I recently went on my last paddle as an intern here with the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to do it. The sky was clear and the temperatures were at a very comfortable 72 degrees. Long time PTRF member Bob Hudkins took me out to two different locations near Rocky Mount. We met in Rocky Mount at 12 o’clock and I followed him out to our first destination, Sapony Creek. We pulled over just after the bridge crossing the creek on Sandy Cross Road. After untying the kayaks from our cars and getting everything in order, we walked them down the embankment and slid into the water.
The first impression I had upon paddling into the creek was that I was floating through the woods. Trees grew straight out of the water everywhere I looked. As we paddled up the creek we wound our way through the trees, often having to paddle around groups of trees that grew too thick together. 15 minutes into the paddle we caught sight of a log in front of us that was covered in turtles. We crept closer for a better look. Thankfully only a few of them retreated into the water, allowing us to take a few photos before we moved on. We paddled along as the swamp slowly curved to the right, and Bob suddenly stopped and pointed out a tall tree a couple hundred feet in front of us. A large eagle’s nest was built in between a fork in the branches near the top of the tree, and a bald eagle was perched on a branch above it. We both got our cameras out and snapped a few photos, paddling a little bit closer in between each picture. After admiring the eagle for another minute we continued through the swamp, which got continually thicker the further in we paddled. At one point appeared that we would have to turn around, but we found a narrow pathway on the left that made a loop back around to the eagles nest. Upon arriving back at the eagles nest, we looked up and saw that there were now two eagles perched in the tree. One of them took off and flew high above us. I’d always heard about how majestic the bald eagle looks while in flight, and watching it soar through the air truly was a sight to see. After taking another few photos of the eagles, we paddled back to the put in and tied our kayaks back onto our cars.
We drove about 10 minutes to the main part of the Rocky Mount Reservoir and stopped at a public boat access off of Old Carriage Road. After getting back into our boats, we paddled upriver and around a bend to the left towards Goat Island, a small island in the middle of the reservoir. Rocky Mount has two camping platforms with a similar design to PTRF’s platforms, and one of them is located on this island. The shoreline on the approach to the island was dotted with houses on large open fields of grass running down to the water. The wind had picked up considerably, and it blew against us as we moved toward the island, slowing our progress. We reached the island and found the dock for the camping platform. We docked our boats and got out to inspect the platform. The sounds of geese calling to each other permeated the whole island. It seemed they had adopted the island as their home. Indeed, upon reentering the water and circling the island, we saw several females laying on their nests, and crowds of geese walking around on its shores. We circled the island in about five minutes and then headed back towards the put in. With the wind at our backs we made much better progress and found ourselves on dry land again around 4 o’clock. As I fastened my kayak to my car, I my thoughts went back to all of the places I have seen while interning with PTRF. I felt and still feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to explore the waterways along the Pamlico-Tar River watershed, and look forward to sharing the beauty of these waterways with my family and friends in the years to come.
Have you ever planned a multi-day kayaking trip? The idea of going kayaking for the day always excites me. Getting to spend a few quality hours on the water away from everything is as invigorating as it is therapeutic. So going kayaking for several days on end? Let’s just say I feel like a new person coming back from those paddles. The only trouble is that sometimes planning these multi-day trips can be a hassle. What to pack is often one of the things new overnight paddlers have trouble with. With this in mind, I have compiled a brief list of items to get you thinking about what you should bring on your trip. This list is not exhaustive, but the below are items that no kayaker should be without when going on a multi-day adventure.
Pants (at least 1 pair synthetic or quick drying)
Shirts (at least 1 synthetic or quick drying)
Sandals or water shoes (while in the kayak)
Tennis shoes or boots (for camp)
Spray jacket and/or rain gear
Paddling or synthetic gloves
Underwear and long underwear
Tent w/rain fly and footprint, or hammock
Camp stove w/fuel
Matches or lighter
Small camp chair (such as crazy creek)
First aid kit
Spare paddle and PFD
Signaling devices (whistle, mirror)
Emergency water treatment
If you live in Eastern North Carolina and are looking for a great short paddle, then Chocowinity Bay should be among the top choices on your list. It offers wide open views of the bay, and further up, it gives access to winding creeks through the swamps with an up close look at the plants and animals that inhabit the area. I had the pleasure of paddling several miles of this waterway with two longtime members of PTRF, Guy Blackwell and Buster Thompson. We met at a neighborhood put in just after 12 that was located right next to the bay and were in the water within a few minutes.
At the start of the paddle we navigated our way through narrow waterways lined with reeds on either side. It was just a little chilly but was warming up, the sun shining with almost no clouds in the sky. After a few minutes of paddling we emerged into the bay itself, the water stretching out in front of us until it met the blue sky on the horizon. After our initial observation of the bay we noticed a plume of smoke on the bank far ahead of us, the source of it hidden from view. We surmised that it must have been Goose Creek State Park staff burning the some of the underbrush in its woods. This was later confirmed upon talking to Goose Creek staff. After paddling into the bay a little ways we turned and directed our kayaks towards a creek that skirted the shoreline, the left shore of which was overgrown with reeds.
