Lake with dam that has branches and brush built up blocking it


Wetland Conversion of Upper Durant Lake

Maintaining and Protecting the Nature Preserve

There is a 6-acre upper lake at Durant Nature Preserve. Water leaving the upper lake flows through a concrete spillway (over an earthen dam) and along a 100-foot-long channel to the lower lake.

In 2013, an engineering firm contracted by the City of Raleigh deemed the dam and spillway of the upper lake to be deficient and in need of repair. A study was conducted to explore options to maintain the area and protect the preserve.

View the Upper Lake Study Report

Project Details

Lakes, Streams, and Dams
3 million
Project Lead:
Stormwater Management
WK Dickson (Design)



Emily Smull, PE
Project Manager

Lead Department:
Engineering Services
Participating Department:
Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Service Unit:




With the study phase complete, we considered multiple alternatives that were shared with the community and citizen advisory boards. 

Approved Recommendations 

City staff recommended converting the upper lake at Durant Nature Preserve to a tiered wetland. This recommendation comes after completing the study and getting feedback from stakeholders and the community.

In April 2021, Raleigh City Council approved moving forward with the tiered wetland. We are expecting to start the design phase in mid-2022. We'll keep you updated on any changes.  

Getting Feedback 

Virtual Meeting Resources 


During this study, we evaluated the lake’s physical, biological, and chemical conditions. Then we looked at how we can change the lake area to:

  • Create a better ecosystem;
  • Provide a variety of landscape features at the lake; and,
  • Improve the visitor experience.

Work for the study took place between 2017 and mid-2019. View the report.


Lead Department:
Engineering Services


The project is currently in design Phase 1.

Project Goals

This project has several goals for the community members and local wildlife who enjoy the preserve. Goals of the wetland conversion include:

  • Address the failing dam;
  • Preserve and diversify natural habitat for native wildlife;
  • Improve water quality,
  • Expand environmental education opportunities; and,
  • Ensure long-term viability of the Durant Nature Preserve.

During this phase, the team will identify the type of wetland best suited for the site. We will likely use natural materials such as rocks and logs to control the wetland habitat. Native materials will be designed to mimic natural features and minimize maintenance requirements.

Current Project Status

February 2023 Update

In February 2023, survey crews were on site at Durant Nature preserve, collecting topography and stream cross sectional data, to support future engineering analysis and design. Geotechnical investigations were also completed in late February 2023.

July 2023 Update

Since the Community Open House in May 2023, the project team has continued conducting fieldwork into the summer. Survey collection, geotechnical investigation, and mobility base mapping are now complete. One major finding of the geotechnical analysis is the height of the dam will need to be lowered to remove areas that are structurally deficient.

The project team is currently using the data collected during fieldwork to identify potential types and combinations of habitat wetlands in order to develop design options for the site. Design options will be presented to the City of Raleigh in late Summer/early Fall 2023.

All trails are currently open. General fieldwork is mostly complete. You may see crews on site throughout Summer 2023 collecting seasonal data related to stream flow and vegetation.

Lead Department:
Engineering Services


Phase details coming soon.

Lead Department:
Engineering Services


Phase details coming soon.

Lead Department:
Engineering Services


Winter/Spring 2023Existing conditions data collection
Spring 20231st Public Open House
Spring/Summer 2023Design alternative development
TBD2nd Public Open House
Summer 2024Preferred wetland design alternative selected
Fall 2024Phase 2 Design plan development begins


Upcoming Engagement Opportunities

Throughout the Wetland Conversion of Upper Durant Lake Project, the project team will build off past engagement conducted by the City and engage people living near the Durant Nature Preserve and in Raleigh through meaningful and creative public outreach. The engagement process is designed to be as welcoming and accessible as possible through in-person and online engagement opportunities.

Each public outreach event will incorporate educational components, opportunities for people to learn about the history of the Durant Nature Preserve, benefits of wetland habitats on the biodiversity within the City of Raleigh, and the importance of maintaining a balance between people recreating and ecosystem preservation.

Public Open House #2 and Online Public Survey

  • Date TBD
  • Goals: Update the community on project progress and next steps, present the process used to develop design alternatives, present the preferred wetland alternative recommended by the design consultant and chosen by the City of Raleigh, and seek input on design details and future programming through a visual preference survey.

Past Engagement Opportunities 

Public Open House #1

  • Wednesday, April 26, 2023
  • Goals: Share the City's plans to convert the upper lake into a wetland, the benefits of wetland habitats, and how community members can get involved!
  • View the open house posters (PDF).
  • Read the open house summary (PDF).
  • Watch the open house summary video below.

Wetland Conversion of Upper Durant Lake Meeting Summary

Virtual Public Meetings:

  • January 12, 2021 and January 26, 2021
  • Goals: Present findings from the Upper Durant Lake Study, share the recommended approach to addressing the failing dam, and answer questions from participants.

Durant Nature Preserve Upper Lake Virtual Public Meeting

Online Public Survey

  • January 4 - February 1, 2021

Key Themes and Community Priority from 2021 Engagement 

Key Themes Highest Priorities
  • Preserve wildlife and habitat
  • Limit fishing to the lower lake
  • More recreational programming
  • More accessible walking trails
  • Wildlife refuge preservation
  • Water quality
  • Hiking on trails with areas for viewing the preserve and water features


Here are a few options for the lake based on study findings:

  • Keeping the shape of the lake the same with a new spillway structure and lower water surface level;
  • Converting the lake to a wetland system to improve water quality and/or wildlife habitat (includes partially breaching the dam); and,
  • Restoring the lake to a natural stream and floodplain (includes completely breaching the dam).

Each option was scored and ranked. The wetland alternative ranked the highest. The restoration ranked the lowest. Changes to the lake will also follow requirements from our lake policy

View the Upper Lake Study Summary Presentation

The Study

The purpose of the study is to come up with alternate solutions to maintain the area and protect the preserve. We started studying the lake’s condition in 2017 focusing on:

  • The history of the lake and surrounding area;
  • Mapping the lake’s structures, shoreline, and sediment;
  • Biology of the streams flowing into and out of the lake; and,
  • Chemical properties of the lake’s water and soil.

The study is made possible through a grant from North Carolina Land and Water Fund (formerly North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund).


We acquired Durant Nature Preserve in 1979. The 237-acre preserve has two lakes, which were constructed around 1950. The lower lake is used for recreation (boating and fishing) and nature education. The upper lake is used for nature walks and wildlife viewing.

We evaluated the lakes’ dams and spillways in 2013. Results showed that we’d have to repair both lakes so that they continue to function properly. We started studying the upper lake in 2017. In mid-2019, we repaired the lower lake’s dam and spillway.