Three of North Carolina’s major river basins—the Roanoke, the Cape Fear, and the Yadkin-Pee Dee—traverse the NC Triad, making it home to some of the most diverse watersheds in the country. With over two dozen waterways—including rivers, creeks, and streams, and offering visitors everything from fishing to jet skiing—the NC Triad provides endless opportunities to explore offshore.
Old Rivers Just Grow Wilder
The tributaries of the region’s major rivers are a great place to begin your exploration of the waterways of the NC Triad.
The Uwharrie River flows through the gorgeous Uwharrie National Forest and feeds into the Pee Dee and onto the Atlantic Ocean. Kayaking or canoeing along this 60-mile stretch is an excellent idea much of the year unless there’s been a recent drought or downpour—in which case the river can be impassable or dangerously fast. Otherwise, expect to see fresh flowers along the banks and find spots to rest, camp, and fish.
Where the Uwharrie River meets the Pee Dee River, the kayakers and paddlers give way to power boaters and jet skiers. The upper portion, known as the Yadkin River, mostly encourages hand-powered watercraft, but the lower portion—and its boat ramps and swimming areas—welcome recreation and high-speed fun. In both the north and south sections of the river within the NC Triad exist excellent, quiet inlets to fish for bluegill, crappie, and smallmouth bass.
A Trip Down the Haw River is a Trip Through History
To experience the NC Triad as it was encountered by aboriginal groups and settlers, a journey down the Haw River is essential. Feeding into the Cape Fear river basin, the Haw River courses through more than 110 miles of the NC Triad and—now restored and protected—offers a view of everything from the textile mills that lined its banks prior to the Civil War to the natural beauty of the heron, bluegill, and beaver that originally dominated this natural waterway.
With more than half a dozen access sites along its length, the Haw River is best experienced in a paddle craft that can navigate occasional sections of low water, though some sections of the river—Altamahaw Access Point is a good example—are dammed to create flat water and make excellent areas for first-time paddlers to practice their craft.
The Mayo and the Dan
One of the easiest paddling trails in the NC Triad is the Mayo River, covering just 16 miles of the river that feeds the Dan River and, in turn, the Roanoke. Containing fishing holes, hiking trails, and public restrooms, Mayo River State Park is an excellent place to introduce young paddlers to every water activity and amenity within reach.
Along the Dan River itself, on the other hand, the relative lack of dams make for a free-flowing river (more than 200 miles into Virginia) that privileges paddlers with moderate experience and a desire to view the river’s high banks and geologic formations.