This creek soon became narrower and swampier, both banks having an abundance of cypress trees and various other plant life. A rustling to my right caught my attention and a large vulture took off only about 10 yards away. I guessed it was feasting on something, but couldn’t see whatever it was. At this point Guy and I were in the lead and we both saw the same thing at the same time. A beaver was swimming across the creek in front of us, its head just above the surface of the water. We stopped paddling to watch it until it reached the opposite bank and dove under the water, presumably having reached its home. Only minutes later we approached a large turtle warming itself in the sun on a log. As we were passing, it slid off the log and back into the water. It wasn’t long before we again saw movement in the water. It was another beaver, swimming along in the water in the same fashion the previous one had, and disappearing under the water in the same way. The second beaver’s disappearance was followed by a loud splashing to my right. I turned to look, expecting yet another beaver, but all I saw was the ripples left by something large that had just submerged. We paddled on without any incident for some time, and just after we passed under highway 33, we were forced to stop. A tree had fallen across the creek and blocked our passage, so we had no choice but to turn and retrace our steps.
On the way back, we turned to take an alternate path on a fork in the creek that we had passed earlier. This soon took us out of the trees and into a more wide open channel, the thick reeds again taking over the shore to our right. As we slowly paddled by, we could hear the sound of the reeds being blown by the wind, brushing against one another. An old sailboat came into view, laying at anchor in a small cove. It looked as though it hadn’t been used in years. We soon emerged again into the bay, the smoke from the fires at Goose Creek State Park still rising from the trees in the distance. We paddled across the bay to the other side, stopping in front of a large tree with two osprey nests in it. It was only about a 10 minute paddle to the put in from the tree, so we turned and followed the shoreline. Before long, two small channels appeared on our right, about 10 feet across. After paddling single file through this channel, the put in came into view. This was one of the most enjoyable paddles I have been on in some time. There was never a shortage of things to see, and had we wanted too, we could have continued our exploration of the bay area for the rest of the afternoon. Upon putting the boats on the trailer, I had already resolved to come back in the future and paddle the same trail again.
A few weeks ago I contacted Kim, a blogger and Recreation Manager for Durham Parks and Rec. I invited her to come paddle part of the Tar-Pamlico River Water Trail with myself and our Riverkeeper, Heather. The idea was to show them a part of the trail and one of our camping platforms, in an effort to get them excited about the trail and get them thinking of the possibilities it has for recreation in and around Durham. Kim also agreed to write a post about the trip on her blog, Get Outdoors Durham!, which you can check out here: http://getoutdoorsdurham.blogspot.com/. We set up the trip for Friday, and after a brief scare from the weather – which turned out to be a false alarm – we met Kim and her coworker Ryan at the put in on the Tar River, just downriver of Rocky Mount. After introductions and unloading the kayaks, we began our 10 mile paddle down the river.
It was a chilly morning, but we had all dressed appropriately, and the brisk morning air refreshed our bodies after a long week of work. The river was a little bit high due to recent rains, and the current was moving just enough so we could paddle at a leisurely pace and still make good time. We made our way two by two down the river for some time, making conversation and enjoying the paddle. Woods lined the banks on either side of the river, and many of the trees on the banks leaned out, their trunks angled over the water – and sometimes almost horizontal to it. A small group of wood ducks suddenly appeared a little ways ahead of us, flapping their wings and taking flight to distance themselves from us. The sound of their calls died down as they went around a bend in the river ahead. A pileated woodpecker flew by, and we later heard it pecking at a tree somewhere out of sight. A downed tree to our right caught everyone’s attention. Growing on the trunk were large fungi, bigger than my head. We stopped for a moment to admire them and take a few photos.
As we passed under a bridge Heather caught sight of a barred owl. It was perched on a branch nearby, watching us as we paddled by. Soon after that a kingfisher flew past us on its way upstream, perhaps on its way to its favorite hunting spot. Many other birds flew by as we continued on our way downriver. There were other kingfishers, a great blue heron, mallards, a red tail hawk, and other hawks that we couldn’t identify. We continued to run into the wood ducks from earlier in the paddle. They kept flying a little ways downriver and landing, and we kept catching up to them, prompting them to take flight again. As we neared the Bourne camping platform, where we planned to have lunch, I was bringing up the rear of the party, having just taken a picture. I heard a rustling in the underbrush on the bank to my right, and turned to look. The rustling continued and it caught everyone else’s attention as well. We were straining our eyes to see what it was, when suddenly a large beaver walked out of the brush and dove into the water. I remember it’s wide, flat tail being the last thing I saw before it disappeared. With this sight still fresh on our minds, the camping platform came into view in front of us, partly hidden by the trees on the bank. We got out at the take out ramp and walked to the platform to have lunch and a short break.
We soon resumed our positions in our kayaks and continued on our way. The longest stretch of the paddle was over, and there were only a few more miles to go before we reached Dunbar Bridge, our take out. There were still sights to be seen however. We passed by large mistletoe clusters hanging high in the trees, as well as a few bird nests resting on branches overhanging the water. A second barred owl flew above our heads and trees with strange root patterns and oddly shaped trunks slowly passed us as we floated by. Just before the take out, we passed under a tree leaning over the water, completely covered in greenery that was in stark contrast with the rest of the unadorned trees around it. A short time after, we paddled under Dunbar Bridge and landed on the ramp. The kayaks were soon loaded onto the truck and we were on our way shortly thereafter. I’ve never had a disappointing paddle on the Tar River yet, and this day was no exception. I had never seen such a variety of wildlife on any paddle, which has me wondering what other surprises lay in wait for me on my next trip.