Paddling the Little River

As many locals know, the Uwharrie River is a wonderful river for kayaking and canoeing – when the water level is up. Which means that spring and fall are much better times than the heat of summer, although even then after a good rain you can make a pretty successful float in a reasonable amount of time. Prior to this summer I’d not spent any time on another one of our great paddling opportunities in the Uwharries – the Little River.

As a free flowing river in Montgomery County and most of Randolph County as well, the Uwharrie River is extraordinarily nice to float when water levels are good. The Little River however has a series of small dams that can make it a little bit better choice for a summertime float – depending on which section you do. This summer I did four sections, and all but one of those was a very easy float.

The first paddle I did this summer was upstream and down, starting at the NC Wildlife Resources Commission put-in off Pekin Road. There is a dam north of this stretch and another one further south, so take care if you choose the southern route not to approach the dam too quickly - be cautious. Of the other floats I made this summer, the one that ended up being a lot more than we bargained for was the stretch from Okeeweemee Road to Highway 24/27. We actually had hoped to go on to Troy-Candor Road, but took out early (after over 7 hours on the water). This was in late July, and I’ve heard from others that at the right time of year this can be a very nice stretch.

Although that trip ended up being quite an arduous trek instead of a leisurely float, we did enjoy ourselves in spite of the difficulty of dragging kayaks most of the way. The Little River for the most part is a beautiful forested stream with very few houses. We saw a variety of wildlife, hearing a whole suite of migratory songbirds including hooded warblers and red eyed vireos, great blue herons and green herons, great egrets, and more.

One of the most interesting birds we spotted this summer was a yellow crowned night heron. Although they are fairly common in some areas, they are relatively uncommon here and it is unique to see one in the Uwharries. They are a very pretty wading bird, the adults having a dark gray body with a black head and a whitish-yellow crown. Most active at night and early morning, these birds stalk their prey, which consists of fish, frogs, crayfish, mollusks and other aquatic species. This bird like all wading birds serves as an indicator species, another sign of the healthy environments and high quality waters found here in the Uwharries.

All in all, I enjoyed each of the floats this summer, and the most difficult of trips often make for the best stories after. The Little River is another one of the wonderful recreational resources in the Uwharries, and for bird watchers this is a particularly fantastic river to float. If you’re interested in getting out there this fall, The LandTrust for Central NC is hosting a kayak trip on the Little River on September 26th, and for more information or to sign up please check out our website at


-- Crystal Cockman