Paddling the marshlands of Falls Lake
Paddling the marshlands of Falls Lake

One of our favorite questions when a newcomer walks in the door: “So, is there any good paddling around here?”

Well, reckon that depends on what you consider good paddling. If you’re talking whitewater, then yeah. After a good rain you’ll find up to Class III water on the Haw River, the Mayo, the Deep, the Dan, the Eno. (Not to mention that within 3 to 5 hours, you’ll find top-notch whitewater in the Southern Appalachians.) If you like lake paddling, we’ve got Falls and Jordan in the Triangle, the Greensboro Watershed lakes: big lakes but with plenty of fingers to explore that escape the reach of power boats. And there are a series of smaller lakes, such as Lake Crabtree, where you don’t even need a boat — you can rent one onsite.

As for river paddling of the non-Class III variety, you can paddle any number of passages that may have a frisky riffle now and then, but that are largely placid-but-moving. The smaller options — the Eno, the upper Tar, the Flat, the Little — are best done after a modest rain; some — the Neuse, the Cape Fear, the Haw, the Deep — can be paddled even during the driest days of summer. Like the mystery of a good swamp? We’ve got lots of options Down East. And if you like coastal paddling you’re in luck: North Carolina’s got more than 12,000 miles of shore along the estuary, that transition area where salt water and fresh water meet.

So, is there and good paddling around here? Yeah, we think North Carolina is a great place to paddle. And part of our job is to help you take full advantage of these opportunities, which is why we created our GetPaddling! Resource Page. Here, you’ll find a range of tips and advice from our experts, on local paddling, on gear, technique, the paddling lifestyle. And, as we get into the heart of paddling season, more thoughts on some of our favorite places to paddle. We also like to keep you informed on our Facebook page, where you can get up-date news on paddle-related events.

We hope you find the page helpful!

Bill Mauney paddling the Tar River
Bill Mauney paddling the Tar River

The Paddling Life

Why Paddle?

For those of you who’ve yet to dip a paddle, who aren’t sure what the excitement is about, we make our case for getting you on the water.

Read here

US Coast Guard Paddling Safety Video Series

  1. Life Jackets
  2. What to Wear
  3. Essential Gear
  4. Basic Kayaking Strokes
  5. Plan Your Trip
  6. Paddling Traffic Rules
  7. What Happens if I Flip?
  8. Calling for Help

Paddling with a Stick: Greenland Paddles Rediscovered

These nearly shapeless paddles look peculiar (not to mention inefficient) at first, but spend a little time with one and you’ll understand their cult popularity.

Read here

Cold weather paddling is a delight — if you're dressed for it.
Cold weather paddling is a delight — if you’re dressed for it.

Paddling by Season

In the Summertime, These Unsung Lakes are Great for Paddling

On a sweltering summer weekend, you are not alone in thinking a paddle is a great idea: the popular waters of the Piedmont are afloat with those of a like mind. Which is why we share five of our top paddles that may not be deserted but you won’t be playing bumper boats, either.

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Save Your Summer: Paddling

Of the four basic adventure groups (Hiking, Backpacking, Camping and Paddling), paddling may be the most summer dependent. Sure, you can take the canoe or kayak out early fall, perhaps into mid-October, but most of us like being on the water when the water is refreshing, not bone chilling. Here are five paddles that are especially good for a summer adventure.

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Fall Paddling: Better Color, Better Quiet

When we think of fall color, we think of hiking. Curious, considering that when we’re looking for great color, we tend to look for it on trails along water. Creeks, streams, ponds, lakes — the colors of autumn seem to have extra sizzle along their banks. So wouldn’t it make sense to view fall color from the water? Here are five fall paddles where the color is especially good.

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The Case for Winter Paddling

It is the escape I keep in my back pocket in winter, the one I turn to when the need to truly give civilization the slip is greatest: the winter paddle.

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Open water on Lake Brandt
Open water on Lake Brandt


The Gift of Gear: Paddling

Here’s some paddling gear that should be in every boat — including that of the paddler in your life who’s hard to buy for.

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Cold Weather Paddling

Winter is a great time to paddle — provided you take the proper precautions.

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Paddling Clothing Systems for Cold Water

Here’s an overview of four different clothing systems that will effectively keep you warm while paddling in cold water.

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Paddling the coast is a different animal
Paddling the coast is a different animal

Coastal Paddling

Coastal paddling is a different beast, with its tides, its currents, it’s big boats to contend with.  Long-time paddler Bill Mauney shares his thoughts on a variety of area that make paddling at the coast a little different.

Communication Among Paddlers

Any time you head out into the wild, it’s essential that you communicate and communicate well — you never know what’s going to happen out there. Good communication is especially important when paddling coastal waters.

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Gear for Coastal Paddling

Specialized types of paddling require specialized types of gear.  Bill Mauney shares his thoughts on gear for paddling the coast in his two-part Gear-Up series:

Nautical Charts 

Unravel the mystery of how to read and use nautical charts.

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Aids to Navigation

“A collision at sea can ruin your entire day,” goes a sage Naval saying. Make sure you don’t have a bad day by discovering these aids to navigation.

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Nothing can sink a paddle trip faster than spacing out a vital piece of equipment (your boat, for instance). Make a list, check it twice.

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Float Plans

Pilots file flight plans before a trip, you should have a plan for your paddle trip as well.

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Introduction to Seamanship

Master your craft. Here’s how.

