Time to kayak the Uwharrie River

We’ve finally had enough rain this spring to fill up the ephemeral pools for amphibian breeding, and (for those of you more adventure-seeking outdoors people) also to create enough flow in our rivers for kayak trips to begin. I haven’t yet made my first inaugural trip of 2011 on the Uwharrie River, but rest assured that I am itching to get out there. There are several fantastic stretches of this river to float and more than six different access points, although only a few publicly owned. One of these is owned by The LandTrust for Central North Carolina, at the Low Water Bridge in Ophir.  If you utilize the Low Water Bridge for canoe access, you may have noticed a few new additions there. There are now picnic tables and an informational kiosk, courtesy of a grant provided by the Montgomery County Tourism Development Authority. We hope to soon post information on this kiosk about the river, take-in and take-out points, and river trip lengths and flows.  As anyone knows, there are times of the year that you may have a 3 hour float and other times a 6 or more hour float on any particular stretch, depending on rainfall.

If you start at Low Water Bridge, you can do a trip of nearly 7 miles from there down to the bridge at Highway 109. There really is not another opportunity along this stretch to take out, so be prepared.  If there is good flow, you can make it fairly fast; if not, it could end up being a bit of a long trek, which is not necessarily a bad thing considering the beauty surrounding you, but you might want to think about picking another day or setting out early and being prepared with plenty of snacks and water in case. Even trips that have been dryer than I would have liked were still enjoyable, but I always enjoyed them a lot more if I had plenty of time and provisions. And one small thing that I’ve found helpful if you do end up having to pull a kayak or canoe across shallow water is to have a rope attached to the front, so you’re not hunched over as you drag. Obviously, this is still not ideal, so choosing a day with good water flow is always the best choice if possible. The Uwharrie River is free flowing for most of its length, so there are also days when it is almost too fast for me. For an ideal float, you just have to really be prepared and flexible.

There are two other good stretches south of here, as well. From Highway 109 you can go to Cotton Place Road, which is on US Forest Service land. This is about a 2 mile float, and so it’s a good stretch to do on those days of low flow or if you have limited time to spend on the water. The last stretch is nearly 6 miles from Cotton Place Road to Lake Tillery, with the take out point being the landing at Morrow Mountain State Park. This is a particularly gorgeous stretch, and one of the first places on the Uwharrie that I ever saw a bald eagle. You also go by a neat rock outcrop called “Elephants Toenails” and a Native American fish weir that’s visible if the water is low enough. The LandTrust is also working on a land protection project along this stretch and is hoping to create canoe access here on the Montgomery County side of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River  as well. With the beauty of this stream, the high quality water and fishing opportunities, and its remoteness and serenity, the Uwharrie River as a paddling venue is certainly one of the best around.

-- Crystal Cockman

Photographs courtesy of Crystal Cockman