Swepsonville River Park to Saxapahaw

This dammed 5.8-mile stretch of the Haw River is good, reliable paddling year round, but it may be best in summer. Put in at Swepsonville River Park, warm up with a 0.7-mile paddle downstream to the Puryear Dam, then portage — a portage made fun, funky and easy with a set of slides (for your boat, not you).

After putting in downstream of the dam, take a beed on the large rocks, river right. Cool waters congregate here (speculation is that a spring filters in) making a perfect spot for a dip. Sun dry on the rocks, proceed downstream to Saxapahaw and the takeout, river left, just above the dam. Or, you can avoid the need to set a shuttle by putting in at Saxapahaw and paddling upstream against a barely perceptible current, then drifting back.

About as fun as the paddle itself is the apres paddle in Saxapahaw. Efforts to develop an abandoned mill have resulted in a coffee shop, Cup 22, where after a winter paddle you can warm up with a variety of caffeinated libations; the Haw River Ballroom, home to live entertainment (and when no one is on stage, plunk down $2 and play pingpong on one of the tables set up between gigs); enjoy a cold one at The Eddy; or, have a hummus wrap or pan-seared giant sea scallops at the Saxapahaw General Store (where you can also load up on beefy jerkey and Twinkees before the trip).

No boat, no problem. Haw River Canoe & Kayak just downstream from the takeout rents canoes and kayaks.

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Maps & Access

Getting there from downtown Chapel Hill
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 25 minutes from downtown Chapel Hill
Time to complete: 3 hours
Address: 2472 Boywood Road
City: Swepsonville
State: N.C.
Zip: 27359
Latitude: 35.5702
Longitude: 79.1956