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There are many road crossings and boat ramps around Falls Lake where you can put in a kayak or canoe. However, there is often a lot of traffic on Falls, and Beaver Dam is the best place to paddle because no motor boats are allowed there.
There is a state park/recreation area at Beaver Dam, which can be reached by NC Highway 50 (Creedmore Road) about 4-5 miles north of NC 98. Although there are no campgrounds at the Beaver Dam park, there is a boat ramp, picnic areas, restrooms, and a swimming beach. There are several campgrounds at other locations around Falls Lake.
From the Beaver Dam boat ramp, you can paddle south about 1 mile to the dam. But the best route is to head north about 3 miles upstream, where the lake passes under a road (Old Weaver Rd). Past Old Weaver, the lake turns into a marshy area with a main channel that weaves among water lilies and other aquatic plants.
To the east is a forested area that has become a rookery for herons, ospreys and bald eagles. There are many large birds nesting here, and it is a spectacular area to observe wildlife. Binoculars and/or a camera with telephoto lens are helpful, but you can see a lot with your plain eyes. I have seen a number of ospreys and bald eagles diving to catch fish and then carrying them off in their talons in this area.
From Durham, take NC 98 east to NC 50, then go north.