Quiet Water Kayak Paddling Trips in North Carolina
North Carolina is a great place for kayaking. All the regions of the state have wonderful places to spend a bit of time paddling. There are opportunities for whitewater kayaking (not covered here but you can find information at Whitewater in NC. Our interest is quiet water kayaking. And we're lucky that there are many places in the state for that.
There are several good books listing some of the better places to paddle in Eastern North Carolina. These include:
- Guide to Sea Kayaking in North Carolina by Pam Malec. Book is sub-titled Best Day Trips and Tours from Currituck to Cape Fear. It provides 35 trips along the coast of North Carolina. Suggestions for where to day and eat are also provided. The trips are clearly described and are certainly well worth doing.
- Sea Kayaking the Carolinas by Jim Bannon. This is another great book that covers trips in the coastal areas of both North and South Carolina. It provides a range of trips from short day trips to longer weekender trips. The book covers inland trips, for example Merchant's Mill Pond in NC, as well as trips along the coast. There is little overlap between this and the book above.
- A Paddler's Guide to Eastern North Carolina by Bob Benner and Tom McCloud. This guide is devoted to trips on rivers and streams in the various river basins in North Carolina. Put in and take outs are suggested. The book provides short description of the sections of the rivers and streams that are suitable for kayaks and canoes.
I haven't found similar coverage for paddling in the rest of the state.
Some of the places we've found are discussed below. We plan to add to the list as time goes on.
Paddling Eastern North Carolina
Eastern North Carolina provides several different types of paddling. You can paddle in the sheltered areas along the coast. And if the weather is good, you can take some excursion over somewhat open waters, for example to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse and other barrier islands. Many of these trips area covered in the books listed above. We often find that just driving along the coast and looking for boat launch spots can provide an excellent day of paddling.
One of the great things about paddling, is that it allows you to get up close to the birds and other wildlife you see.
Floating Geese, Core Banks, NC
Wild Horses Carrot Island, Beaufort, NC
If the wind is up and paddling on the coast is not comfortable, you can move inland to sheltered lakes, rivers, and ponds. Merchant's Millpond, for example, is one of the best paddles you can find. The White Oak river provides some good paddling just off the coast.
So here is a small list of some of the places we've found and recommend.
- Beaufort, NC 2009 Our 2009 paddle on Talyor's Creek in Beaufort, NC. This is pretty much an annual event for us.
- Hammock Beach State Park (Bear Island). Hammock beach State Park is a great paddle. There are two paddle trails starting at the visitor's center-- one to Bear Island and one to Huggins Island. We took took the trail to Bear Island.
- Core Banks, NC. We drove up US 70 to put in on Core Sound this year. This was a new location for us. We had to cut the paddle short because a rain storm with a bit of lightening came up. We saw a flock of Canada Geese. We'll probably go back to this area in the future.
- Beaufort NC 2008 We paddle Taylor Creek in Beaufort, NC almost every summer when we go to the beach. This is a good paddle because the creek is usually protected from the wind, there are lots of birds to see, and of course there are the wild horses on Carott Island.
- Lake Mattamuskeet
We paddled here in 2003 as part of our trip to Merchant's Millpond.
- Merchant's Millpond, NC 2003 Merchant's Millpond State Park is a great place to paddle. It is a serene beautiful place to paddle. Everyone should paddle it at least once.
- Goose Creek State Park, NC Paddling Goose Creek State Park in 2007 was part of our 2007 trip to see the Tundra Swans at Lake Mattamuskeet.
There are several paddle trails in Eastern North Carolina. Visit NC Coastal Plain Paddle Trails Guide and download the guide.
Paddling Western North Carolina
There is less information on quiet water kayaking in Western North Carolina then there is about Eastern North Carolina. We have spent considerable time paddling in the Western Part of North Carolina. Unfortunately, most of that time was before we we switched to digital photography. And I haven't gotten around to scanning our photos from many of those trips. We hope to get Nessie back to the Western North Carolina later this year (2011).
Didn't make it back until 2013 when we paddled Lake Santeeltah
Some of the places we have found but haven't written up yet include:
- Wolf Creek Lake. This lake is located above Bear Creek Lake and is smaller. It is quite pretty, especially in the fall. And because it is pretty far off the beaten path, it is not crowded.
- Lake Fontana. Lake Fontana provides multiple paddling trips. It has many coves that can be explored in short trips. Paddling across parts of the lake also provides access to make hikes in Smoky Mountain National park. The last time we were there, we were adopted by a puppy someone had abandoned. Probably one of our most expensive paddling trips.
- Lake Hiwassee. Large lake with numerous coves that can be explored.
- Nantahala Lake. This is a pretty lake, but is more developed than we like.
- Lake Glenville also called Thorpe Reservoir. The best public access for kayaking is located at the north end of the lake off of NC Highway 107. The turn off is for Pine Creek Road. We like the access provided by Ralph Andrews Park. There is a campground at Ralph Andrews Park. See Lake Glenville Map for more information.
Below are a couple of the places we've been with pictures
- Julian Price Lake In July of 2009 we had a nice paddle on Julian Price Lake--a small lake off the Blue ridge Parkway.
- Bear Creek Lake, NC 2002 Bear Creek Lake is one of our favorite paddling spots in Western North Carolina.
Paddling the Middle of North Carolina
There are several good paddling places close by us in the middle of North Carolina. We've driven around to look at several of them and vowed to bring Nessie next time. But for some reason, we end up taking longer trips and neglecting our own backyard. Here are places we've found that provide a nice paddle.
- Lake Michie. Lake Michie provides drinking water for Durham, NC. There is a small fee required to launch your boat. The biggest problem with paddling the lake is finding the time when it's open.
- R. D. Holt Reservoir, Butner, NC. We visited this lake one time when Lake Michie was closed. It really a nice place to paddle that doesn't seem to get much use. The water is clear. There is a small fee to pay to launch your boat. Pay at the store.
- Beaver Dam Lake. Great place to paddle. It is next to Falls Lake. This is a state recreation area and there is a fee to enter the park. The boat ramp area has a swimming beach, picnic area, and restrooms. You can spend as much or as little time paddling here as you want. You can see various birds here.
I'll get some pictures scanned and posted soon. Maybe this weekend because the weather man is calling for rain. And we really need the rain, or there won't be much paddling in 2011.
Links for North Carolina Kayaking Information
Here are a few links for information on kayaking in North Carolina.
- Roanoke River Partners. Great site with information about paddling on the Roanoke.
- NC Professional Paddlesports Association Provides links to many outfitters in North Carolina. Easy to find outfitter by location and type of activity.
- Paddle CreekNice people to deal with. We got our newest kayak, Clem, from them. If you visit them, try the BBQ from the shack just off the road.
- NC Paddle Trails Paddle Trails in the Coastal Plain
- NC Paddle Trails Association Association to help develop and maintain paddle trails.
- Pirate Queen Paddling Their Atlantic Beach store was very helpful when we had a problem with Nessie a few years ago. Nice people to deal with.
- Cape Fear Paddlers
- Carolina Canoe Club. Organization for all paddlers.
- North Carolina Paddle Trails. Source of paddle trail maps.
- Haw River Trail Just up the road from us.
We've gotten into the habit of looking for NC Wildlife signs whenever we're traveling in NC. We then head off down the road to see if it leads to a place we want to paddle. So far we've found more places to paddle than we've found time for.
The NC Wildlife Resources Commission provides a guide to all the NC Wildlife boat ramps at Boater Guide. You can download the guide. Or you can view it online. The online version allows you to search for access point. For example, you can enter a zip code and find all the ramps within 25 miles. Pretty handy for finding ramps.