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Byron, Joey, Zach, Ed, Jason, and Greg decided to go for an overnight canoe trip on the New River near Jefferson, NC. The trip would entail a 20+ mile paddle northward along the river, with an overnight stop at the New River State Park campground near the US-221 access point. Our planned route and approximate mileage are as follows:
We left Charlotte around 5:00am to meet up with Ed at Shatley Springs Inn for breakfast (it’s so good that Ed drove up from Spartanburg the night before and spent the night in their parking lot). After gorging ourselves on all-you-can-eat eggs, sausage, ham, biscuits, pancakes, etc, we shuttled Byron’s truck to our planned take-out location at the Kings Creek access. Once we all made it back to Zaloo’s, we loaded up our three canoes and shoved-off around 10:00am.
The water levels were relatively high due to recent rains, so we had a strong current and few shallows. According to Zach’s GPS, our average speed was around 3-4 mph, so we made excellent time for the first few hours. After several failed attempts to find a suitable take-out for lunch, we finally pulled off around 1:30pm to eat near a scenic pasture and wooded area (probably somewhere near J.E. Gentry Rd). It should be noted that the Wagoner Access is another possible lunch location (prior to where we stopped), and has steps for easy take-out.
After downing our PB&J, crackers, and fruit, we got back on the water to continue our voyage northward on the river (Note: the New is one of the few rivers that flows south to north). The remainder of the day’s paddling was relatively calm, with very pleasant weather, a good bit of wildlife (including a lost gosling that tried following us), and beautiful views of the surrounding hills and meadows. We did encounter one low-lying bridge that should have required portaging, but we floated under it against our better judgment. We finally pulled into the state park’s US-221 access around 3:30pm. There were only a couple of other campers in the park, so we had our pick of sites. Although this is a drive-up campground, the parking area is far enough away from the sites so as to not take away from the primitive feel of the park. There is also a very nice bathhouse with flush toilets and hot showers.
Once we unloaded the canoes and set-up camp, we decided we still had some energy that needed expending, so we engaged in a few excruciating games of ultimate Frisbee. Once everyone was thoroughly winded and felt like death was imminent, we tossed a football around a bit to cool down. Around 5:30pm or so, we made it back to the site to enjoy some delicious jambalaya that Zach had prepared, which included generous amounts of shrimp and sausage. We cooked cherry fritters over the fire for dessert, which utilized Byron’s new recipe (using crescent roll dough for the crust). After burning the first batch, this approach really proved to be an effective and tasty preparation method. The rest of the evening was spent enjoying hot chocolate and conversation around the campfire.
A light rain started falling in the early morning hours, which made it feel cooler than the ~45 degree temps (or 60 degrees according to Byron’s thermometer). We were all up by 8:00am, and enjoyed a hearty breakfast consisting of eggs, sausage and grits that Byron and Zach whipped up for us. A steady mist fell throughout the morning, so by the time we were ready to break camp, our gear was fairly damp. We loaded up the canoes and shoved off around 9:30am, just as the rain started to increase. Although we only had approximately two hours of paddling ahead of us (~8 miles), the rain and the cold made it feel much longer (just ask Jason). This final leg of the trip was fairly uneventful, with the exception of a Class II rapid about five miles down the river (the rapid, which is on the far left, requires a sharp right-turn maneuver, so be sure to rudder hard on the right side of the boat).
We eventually made it to our take-out at the Kings Creek access around 11:30am. This is a nicely-kept access point (maintained by the state park system), with steps leading down to the river, gravel parking, and a bathroom. We hastily pulled our boats and gear out of the water and loaded up Byron’s truck. After changing into some dry clothes, all six of us piled into the truck and headed back to Zaloo’s to return to our vehicles. We said our goodbyes and returned home.
In summary, this trip was a success. Good water levels and pleasant weather on Saturday allowed for comfortable paddling. Although the cold rain on Sunday made things a bit more difficult, we only had to endure it for a couple of hours. This river is recommended for all skill levels, as the water is fairly calm, with only minor rapids and ripples throughout the trip (with the exception of the one Class II rapid encountered before the Kings Creek access). If you don’t have your own gear, Zaloo's Canoes rents canoes for approx $35/day, and will also shuttle you and/or your canoe back to your car for an additional fee.
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