RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, you can escape to a historical gem located in Wake County. Just a short drive from Raleigh is the last operable water-powered gristmill in the county. Yates Mill served Wake County for over 200 years. 

If you’re wondering what a gristmill is, they were used to grind corn and wheat into meal and flour.

Gristmills weren’t just important from an economic standpoint, they were also important socially. Before there were towns or crossroad-stores, gristmills were used as a gathering place. 

Historic Yates Mill County Park boasts 174-acres of wildlife refuge and a 20-acre pond. The park officially opened to the public back in 2006 and has over 100,000 visitors per year! It’s even on the National Register of Historic Places. 

So why check out Historic Yates Mill County Park?

Jack Singley, Park Technician at Historic Yates Mill, knows there is something for everyone who loves the great outdoors. 

“This park is perfect for hiking and bird watching, bench sitting-enjoying nature and finding peace and stillness out here in nature. Here at Historic Yates Mill County Park, we’re almost within the Raleigh City limits, so it’s really not that far away from the epicenter of Raleigh, but it does feel like you’re way out here,” says Singley.

There are over three miles of hiking trails. The park has three trails in total: Mill Pond Trail, High Ridge Trail, and Creekside Trail.

The Mill Pond Trail goes around the pond, while the High Ridge Trail follows the topography of the park. The Creekside Trail takes you over wetland areas in the park. Singley says all trails are quite beautiful. 

You’ll have to leave the pets and the bikes at home, but you can bring the fishing rod and spend the day fishing on the pond boardwalk.  

If you love to look through the lens for that stunning snapshot, there are plenty of spots at Yates Mill. 

The dam at Yates Mill pond. (Jeff Reeves/CBS 17)

“We have a lot of people that come here to do photography and that’s a big thing. If you come to the park for photography, we just have a simple permit system online, it’s free, we just like to make sure no one is on top of each other.”

Normally this time of year, there would be tours for the whole family. Although those are on hold for 2020, you can still come out and enjoy the beauty of the mill and the dam. 

When you walk around Historic Yates Mill, you can tell that it is loved for and cared for deeply. 

“Everyone that works here loves this place, and the people that use it often love this place. It’s a well hidden gem of Raleigh, and we’re proud to work here.”

So grab the family and escape the daily grind at Historic Yates Mill County Park.