|From Autrey Mill Nature Preserve|
The feature that offers this its place its name is the Autrey Mill, built in the 1870’s on Sal’s Creek, it was used to grind corn and flour. There are ruins of the Mill as you walk up Sal’s Creek, unfortunately nothing significant, mostly overturned rocks of what was once a dam, I believe. At the front near the parking area are a number of historical buildings gathered together. The prettiest of the bunch is the fully restored 1890’s farmhouse known as the Summerour house. There is also a General Store, some tenants buildings, barns, and two churchs. The Old Warsaw Church is a simple Moravian building; the Debray Chapel, named for the last private owners of the land, would probably be more striking had it not been crushed by a tree during Hurricane Ivan. Since I made the trek, the have added a duck pond and some replica Indian dwellings.
The trails are simple to follow and easy to walk spanning a little over 2 miles in entirety, if you walk along the creek looking for the meager ruins. Not long enough to get a thorough workout, but much better than sitting at home. No memorable ups and downs, unless you leave the preserve. And with its reasonable proximity, it makes for a nice evening stroll or family jaunt.
One interesting note: on the trail you will find a half dozen or so stone monkey statues. On the day we went they were wearing scarves, but the scarves might not be there when you go. Now I love a good legend like the next guy, and a gentlemen at the park told me that they are there to commemorate the massacre of monkeys done by early settlers in the area. As the story goes, a circus train broke down or crashed nearby sending the monkeys scurrying into the woods near Sal’s Creek. The settlers, living in the 1800’s, never having seen monkeys, thought they were some kind of deranged mutant chipmunk or squirrel, thought them quite the nuisance and set out hunting them until all the poor monkeys were dead. It’s a nice story and I think a story of that kind was mentioned in the movie “The Greatest Show on Earth ” but there is no indication that something like that ever really happened . But a good story still is a good story.
It seems that the good folks at the Autrey Mill Nature Preserve have been busy in the years following my visit. They have opened the aforementioned Indian exhibit and duck pond, as well as holding a number of events there currently including live theater and have opened a farm museum (some of these may require a fee). I applaud them for their work even in the face of the negative economy we all reside within. So if you are looking for a nearby getaway to the past in a natural setting, I encourage you to check it out.
Approximate Time: 2 miles
Approximate Distance: 1-1.5 hours
Trail Surface: mostly compact soil, some boardwalk
Features: Ruins, Riverside Walk, historic Buildings, a legend
Overall Rating: B
Scenic Quality: B+
Hours of Operation: 8am to dusk, visitor center Mon - Sat 10-4
Facilities: at Visitor Center
Maps: at visitor center