. It was Henry who named the property in honor of his family. Ev for Evans and Hen for Henry.
In 1991, Mr. Henry donated a portion of the preserve to UNCW for education and research. In his will, he granted the rest of the property to the university.
The Nature Preserve Today
Ev-Henwood contains 174 acres of woods and swamplands. The property has 15 trails, fields, two man made ponds and is transversed by Town Creek.
The Beechnut Trail is part of an old wagon road that predates the Civil War. It has been suggested that it is part of the original coastal road that connected Wilmington to Charleston.
Several species of native flora and fauna call the preserve home. An alligator lives in the larger pond on the property, and river otters can be spotted splashing in Town Creek.
Giant bald cypress trees line the creek. Old Gus, pictured below, is one of them. The tree measures more than 6 feet in diameter, and is likely well over 1000 years old.
Visiting the Preserve
The nature preserve features trails, a picnic area, fields, and ponds. Unfortunately, there is no visitor’s center. The only available restroom is a port-a-potty. Activities include hiking and birding.
Located at 6150 Rock Creek Road NE in Leland, the preserve is open daily from dawn until dusk. Admission is free.