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July 3, 2011 Durham Herald-Sun

 

Pleasures of the Eno River

 

Festivalgoers play, paddle to the music

By Ray Gronberg

 

The 32nd Festival for the Eno kicked off its three-day run on Saturday, giving patrons a chance to dip a toe into the event’s namesake river, sample local foods and crafts and enjoy a lineup of  musicians leavened with hometown talent.

An annual fundraiser for the Eno River Association, the festival traditionally draws tens of thousands of people to West Point on the Eno Park over the 4th of July holiday. Given fine weather on Saturday, it appeared the association could once again count on a good turnout. Spectators crowded around the event’s four stages, many keeping to the shady spots around each.

But as always, the Eno River itself was a popular destination. Despite signs warning that swimming was not advised, plenty of folks trooped down to the banks for a cooling dip, wading in the shallows below the dam or paddling around in the pool above it.

Speaking of paddling, the staff from Frog Hollow Outdoors was on hand to rent canoes and kayaks to anyone who wanted to explore a four-tenth-mile stretch of the river upstream from the dam.  Kayaking lessons were also on offer; but Frog Hollow also had an ample supply of boats stable enough for even newbies to handle. Instructors provided whatever encouragement seemed necessary.

“There’s not enough water to go over the dam—you’ll bottom out [before you do],” Frog Hollow guide Will Sult told one person who was wondering if it was possible for the half-hour excursion to end badly from navigational error: “But if you do, I’m taking pictures, because it’ll be an amazing feat.”

Once away from the makeshift dock, a few strokes of the paddle was all it took to put a kayaker or canoers in seeming wilderness, though the park is hemmed in north and south by developed land. It is little more than a fifth of a mile wide in some spots. The Eno River Association itself has worked since 1966 to promote conservation in the basin. It’s helped orchestrate public and private initiatives that so far have protected about 5,700 acres in Durham and Orange counties.