Latta Plantation Nature Center
and Preserve - Charlotte and
Mecklenburg County Parks
Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation
5841 Brookshire Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28216
Explore Latta Plantation
Nature Center and Preserve
Latta Plantation Nature Center serves as the
gateway to the 1,343 acres of Latta Plantation Nature Preserve and
is the source for educational programs and information on the
preserve's natural communities, flora, and fauna. The preserve,
Mecklenburg County's largest, forms a green peninsula extending into
Mountain Island Lake and protects a natural heritage site and
several endangered plants.
Location and Directions
Latta Plantation Nature Center and Nature
Preserve is located at 6211 Sample Road in northwestern Mecklenburg
Traveling North on I-77 from Charlotte
Exit 16B, Sunset Road West, to Beatties Ford Road. Turn right
and proceed north for 4.8 miles until you reach Sample Road. Turn
left onto Sample Road and continue 1 mile to the preserve entrance.
Traveling South on I-77 from Davidson
Exit 23, Huntersville. Turn right off of the exit onto Gilead
Road. Take the third left, McCoy Road. At the stop sign, turn right
on Beatties Ford Road. Turn left onto Sample Road and continue 1
mile to the preserve entrance.
Getting Around Inside the Preserve
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve is a large
facility. Although all amenities are located off of one main road,
it is 1.5 miles from the entrance to the lake. Visitors can walk
between amenities such as the Nature Center, picnic area, Carolina
Raptor Center and Historic Latta Plantation, but most prefer to
To help minimize traffic with the preserve, visitors with
bicycles are encouraged to utilize them to travel from one amenity
to another. Please remember all bikes must remain on paved roads and
are not allowed on hiking and horseback trails.
History and Description
In 1981, the Mecklenburg County Park and
Recreation Department first opened Latta Plantation Park, a 654-acre
"Nature Preserve." After the creation of the Nature
Preserve Master Plan in 1997, the name was officially changed to
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve.
In the 1800's, most of the area was a cotton
plantation owned by Mr. James Latta, a traveling merchant who first
purchased the land in 1799. A portion of the acreage was used as a
Boy Scout camp in the 1940's. Military exercises have also been
conducted on the property.
The property was purchased from several
different owners including Crescent Resources and The Nature
Conservancy. R. H. Johnson Construction once owned the majority of
Crescent Resources had harvested timber in
some areas of what is now preserve property. The 2,810 square foot
Latta Plantation Nature Center was first opened in 1982 as the
Ranger Interpretive Center. The Center's name changed to Latta
Plantation Nature Center in 1998 and the facility underwent its
first major renovation in 2002.
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve is the
County's largest nature preserve and protects over 1,343 acres of
natural communities including the Beatties Ford Basic Forest natural
heritage site. The preserve forms a green peninsula extending into
Mountain Island Lake, the drinking water source for over 700,000
residents in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties.
Its diversity of natural communities includes
upland and bottomland hardwood forests, open fields, streams, and a
Prairie restoration site protecting the federally endangered
Schweinitz's sunflower and Michaux's sumac.
The Preserve is part of the Mountain Island
Lake Important Bird Area, designated by the National Audubon Society
due to its diversity of wintering waterfowl, breeding and migratory
songbird species, and protection of bottomland hardwood forests, a
threatened natural community in North Carolina.
Amenities and other Facilities
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve offers
endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Visitors can literally
spend the entire day at the preserve. Canoe and kayak enthusiasts
will find two landing areas that provide access to Gar Creek and
Mountain Island Lake. Numerous fishing opportunities are available.
Anglers ages 16 and older must have a NC State Fishing License.
The new picnic area restroom complex.
Latta Plantation Nature Center features live,
native animals, a discovery hall, an outdoor amphitheater, and a
gift shop. Outside, visitors can stop and observe nature in action
at the National Wildlife Federation certified Backyard Habitat
Garden which includes bird feeding stations, butterfly gardens,
garden pond, and demonstration compost area. Self-interpretive trail
guides are available for several nature preserve trails.
Other facilities located in the preserve
- Carolina Raptor Center, an education and
rehabilitation facility dedicated to the conservation of birds
of prey and home to the Southeast's largest eagle aviary,
- Latta Plantation Equestrian Center, a
facility providing guided horseback rides, pony rides, horse
shows, lessons, and tack store,
- Historic Latta Plantation, a restored 19th
century federal-style home and living history farm of James
Latta, open to public tours and interpretive programs.
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve has 16 miles
of trails offering hikers, nature enthusiasts, and horseback riders
the opportunity to explore a variety of terrain while enjoying
scenic views of the lake, forests, and streams. It is the only
Mecklenburg County property open to horseback riding.
Thirteen (13) miles are designated as
horseback and hiking trails and three (3) miles are designated as
hiking only. Due to the delicate nature of sharing trails with
horses, mountain bikes are permitted only on paved roads within the
Visitors bringing their own horses can park
their trailer in a designated horse trailer parking lot and base out
of that location to explore the entire preserve. There is a $3/horse
equestrian trail user fee payable via a drop box located in the
horse trailer parking lot. Proof of 12-month negative Coggins should
be available for inspection.
Visitors without their own horses can take a
guided horseback ride from Latta Plantation Equestrian Center. Dogs
are welcome on preserve trails, but must remain on a 6-foot or
shorter leash at all times. All trails are marked with color
Flora and Fauna
In addition to protecting the water quality of
Mountain Island Lake, Latta Plantation Nature Preserve preserves
habitat for 97 species of birds, 17 species of mammals, 14 species
of reptiles, and 9 species of amphibians.
Among the unusual species that have been found
at the Preserve are: Bald Eagle, Wild Turkey, red fox, gray fox,
mink, and red-spotted newt. The Preserve also protects two federally
endangered plants (Schweinitz's sunflower and Michaux's sumac), a
federal candidate species (Georgia's aster), and the largest
population of puttyroot orchid in Mecklenburg County.
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