Nestled at the head of its namesake reservoir in north Asheville, the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary is a nature lover’s treasure right in the city. The better part of 200 species of birds have been recorded utilizing its forested and wetland habitat and the lake itself: an avian magnet, and a magnet therefore for birders as well. But the sanctuary’s eight acres don’t only appeal to hardcore birdwatchers: Anybody who could use a quiet walk in the woods—and isn’t that just about everyone?—will appreciate this oasis.
Asheville’s Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society purchased the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary’s original acreage in 1988 to save it from development; the Lake View Park Commission owns the rest.
A well-maintained, handicapped-accessible, roughly 3/8-mile boardwalk leads through the sanctuary’s woods, shrub thickets, and wetlands to overlooks of Beaver Lake itself. Benches and observation decks give visitors plenty of spots to sit and soak in the landscape—and to scan and listen for the sanctuary’s wildlife residents, the feathered kind most definitely included.
Depending on what time of year you visit the sanctuary, you may see everything from waterfowl and waders to Neotropical songbirds and high-flying birds of prey. A mere sampler pack of native birds includes white-eyed and red-eyed vireos, chipping and song sparrows, American woodcock and Wilson’s snipe, blue-winged teal and wood ducks, pied-billed and horned grebes, red-shouldered hawks and ospreys, blue-gray gnatcatchers and northern rough-winged swallows, great crested flycatchers and eastern phoebes, brown-headed nuthatches and Carolina wrens, northern mockingbirds and eastern bluebirds, American bitterns and lesser yellowlegs, scarlet tanagers and indigo buntings, and a kaleidoscope of warblers, including magnolia, yellow-throated, hooded, black-and-white, and orange-crowned varieties.
Besides doing your own self-guided walkabouts (armed, ideally, with binoculars and a bird guide), you might consider coming to the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary on the first Saturday of the month, when the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society leads guided bird walks. They begin at 8 AM from April through September and an hour later from October through March.
If you feel like a longer stroll after moseying the boardwalk, by the way, you can walk the path along the north shore of Beaver Lake to its spillway.
Whether on a sultry summer’s afternoon amid leafy luxuriance or a super-still, frosty winter’s morning, the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary serves as a wonderful place to slow down a bit and immerse yourself in a pocket urban mini-wilderness within shouting distance of downtown Asheville.
The Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary is open from dawn until dusk, and the gate for the parking lot opens and closes on a timer system—so heads up! There’s also some parking space on the dam side of the lake at the junction of Merrimon Avenue and Glen Falls Road.