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.