Picnics and Receptions

Duke Forest maintains two picnic shelters located off of Highway 751 that are available to rent.  Descriptions of each site are found below. Please read the General Public Regulations. To make shelter reservations, you must complete the shelter reservation form linked below at least 5 business days before your proposed event and receive confirmation from Duke Forest staff. Please Note: Duke undergraduates have a different process listed at the bottom of the page.

If you have questions about our shelters, please contact dukeforest-shelters@duke.edu.

Availability 📅

To see the availability of our two shelters, see our calendar. If the date does not show “Gate C/F Reserved”, it can generally be assumed that it is available for renting.


Bobby Ross, Jr. Memorial Shelter

The Bobby Ross, Jr. Memorial Shelter at Gate C includes a picnic shelter with a Duke stone fireplace, four large picnic tables (50-75 person capacity; but parking for ~25 cars), and a grill.  The site is near the head of the Shepherd Nature Trail, a beautiful 0.8 mile interpretive trail. The site does not have an outhouse, electricity, or running water.  The shelter is situated near the trail head for the Shepherd Nature Trail, a self-guided 0.8-mile trail through the surrounding Forest.

Directions (MAP)

  • Follow NC 751 north towards U.S. 70
  • Gate C will be the second gate on the right past Constitution Dr.
  • GPS Coordinates: 36.012, -78.974

R.L. Rigsbee Shelter

The R. L. Rigsbee Shelter at Gate F includes a picnic shelter, several tables (50 person capacity), grill, outhouse, and a volleyball court (ball not provided).  The site does offer electricity and lights but no running water. Guests can access Gate 11 to 12 Road via the short Foot Trail by the volleyball court, where a couple of miles of gravel road walking is available.

Directions (MAP)

  • Follow NC 751 north towards U.S. 70 and pass Kerley Rd.
  • Gate F will be the on the left immediately after Gate 12 (under the power lines) and before the railroad bridge
  • GPS Coordinates: 36.0265, -78.9893

Comparison of Picnic Shelter Facilities

 Bobby Ross, Jr. Shelter
(Gate C)
R.L. Rigsbee Shelter
(Gate F)
Shelter Capacity

50-75 persons

50 persons

Parking CapacityParking for ~5-10 cars.
More available at SNT trailhead
and Hwy 751 roadside.
Parking for ~25 cars
No roadside parking.


Fire Ring
Volleyball Court
Adjacent Hiking
Running Water

Special Notices

Before requesting a shelter reservation please read the following carefully:

  • If you are a member of the public, or a member Duke University community (but not including undergraduates), please read the General Public Regulations.
  • The combination to the locks for the entrance gates, electrical box (Gate F) and firewood box (Gate C) will be sent when payment has been received.
  • Undergraduates:
    If you are Duke undergraduate student or undergraduate student group, your reservation process is different. Please read the information under Undergraduate Student Reservation Process below.
  • Alcohol:
    If you plan to have alcohol at your event, you must read and agree to abide by Duke’s campus-wide Alcohol Policy, assuring all additional regulations (Undergraduate Alcohol Policy | Graduate Alcohol Policy) are followed if undergraduate students and/or persons under age 21 will be or may be in attendance.
  • Ridesharing:
    Both of our shelters are located inside forest gates on unlit portions of NC 751 with a speed limit of 55 m.p.h. For safety, we encourage driving personal cars, carpooling when possible, and using shared rented transportation. We strongly discourage the use of ridesharing as a means of transportation, especially at night for the following reasons:
    • The gates do not have physical addresses for mapping software to locate.
    • Many drivers are unfamiliar with the area will have trouble finding the gates.
    • Most drivers will not be comfortable driving into the Forest on graveled roads for pick-up.
    • Standing by the highway waiting for a ride, especially at night, is inherently risky.
    • Stopped vehicles on the road or on the side of the road can be dangerous when cars are rounding corners at 55 m.p.h. or higher.
  • Weddings and other large events:
    The two shelters and their picnic sites are appropriate for small gatherings (e.g. office picnic, family gathering, intimate ceremonies, birthday parties). The sites are not appropriate for large wedding ceremonies or similar complex events. No additional structures like party tents, dance floors, or elaborate decorative elements may be added.
  • Special Equipment:
    Groups wishing to bring in special equipment or items such as portable toilets, catering, etc. must identify this in their initial shelter request and receive authorization from the department administrator prior to completing the reservation process. You will be responsible for coordinating all deliveries and pickups related to the special equipment. If your equipment requires extra days for delivery or pickup, you must book those additional days as well–except in some special cases. 
  • Newsletter:
    When you reserve a shelter, we will add you to our e-LOG newsletter so you can keep in touch with the Duke Forest. You can unsubscribe at any time.
  • Shelter cleaning:
    Duke Forest Staff do not provide site inspections or trash collection between reservations occurring Friday through Sunday.

An Important Policy on Firewood:

We do not allow firewood to be brought into the forest; instead, we provide it for you.  Unfortunately, firewood is a great way for many forest pests and diseases to catch a ride and find new forests to eat.  Check out this brochure for more info: Don’t Move Firewood.

Rental Request Form

Undergraduate Student Reservation Process

Student safety is our number one priority. For that reason and for the protection of the Duke Forest and its infrastructure, we require all undergraduates at Duke (or any other local school) to follow these procedures in the linked form below.

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