The oldest nature preserve in Mecklenburg County, the year-round McDowell Preserve offers 1,107-acres of almost entirely undeveloped forest adjacent to Lake Wylie. This local treasure preserves the habitat of many species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, as well as many spring wildflowers.
The Nature Center contains exhibits with live, indigenous animals, and out back you’ll find an amphitheater and a demonstration garden with butterfly-friendly plants and bird feeders.
Around the preserve itself, there are nine different nature trails, each of them moderately strenuous and less than a mile long. At Copperhead Island at Lake Wylie, there’s a campground where you can rent tents (and have them set up for you in advance), as well as facilities for renting kayaks, canoes, and fishing equipment.