“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

"Everybody dies. Not everybody really lives."

The saddest sound in the world is a man saying, "I wish I'd have done that."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Floating the Roanoke and Cashie Rivers

My buddy Jack and I looked at each other and we both had the same thought: I can’t think of any situation where the saying “Ignorance is Bliss” is more appropriate.  We were talking with our outfitter after four days kayaking and fishing on North Carolina’s Roanoke and Cashie Rivers and discussing our camping facilities of the past three nights.

The two rivers flow through low swamp land, eastern into Albermarle Sound.  There is little if any high ground along the banks of the rivers so you can’t just pull up where you please and set up camp. Fortunately, a local nonprofit organization, Roanoke River Partners, has constructed a series of raised wooden platforms at strategic locations along the rivers.  These platforms, about 15 by 20 feet, are set back 20 yards or so from the open river above and are perched six feet above the abundant cypress knees, muck and wetland vegetation that crowd the riverbanks.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

We launched our kayaks at Astoria Drive Wildlife Landing in Jamestown, NC and paddled seven miles to the mouth of Roanoke Broad Creek and then up a waterway called Cow Creek to our first night’s camping platform. We fished along the way, catching good numbers of crappie, largemouth bass and pan fish.  The weather was beautiful, a warm September day, bald eagles and osprey soared overhead, red-shouldered hawks perched in the trees along the river and great blue herons hunted in the shallow wetlands along the way.  We had way too much fun so it was near dusk as we set up our tent at Cow Creek.  The failing light didn’t allow much time to inspect our campsite and we fell asleep to the sounds of two barred owls calling to each other across the river.  It wasn’t until first light the next morning that we had a chance to check out our humble abode; nice, a high canopy of tupelo and cypress trees towering over the platform. The platform was in great shape except for the corner posts which were chopped, scarred and full of small holes.  After much inspection and discussion we decided that previous campers had chopped out some pieces of wood to start a fire and then shot the posts with a pellet gun. 

The next day we paddled down Roanoke Broad and onto our next night’s platform at Bear Run.  While setting up camp we noticed that our vandalizing predecessors had hacked and shot the posts on this platform too. We spent the day fishing and exploring the tributaries of Roanoke Broad Creek again catching all the fish we wanted, adding yellow perch and striped bass to the count.  There is a small tributary downriver called Warren Neck Creek, a tributary to the river.  This was the only disappointment of the trip; there is a massive Weyerhauser paper plant looming over the river here and the sight is depressing, the noise oppressive.  I did not like that area and I don’t recommend paddling it.  So back upstream for the night.

Day three and we were off to the Cashie River via a short paddle through "the Thoroughfare" which connects the Roanoke River to the Cashie River.  Here the whole character of the trip changed; the Cashie is markedly different from the Roanoke.  The Roanoke is broad, brown and muddy, the Cashie is clean and the water a deep tannin brown. I immediately liked the Cashie and we spent the better part of the day fishing and paddling it before entering Cashie Broad Creek, a smaller tributary to the Cashie River. 

This was our favorite part of the trip.  The Cashie Broad is an even smaller waterway, narrow and clean.  The further we paddled upstream, the prettier it got.  The river narrows, huge cypress trees form a cathedral-like archway over the river and large fields of lily pads are everywhere.  The river eventually becomes too narrow to pass in its upper reaches but the scenery here is the best and the fishing is excellent.  Pan fish, bass and crappie lurked among the lily pads and we caught all the fish we cared to and shot enough pictures to use up most of our digital memory.

In the midst of this paradise was our third and final camping platform, Otter One.  This was also our favorite platform with an open view from our tent out over the Cashie Broad, framed by cypress trees and lily pad fields. 
Once again the platform had been chopped up.  We reluctantly packed up the next morning for our last day of paddling and floated downstream three miles to the Highway 45 bridge where our outfitter, Heber Coltrain from Roanoke Outdoor Adventures awaited us for pickup.

That’s when we told Heber about the vandalized platforms. 
“What did the posts look like?” he asked.

“They were all chopped up about seven feet up on each post and there were holes, like pellet gun holes.”
“Bears”, he said without hesitation, “They like the salt in the wood so they stand up and chew away at the posts. The ‘pellet gun holes’ are teeth marks.”

Yep, like I said, ignorance is bliss.  We had three nights of carefree, peaceful sleep amid the beauty of the Roanoke and Cashie Rivers, without a single thought or worry about marauding black bears. Something you won’t experience if you go after reading this.



IF YOU GO:  You will need to reserve camping platforms through Roanoke River Partners on their website www.roanokeriverpartners.org.  Click on the "Platform Camping" icon and view pictures, location and other information on each platform and make online reservations.  For river information, kayak rental, trip advice and just a jolly good time I highly recommend Heber Coltrain at Roanoke Outdoor Adventures in Williamston, NC,  www.roanokeoutdooradventures.com.  Heber is a living encyclopedia of the river and the area and will spin tales about local history and generally keep you entertained.  One of the best outfitters I've ever had the pleasure to do business with, and I've used many all over the world.

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