Chip's Place (on the web)


Roanoke River for 2014 MLK Weekend

Particulars:

Paddlers/Boats: Matt Bowler/Wenonah Advantage & Chip Walsh/Hemlock SRT.
Launch: 10:30 Saturday morning, January 18 from the NCWRC Access, Williamston, NC.
Take Out: 1:30 pm Monday, January 20, at the NCWRC Access of Route 45 near Plymouth, NC
Map: http://www.roanokeriverpartners.org/maps/RRP-Map-4.jpg
Resource: http://www.roanokeriverpartners.org

Revising the plan

Sitting home and studying the maps on the Roanoke River Partners web site, I plotted a figure-8 route for the three day trip. My route would have us paddling 6 miles upstream on the second day. This plan was quickly scrapped when I stopped in Hamilton, NC, threw a stick in the river, and walked the river bank keeping pace with the stick floating along in the current. I estimated the current about 2 mph, meaning it would probably take 4 - 6 hours to paddle the 6-mile, upstream section and would leave me fairly cooked.

Matt and I met near Plymouth at 9:00 Saturday morning. We cross loaded my boat and gear to Matt's truck and conferred on a new route. While we drove to Williamston to put on I called the nice people at RRP and changed our campsite reservations to match our rerouting: we reserved Barred Owl Roost for the first night and Bear Run for the second.

Trip Repoort

Saturday's weather was clear and cool, topping out at 38 degrees. Wind forecast at 10-20 mph from the WNW, wasn't much of a factor for us on the river. The river in Williamston is 50-75 yards wide. The water level was "high" (near 11' on the USGS gauge at Williamston) and the current moving around 2.3 mph, per GPS.

Our first challenge was to identify "Devils Cut," which veers off the Roanoke about 3 miles below Williamston. Matt and I were pretty sure we were entering the Cut but it is always reaffirming to have your navigation confirmed by a sign, which we found as we entered the Cut.

In the Cut, the course of water was only 10 - 20 yards wide, and was still moving downstream at a fast pace, but maybe not as fast as on the Roanoke. The Cut gradually widens, and the as we paddled along the banks gradually disappeared beneath the water.

Luckily, we choose to stop for lunch before the banks disappeared under water.

Lunch Spot

Devils Cut meanders 8.5 miles through a Cypress swamp before rejoining the Roanoke. About 6 miles in, we passed signs pointing the way to Beaver Lodge Double Camping Platform.

Lunch Spot

We paddled about a mile back into the swamp and visited the Beaver Lodge Platforms. There are boardwalks which connect the two platforms and a privacy booth between the platforms, but I estimated the boardwalks were about 14" underwater.

Lunch Spot

We briefly thought about trying to bush-paddle-wack through the swamp to the Barred Owl Roost Platform, about a mile away as the crow flies. The platforms are an aged-lumber silver color that blends into the background of silver cypress trunks. They only stand out because of their unnatural square angles. We decided not to play find the needle in the haystack (platform in the cypress swamp) and went back to Devils Cut, paddled another mile, and saw signs pointing the way to Barred Owl.

Lunch Spot
  Lunch Spot
  Lunch Spot

The dock and boardwalks to the Barred Oak platform where 9 - 14 inches underwater, so we just paddled up to the platform and unloaded directly from boat to platform. The Platform is 20' x 20' with a little 3' x 4' privacy box standing on one corner. The privacy box is for your privy.

Lunch Spot

We offloaded our gear onto the platform and relaxed a little. But the swamp beckoned and we were both anxious to poke around in the swamp. Matt confessed he enjoyed paddling through trees. I love it. Our gear on the platform made camp more visible and we tried mostly to stay within sight while we floated around the swamp. It being January, darkness soon pushed us back to the Platform.

Lunch Spot

After dark I was surprised how bright the stars were. It was a clear night, and there is less than average light pollution in this area. There was a full moon three nights earlier. The moon rose a few hours after dark and then the stars didn't seem so bright. Overnight temps must have dipped into the upper 20s because I had ice slush in my water bottle on Sunday morning.

After departing Barred Owl under an overcast sky, we continued two miles east on Devils Cut to rejoin the Roanoke River. Devils Cut doubles in width for the last mile and soon we were back in the 2+ mph current of the bigger river, 75 to 100 yards wide at this point. Soon we were passing the small waterfront of Jamesville, interesting chiefly because it broke the uniformity of the cypress forests we'd paddled by thus far.

Lunch Spot

After passing Jamesville, the Roanoke straightens out, running 4 or 5 miles straight to the NE. Our good fortune was to have a 10-15 mph SW tailwind. If there are paddling gods, they were smiling on us, and the long straight stretch was behind us an hour later.

Rather than pass by Broad Creek, we paddled into it a mile or so west, to eat lunch at the Cow Creek camping platform.

Lunch Spot

We accessed the Cow Creek platform from a small dock and boardwalk. The platform is 28'x 16'. That's only 48 square feet more than the Barred Owl Platform, but I think the more rectangular shape yields more useful space. Here, the marsh was plenty boggy, but not submerged.

Lunch Spot

We lunched on the dock with it's scenic view of Cow Creek and then returned to the Roanoke.

Lunch Spot

Another two miles on the quarter-mile wide, eastward-bending river brought us to the Bear Run Platform.

Lunch Spot

Like, Cow Creek, the Bear Run platform was 28x16 and accessed from a dock and boardwalk over boggy, forest marshland. We'd paddled 13 miles and reached Bear Run about 3:30.

Lunch Spot

Matt emptied his boat and took it a half mile back up and across the river and entered the Thoroughfare, a two-mile, creek-like, connector to the Cashie River. We both thought he'd come upon the Otter 1 Platform. He didn't find it, and I later learned it has to be accessed from Broad Creek (off the Cashie, not the Broad Creek we'd entered from the Roanoke). But he made it into the Cashie and then back, which he reported was laborious, there being a significant current running from the Roanoke to the Cashie. He returned to the Bear Run Platform as the sun was setting and reported that paddling the Thoroughfare had been very interesting and worth the effort.

Lunch Spot

Again, we were impressed by the vivid brightness of the night sky. Saturday night the sky eventually clouded over but it stayed clear for this night. I was sleeping in the open and when the moon got overhead, it was so bright I had difficulty sleeping.

Monday morning there was a bit of frost on the platform, but the day warmed quickly, eventually hitting about 60 degrees. We packed up and were on river at 10:00.

From the Bear Run Platform, we'd been able to hear the low rumble of the Weyerhauser pulp mill in Plymouth, about three miles distant. In the first mile after leaving Bear Run the river completes its eastward turn and goes SE, providing a line of sight to the mill, still two miles off. Before getting to the mill, the Middle River veers off of the Roanoke to the NE, and thinking it looked more interesting, we paddled into it.

Lunch Spot

The Middle started off narrower and had a few twists, then widened for a 2 - 3-mile straight run to the Route 45 bridge.

Lunch Spot

Just after passing under the bridge, there is a cut of water parallel to the bridge that leads back to the Roanoke and our take out at the Route 45 NCWRC Access point, which we reached about 1:30.

Lunch Spot

We were shocked to see a mostly full lot of boat-trailering rigs at the access. Several boats were pulled out and launched while we loaded up our gear. While on the river, we saw no other boats of any description on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday we saw two or three motorboats on the river.

As near as we can tell, we were the only paddlers enjoying the Roanoke Water Trail over the 3-day, MLK weekend.

Lunch Spot