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News & Observer - Paddlin' the Peidmont

Excerpts from:

Paddlin' the Piedmont

Explore nearby water spots, from placid eddies to big rapids.

By JOE MILLER, Staff Writer -  News & Observer

June 03, 2005

Head to the North Carolina mountains and you'll find some of the country's top whitewater. The Nantahala, Pigeon and Tuckasegee rivers, among others, attract a range of domestic kayakers and open boaters.

Head the other direction and you'll find a similar standout: Our coast is known for its stellar flatwater, from swampy black water escapes to open-water cruises on the sounds and estuaries.

The Piedmont, though, enjoys no such fame. But that's not to say it doesn't have good paddling in its own right.

"The opportunities are really good around here for whatever you seek," says Paul Ferguson. A Raleigh resident, Ferguson is the reigning authority on Piedmont paddling. He's been at it since 1972, taking careful note of his travels along the way. Three years ago, he published "Paddling Eastern North Carolina," a guide to more than 2,600 miles of river trail in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain.

"You've got some nice whitewater," he notes. "Nothing as difficult as the mountains, but you can find stuff here that reminds you of the mountains." …….

…... Best undiscovered paddle: "Three Rivers" area of Durham County

So undiscovered that even the Triangle's more experienced paddlers are likely scratching their heads and saying, "Three Rivers?"

Actually, that's the name the spot's biggest proponent has given the area, an area many may have paddled without fully realizing what a cool place they were in.

"The more I explore it the more I like it," says Banks Dixon, proprietor of Durham's Frog Hollow Outdoors. Dixon has been leading trips in the area -- where the Eno, Flat and Little rivers converge and give it up for Falls Lake -- for several years now and is amazed by the diversity. "There are so many nooks and crannies to explore."

The wetlands is a birder's paradise -- "I've seen dozens of great egrets hanging out, and saw [hundreds of] cormorants -- I've never seen that many in one place," he says. Though some of the water is wide, assorted coves and a couple of creeks you can paddle up a mile or so give an intimate feel.

"It's not the kind of place to go if you want to get from point A to point B," says Dixon. "It's more if you want to be on the water and explore. You'll miss a lot if you go too fast."

Details: The put-in and take-out -- this is still, flat water -- is the Eno River Wildlife Resources Commission boat ramp. To get there, take Old Oxford Road north from Durham. Turn right on Red Mill Road. The road turns to dirt shortly before hitting the boat ramp. More info, contact Frog Hollow at 949-4315 or

Staff writer Joe Miller can be reached at 812-8450 or Check for daily updates on the TIO blog, by visiting keyword: tio blog.