Saturday, April 10, 2010

3rd Annual Yee Haw! River Paddle

4/10/2010 - Haw River Paddle Trail, Haw River, NC.

(Red Slide Park to Swepsonville River Park - 5.5 Miles, Water level 4 feet)

Yee Haw! Saturday was a "jaw-dropping" perfect day for the 3rd Annual Yee Haw! River Paddle! It was a sunny day with temperatures in the low 60's and a slight breeze. I was real excited about this paddle adventure for several reasons... it was my first time attending an "organized" paddling event, first time paddling the Haw River Paddle Trail, and Rachel would be occupying the front kayak seat! :-) Jennie Matkins; one of the event organizers, was kind enough to email very detailed directions on taking Highway 70 to Haw River... so we were able to avoid the I85 / I40 interstate traffic. It took us roughly 45 minutes to travel from Durham to Haw River along some scenic country roads.

Put in was at Red Slide Park. Yikes! I took one look at these "severe" riffles, and I double checked my registration form to make sure I was at the family paddle event! Staff personnel assured me that the put in was the most "demanding" point on this stretch of the river. But after watching one yaker go sideways through this riffle and another poor soul get wedged among the rocks for over 10 minutes...I did not fancy a run through it in our recreational and very "open" tandem kayak!
Thankfully, there was an alternative put in area about 75 yards down river - a small tributary off the main river with a nice sandy area among the trees. I decided that this was the "better" of the two put in areas based on our skill level.

Funniest comment heard all day... "You will get wet today!" :-O Here Rachel waits her turn for the put in area to clear. Behind her and through the trees, is the "severe" riffle put in area.

And we are off! I liked this small tributary. The trees formed a green canopy over our heads and foliage was starting to come out. There were lots of tall, green grass along the steep banks. We encountered a few shallow areas that required some "poling" with the oars, but we paddled through with no mishaps.

Here we enter into the main river and cross under both a highway bridge and railroad trestle. I took this photo after we had already passed under these structures by twisting around in my seat and shooting "backwards." I think it has a rather "dramatic" angle to it! ;-)

We encountered several flotillas of yakers as we paddled down the Haw River. We exchanged pleasantries, laughed, and joked around. What a great time on the water! I even saw one fellow in a canoe wearing a raccoon skin hat complete with tail! I greeted him with a "There is Daniel Boone" He laughed. He was certainly getting into the spirit of this river paddle! Also several yakers admired our Mainstream Escapade Tandem kayak as we paddled pass them on the river... it reminded me of those car commercials where you see a late model auto driving by and everyone stops what they are doing and stares at it! Fun stuff!
Evidence of the high water conditions. A staff organizer told me that just a day earlier, the Haw River was running at five feet because of the rains that had moved through the area on Thursday night. Thankfully; by Saturday, the water level had receded a foot and the Yee Haw! event was able to proceed. The maximum water level that paddlers are allowed to traverse the Haw River is four feet!

The Highway 54 bridge over the Haw River. We had to navigate through about a half dozen small riffle areas. The current was running very fast.

The Graham Paddle Access area served as the "hospitality station" and was located 3.5 miles from the Red Slide Park put in area. Here, Rachel and I were able to take out, stretch our legs, rehydrate, and also take a bio break.

All refreshments were complimentary and much appreciated! We; of course, always bring our own water and trail mix, but it was nice to "supplement" these supplies! It was also at the the Graham hospitality station that I witnessed an unfortunate event. The mature lady, who earlier had gotten wedged among the rocks at the Red Slide Park put in area, had arrived before us at this station and was just getting back into her kayak as we too prepared to leave. I watched as a staffer helped her push off backwards from the shore. The current was running very strong... the lady lost her balance and she flipped out! Went underwater and came up coughing and spitting out water. I immediately rushed down to the waters' edge and grabbed one of her thrashing arms. The staffer caught her other arm and we hauled her out. We had to pull her kayak ashore and tip it over to dump out all the river water. She was fine... more embarrassed then hurt. I talked with her some later as we were paddling along. I learned that she was in a rental kayak, had never paddled the Haw River, and in fact, had not paddled for a long time. She had a tough day, but stuck it out. I was glad to see her weary, but happy face at the take out area!

Take out area at Swepsonville River Park. There were more t-shirts to buy... a fellow was selling wine... and two enterprising guys had set-up a bar-b-que stand and were selling sandwiches for $3.00 each. And yes, I ordered two complete with coleslaw! Yum! And no... I did not eat two since I shared one with Rachel! ;-) I also had the pleasure to meet Brian Baker, who is the Project Coordinator for the Haw River Trail. He commented that he is a reader of Durhamblogger... smart fellow ;-)... and offered to give me a future guided tour of the Haw River Trail. I plan to take him up on his kind offer.

There was one other mishap I witnessed. Spied these two yakers "escorting" a kayak gone "turtle" toward the take out area. I yelled down to them and inquired as to the previous occupant. They told me he had flipped out under the bridge about two hundred yards upriver and was wading to shore. I saw a couple of staffers hustle off through the woods toward the bridge, but did not learn any more about this event. Hopefully, he was fine.

And so ended a fantastic day at the 3rd Annual Yee Haw! River Paddle! Hats off to all the event organizers, shuttle bus drivers and sponsors! What a fun event and I had the chance to meet some great folks. This yaker is "sold" and plans to go "country" every April. Yee Haw! ;-)


  1. Glad you had fun without any mishaps. :)

  2. Thanks Rob! It was a lot of fun and I would like to participate in more organized paddling events in the future!

  3. Hello Mike & Rachael... It was really good to meet yall.. It is Steve & Jennifer.. You met us when you dropped your boat off @ the put in. I am glad you enjoyed your time on the HawRiver.. We hope to see you next year!

  4. Hi Steve & Jennifer! Enjoyed our chat while Rach and I ate lunch and waited for the family paddle to begin! Hope to see you both on the water soon! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Hi Mike & Rachel,
    It's me, "The guy in the racoon hat". My wife Tracy & my somewhat apprehensive 8 yr old Griffin also had a great time on the Haw. It was our first attempt at such an event, but it won't be our last. I was doing an online search about the Haw & found your blog. I was more than amused when I got to the part about the "Racoon Hat Guy". My wife is still laughing. My goal was to embarrass my kid as much as possible that day. Mission accomplished. Thanks, Ken

  6. Hi Ken! Really great that you found Durhamblogger and your honorable mention in my Yee Haw! post! Your hat really set the tone for that paddle adventure and the family looked like they were enjoying themselves - even Griffin! I remember at the take out area how your son was joking around and certainly seemed to have overcome any earlier jitters. Thanks again for commenting and I hope to run into you guys again on the water!


I regret that I had to enable Comment Moderation on Durhamblogger. Please note that appropriate kayak and paddling comments will be posted promptly!