Eno River’s Patron Saint, Margaret Nygard

Nygard sits on the banks of the Eno River. Image from North Carolina State Parks and Recreation.On August 16, 1966, a group led by local activist Margaret Nygard and her husband, Holger, voiced opposition at a Durham City Council meeting to a plan to dam the Eno River. The city had been perusing the plan for more than year in an attempt to bolster the local drinking water supply.

Born in Nasik, India, Margaret Nygard, was schooled annually in England, then sent alone to Canada, when her school was bombed during WWII. She met her husband Holger Nygard upon entering the University of British Columbia early and earned her doctorate in English from the University of California at Berkeley at the time she had her third child of four. When the family moved to Durham, NC for Holger’s professorship at Duke, they found their homeplace in the historic Miller Cole’s house by the Eno River. Upon learning the river was to be dammed for a reservoir, she and Holger started the hard fight to preserve it as wilderness parkland, organizing with others the Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley in 1964. She was a tireless, charismatic activist in working to save the river, and was effective across the state, reaching out to work with other conservation groups and assisting with governmental planning for open space in an increasingly urbanized region. Her particular focus as an environmentalist was protecting the state park system, regarding what was good for Eno parkland to be good for all.

Through her leadership, most of the river has been protected as a fifty mile stretch of natural parkland. Her efforts first brought the Nature Conservancy into NC for an Eno project and she implemented the use of the first environmental impact statement in the state, which literally stopped the bulldozers at West Point on the Eno. She regarded the work of preserving the river to be never-ending, so the organization still works on to finish the state park and protect the river. The first recipient ever of the Alexander Calder Conservation Award presented to her by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall in Washington, DC, Margaret was posthumously awarded the Order of the Longleaf Pine by the governor and inducted into the NC Wildlife Hall of Fame. 

The first recipient ever of the Alexander Calder Conservation Award presented to
her by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall in Washington, DC, Margaret was
posthumously awarded the Order of the Longleaf Pine by the governor and inducted
into the NC Wildlife Hall of Fame.

Visit: Like all other state parks, Eno River State Park is open to the public every day of the year except for Christmas Day.

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