Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center
  Skip Navigation LinksHome : About Howell Woods  

About Howell Woods

The Rudolph Howell & Son Environmental Learning Center, or Howell Woods, is a unique 2,800-acre natural resource designed to provide excellent educational experiences while fostering environmental stewardship.

At Howell Woods, you can experience a variety of outdoor programs and recreational activities.  Learn how to build a bird box, participate in bird banding, or go on a night safari.   Go hiking, camping, canoeing, bird watching, hunting, fishing, and more!

Are you a nature novice or a seasoned outdoor enthusiast?  Howell Woods offers educational opportunities and low impact outdoor recreation at different skill levels. 

Lift your spirits, challenge yourself, and learn something in the process!

What Makes Us Different?

Bottomland Hardwood ForestIn 1993, Rudolph Howell donated the property to Johnston Community College with hopes that it be used as an outdoor classroom. Because of its size and variety of activities, Howell Woods has some rare offerings for nature enthusiasts of all skill levels. Nestled in a natural wooded setting between the Neuse River and Hannah and Mill creeks in southeastern Johnston County, Howell Woods incorporates hunting, outdoor recreation, wildlife and forestry management, as well as ongoing environmental research across its professionally maintained hardwood wetlands habitat.

Children, adults, and families can explore and discover native birds, butterflies, amphibians, reptiles, freshwater fishes and numerous plant species in the natural wetlands atmosphere. At Howell Woods, you can find a number of trails for hiking, horseback riding, and biking; ponds and creeks for canoeing and fishing; sites for camping; as well as controlled hunting areas for feral pig, deer, waterfowl, quail, squirrel, and wild turkey.

The Learning Center showcases exhibits of live animals such as turtles, snakes, and several species of owl as well as a natural resource reference library.

Natural Communities

Cypress treesHowell Woods contains a great diversity of habitats and wildlife species within 2,800+ acres situated between the Neuse River and Hannah and Mill Creeks.  The property consists of over 1,600 acres of bottomland hardwood forests, over 600 acres of mixed hardwood/pine, nearly 400 acres of pine forest (both longleaf and loblolly type), and nearly 100 acres of early successional habitat.  A new 60+ acre wildlife and outdoor recreation lake is currently under construction.  It will be surrounded by roughly 20 acres of upland early successional and marsh/wetland habitats.

The diversity of Howell Woods contains no less than nine natural communities as described in Shafale and Weakley's Classification of the Natural Communities of North Carolina, Third Approximation.  These nine communities are:

  • Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood Forest-brownwater subtype
  • Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest-Coastal Plain subtype
  • Cypress-Gum Swamp
  • Coastal Plain Semipermanent Impoundment
  • Coastal Plain Small Stream Swamp-brownwater subtype
  • Levee Forest
  • Wet Pine Flatwoods
  • Pine/Scrub Oak Sandhill
  • Streamhead Pocosin


Boardwalk on Bartram trailThere are over 25 miles of unpaved roads and trails for you to enjoy at Howell Woods.  The boardwalk on Leopold Loop, pictured right, provides a unique view of some of the seasonal wetlands.

Interested in a short day hike?  There are well-marked trails adjacent to the Learning Center.  Many of these trails are features of the North Carolina Birding Trail. 

Pack your lunch and eat it under the 10 x 10 covered picnic shelter adjacent to Lone Pine Pond on Diversity Way trail.  There is also a 10x12 10-foot-high observation platform/picnic shelter on Muir Trail.  Both are a short five minute walk from the Learning Center or a one minute drive when the main gate is open.

Find out how you can enjoy the many trails available at Howell Woods.  


Within view of the Learning Center porch and picnic areas is a two-acre wildlife and aquatic education pond.  A four-foot wide grass trail will guide you all the way around the pond.

A new 60+ acre wildlife and outdoor recreation lake is currently under construction. When completed sometime between 2010 and 2012, this new lake will provide wonderful habitat for a variety of plants and animals that thrive in larger, deeper bodies of water other than most small "farm" ponds.

Johnston Community College receives a monthly royalty to support the ongoing operations at Howell Woods through the sell of sand by-product from the construction on this lake.  Our goal, to be obtained through environmental stewardship during construction as well as the final design, is to provide a high-quality, accessible, large, deep body aquatic ecosystem with native plants and animals.

Like to fish?  Learn more about fishing at Howell Woods.

Getting Here

Howell Woods is located at 6601 Devil’s Racetrack Road in the Bentonville community of southeastern Johnston County. The environmental learning center is in close proximity to interstates 95 and 40 in central North Carolina and is less than 45 miles from Raleigh, 20 miles from Goldsboro, and 15 miles from Smithfield and Newton Grove.

If you need help finding us, try the map or use the driving directions.

©2014 Johnston Community College. All Rights Reserved.
Site best viewed in Internet Explorer or Google Chrome.

Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center
Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center Johnston Community College Educational Opportunities Outdoor Recreation Hunting Opportunities Rates & Fees Photo Gallery Newsletter Links & Resources About Howell Woods Support Howell Woods