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Take-out: Wildlife boating access at US-117. Access site is about 1/3 mile north of the Neuse River Bridge (by road). Turn right onto gravel road just before guardrails begin. Be sure to park in the access site parking and not in the parking for the private club right next to it. Wildlife sign marks entrance on US-117.
Originally, my wife was going to take this paddling trip with me, but she wasn’t feeling well and I made this trip solo. I loaded up the Pelican Expedition 146 DLX with a packed lunch, water, and hot tea (this was one of the first chilly mornings this fall) and headed for the put-in.
The several days of much-needed rain (we’re still in a serious drought here in North Carolina) on October 24-26 temporarily raised the river levels for a few days and caused the water to be quite muddy. It was obvious that the river had been higher than it was the day of this trip as the mud on the ramp bore as evidence (a few moments as the back tires of my truck spun in the mud made me wonder if I was going to be paddling or making arrangements to pull my truck back up the ramp).
Once the truck was safely parked, I launched at approximately 9:00am. River levels at the time of launch were 3.73 ft/672 cfs (USGS 02089000 Neuse River Near Goldsboro, NC) and the increased current (from two weeks ago and downstream) was apparent and welcome. The right bank of the river for the first mile is liberally reinforced with rock to prevent erosion. This is not surprising when you realize that the right bank is practically just a dike between the river and Quaker Neck Lake (cooling pond for Progress Energy’s Quaker Neck power plant).
Just before a channel enters the river from the right about a mile downstream from the put-in (according to “Paddling Eastern North Carolina” by Paul Ferguson, this is a channel that cuts across Progress Energy property and is not open to the public) there is a sign prominent on the right bank warning of a low dam ahead. The sign is obviously old (very faded and overgrown) and is out of date as the Quaker Neck Dam was removed in 1998. No evidence of the dam remains and its location can only be determined using a topographical map which shows its location (1998 USFS “Southwest Goldsboro” map shows the dam’s location).
Some high banks begin to appear on the right bank about 0.7 miles downstream from the Stevens Mill Rd Bridge (Wayne County 1008). There are quite a few cypress trees with their attendant armies of cypress knees along both banks through this section.
Further downstream there are several houses on the right bank and about a quarter mile downstream from the houses is where there are three river channels. The right channel is a slough that is the remains of the old river channel—it is fairly well silted in and is a dead end (if you know what to look for, you can identify where the channel used to curve to the right immediately downstream from the houses on the right bank). It did not take me long to realize that I did not want to get stuck in the muck!
Straight ahead is the Neuse River Cut-Off. At current water levels, there is a sizeable island at the beginning of this channel. About 1000’ beyond the island is a low flood-control dam which would have to be portaged. After landing on the left bank and calling the phone number on the “Posted” sign to get permission, I scouted the dam and realized that there was no way I could portage this dam alone with a heavy canoe.
So I took the left channel (which is also the main river channel). The Neuse River Cut-Off and the main river channel form a very large island, most of which is part of an ATV park. Since it was a pretty day, the rest of the trip was accompanied by the sound of motorbike and ATV motors.
About halfway around the big loop of the river, the Little River joins the Neuse. The effect on the water was profound and dramatic. As I stated earlier, the waters of the Neuse are currently quite muddy due to the recent rainfall. The waters from the Little River, by contrast, were quite clear and tea-colored (as is typical of streams that flow through cypress swamps). I paddled a few hundred feet up the Little River before encountering a fallen tree that completely blocks passage of the river. I took the opportunity to take some pictures, though, including one of the Neuse that shows the clear waters from the Little River running next to the muddy waters of the Neuse.
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. The one other thing I’d point out is that the recent higher waters from the recent rainfall seems to have shifted one of the strainers I mentioned in my October 5 trip report downstream and opened up the channel more.
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