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Maintaining Distance from Naval Vessels 

Since 911, it’s become especially important to keep your distance from Naval vessels.

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Loading a Sea Kayak

How you load a kayak will affect its performance. Some tips on proper packing. 


‘Hey, y’all! Watch this!’

Famous last words — and a way of testing whitewater boats employed by Great Outdoor Provision Co. founder Tom Valone in the early days.

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Where to Paddle

Here Comes the Sun: Enjoy An After Work Paddle

You do the math and it quickly becomes apparent: The whistle at Widget Inc. blows at 5, the sun doesn’t set in these heady days of late spring and early summer until well after 8 … . Hmm. If I were organized and there was a suitable lake nearby, I could get in an after work paddle.

We fill in the blanks on getting organized and point you to five metro lakes in North Carolina where you could very well spend two hours on the water after eight in the office:


  • Jordan Lake, Fearrington Point boat access, Chatham County
  • Lake Johnson, Raleigh


  • Watershed Lakes, Greensboro
  • Salem Lake, Winston-Salem


  • Mountain Island Lake, Latta Plantation Nature Preserve

Get the full story on all of these destinations here.

Paddle Under the Radar at these Cool Summer Spots

Mountain Island Lake

1. Three-rivers area of Falls Lake
Durham County
Lots of jungly passages feed into large pools that lead to more jungly passages that … well, you get the picture.

2. Jordan Lake: Ebenezer Boat Ramp
Having trouble picturing an under-the-radar paddle spot anywhere on Jordan Lake on a summer weekend? Then you haven’t pictured this area, where the Haw River feeds into Jordan.

3. Mountain Island Lake | Latta Plantation Nature Preserve
Mountain Island Lake, at 3,281 acres on the northwest side of Charlotte is hardly a secret. It is, however, between the much larger and more popular Lake Norman to the north, and Lake Wylie to the south. Get the picture?

4. Randleman Reservoir
The new, 90-acre Randleman Reservoir in Southwest Park offers lots of tree-hugging (and thus, shade-providing) shoreline and the only motor boats allowed are those with 5 HP motors . Peaceful paddling 20 minutes from downtown.

5. Goose Creek State Park
You won’t paddle far here, but then you don’t need to in this swampy area filled with red cedar, black gum, red maple, tupelo, loblolly pine and cypress providing a sheltering canopy.

Get the full story on these paddle destinations here.

Paddle Trips by Region


Little River: Section 1
You encounter a good drop over the first mile — 40 feet — but Paul Ferguson says there are no big drops, just a consistently descending run of Class I and II rapids “and fast water over rock gardens.” It’s a narrow passage and downed trees are not uncommon; be on guard.
Rating: Class I-II
Length: 4.1 miles
More info here

Haw River: Section 9
One of the more fun sections of the Haw: this stretch epitomizes the islands and braids that characterize the Haw as its banks widen and it works its way to Jordan Lake. Whether you catch any Class II action depends on how good a guide you have to help you negotiate this part of the Haw puzzle: We can think of no better guide than Paul Ferguson, whose “Paddling Eastern North Carolina” includes a fairly detailed description of how to navigate this stretch.
Rating: Class I-II
Length: 3.6 miles
Learn more here

Little River: Section 1
You encounter a good drop over the first mile — 40 feet — but Paul Ferguson says there are no big drops, just a consistently descending run of Class I and II rapids “and fast water over rock gardens.” It’s a narrow passage and downed trees are not uncommon; be on guard.
Rating: Class I-II
Length: 4.1 miles
Learn more here

Neuse River: Section 4
Until a whitewater park gets developed at the base of Falls dam, the one-two punch of the 3.5-mile stretch of the Neuse between Old Milburnie Road and Poole Road will have to suffice for Raleigh’s whitewater kicks. And by one-two punch, that’s one Class II and two Class Is. The Class Is happen quickly, the […]
Rating: Class I, II
Length: 3.5 miles
Learn more here

Rocky River: Section 4
A good stretch of Class I and II rapids just over a half mile in is followed by a Class III near the US 15/501 bridge. More Class Is and IIs follow. Just before the midpoint, the Rocky flows into the Deep. On the right is the White Pines Nature Preserve, a Triangle Land Conservancy […]
Rating: Class I-II, III
Length: 8.6 miles
Learn more here

Coast / Coastal Plain

Contentnea Creek
Considering Contentnea Creek runs 100 miles, from northeast of Raleigh to the Neuse River in Craven County, it’s a surprisingly well-kept paddle secret. This despite the fact it has its own canoe club — the Contentnea Creek Paddle Club — and warrants 10 pages of coverage in Paul Ferguson’s “Paddling Eastern North Carolina.” And, in the words of the decidedly biased and aforementioned Contentnea Creek Paddle Club, “You will be hard-pressed to find as beautiful and remote-feeling a stream with such easy access and solitude.”
Difficulty: Easy
Length: Stretches vary from 6 to nearly 11 miles; Section 4 (“Paddling Eastern North Carolina”), described below, is 10.3 miles
Learn more here

Tar River: Section 3
According to Paul Ferguson (see More info, below), there’s 182 miles of paddling on the Tar River between Oxford in the Piedmont and Washington (N.C.) on the cusp of the coast. Section 3 is perhaps the Tar’s friskiest stretch. Much of the rapids action is in the first half or so of this section, the […]
Rating: Class I-II+
Length: 6.3 miles
Learn more here