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Exploration of Chocowinity Bay

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Paddling the Water Trail with Durham Parks & Rec
What to Pack for a Multi-Day Paddle Trip