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My family and I traveled down the Yadkin River starting just off the Kerr Scott Reservoir Dam at the Tailwater Access Point. Our destination was Smoot Park. We started our adventure around 12:30pm on Saturday, June 16, 2007. The day was overcast and threatening to rain. Peering at weather.com before we left, I saw that there was a big band of rain moving through the area, but was supposed to break up by afternoon. So, we drove to Smoot Park to drop off the first car. The second car, which carried two tandem Pelican kayaks, delivered us to the starting spot, Tailwater Access Point. After we dropped off the kayaks and carried them to the river, I drove the second car back to Smoot Park and drove the first one to our starting location.
The water was around 1-3 feet deep and moving at a nice leisurely 2 mph. My daughter quickly informed me that the temperature of the water was much colder than expected (as if I would wave my magic wand and the river temperature would rise – neat trick if I could do it!). While putting in, we were warned about a tree that had fallen last year and was probably still blocking the way. Every fisherman we passed warned us of that same tree. For most of the trip, my son identified every fallen tree and professed that’s the tree we were warned about.
At around 1:30pm we stopped at one of the few shores that we could find to doc the kayaks to have lunch. I had a peanut butter sandwich with tortilla chips – yum. The rest of my family had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with chips. Our lunch entertainment was the constant high-pitched whines of go-carts traversing the very nearby race track. Intertwined with the cart sounds were muffled announcements on the track’s PA system. It was funny. By the looks of it, we were out in the middle of nowhere, but by listening, you can hear highway and other urban based sounds.
After lunch, we noticed that a blue bird was flying down the river with us. He would fly a little further down the river and wait for us to catch up. When I noticed what the bird was doing, I mentioned it to my family, thinking that he would stop his routine once I say something, but he kept flying ahead and waiting for us. This lasted a couple of hours before we encountered our next diversion.
We next met up with a father and son that were fishing from a flat-bottom boat. Of course they warned us about the tree up ahead, but this time they said that it was right around the corner. There was a little rapid up ahead and the right side seemed technical while the left side seemed very open. I took the right side route because I wanted to do something remotely challenging on this journey. My wife and daughter, who were in the other kayak, were not as experienced as I. They decided to follow my son and me through the technical area. We made it through with constant adjustment, but they capsized their kayak. After I paddled back upstream to help them, they were both out of the kayak and my daughter visibly disturbed. In retelling the story, she made it sound like she almost died and all we cared about were the paddles (twelve years old and already a drama queen). I pulled their kayak to some shallow water and began draining it. My daughter took a picture of me draining the kayak and my wife says that she is going to tell everyone that I capsized my kayak and it was a picture of me draining it afterward.
The journey continued after I drained their kayak and they recovered their paddles. By now, the father and son fishermen were back in the area. We told them where we were getting out (Smoot Park) and they said that it was about another 8 hours downstream! 8 hours?!?!?! We were looking for the whole trip to take 3! Well, I figured that these two were not speedsters and that their 8 hours is our 1 hour... this was later verified by asking other fishermen later in the trip. Meanwhile, we finally arrived at the fallen tree. It had a little room on the right to pass through. My wife was shaken from her last technical ordeal, so I paddled mine through and walked upstream and paddled hers through.
The rest of the trip was uneventful as the water level varied from 2-3 feet to 5-6 feet then back again. It rained for a little while (a few minutes), nothing really worth noting. We arrived at Smoot Park around 3:30pm, just 3 hrs on the river. You could tell that my wife and kids thought that the trip was long enough and wanted to get over to our campsite at Bandit Roost. I wished it was longer and more challenging. The capsized kayak will make a dynamic tale that grows with the telling. All-in-all, a delightful way to spend a Saturday afternoon with your wife and children.
Special Note: Thanks to Phoebe for her trip report in June 2005
Recreational Kayak Paddle