Just a skip from the State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh and just feet away from the NC State Agriculture Field Laboratory is the Historic Yates Mill County Park. An oasis in the midst of the city, Yates Mill is a treasure to see. Although it is not a large park, there is a beautiful ranger station with an amazing display of the mill’s history and the flora and fauna found there.
The only remaining operating mill in Wake County, it offers a glimpse into the past. The millpond and associated dam are the driving force behind the mill and its grinding operation. This mill, along with so many others found along the rivers in North Carolina, was an important part of life for farmers and their crops. The close proximity of a mill allowed farmers to have their grains ground without having to carry their crops far distances.
Mill hunting has become a hobby of mine. I love the old millstones and whether the mill is in ruins or still grinds grains, they are all fascinating. If you’ve never made polenta with fresh ground corn from a local mill you don’t know what you’re missing. The Yates Mill hosts corn grinding demonstrations and tours to view the grinding operations. Since the mill was built in mid-1700’s, it has seen many owners. History is alive and well at the mill today.
Once you’re done visiting the the visitor center and the mill, you can walk around the millpond and view the mill from other angles and check out the local wildlife, such as birds and the occasional snake. My recent trip there allowed me to see several water turtles, geese (including one on a nest), and a black snake.
The park is very small, but is a nice getaway from the city, or in my case, a short drive from the farmer’s market. The mill offers great photo opportunities, a beautiful mill pond with a waterfall, a pretty water wheel, and the restored mill on site. The visitor center offers a historical display centered on the history of the mill with photographs, millstones, working examples, and the animals found at the park. A good way to spend a couple of hours on a sunny Saturday!