Category Archives: Neuse River

Last Paddle of 2018 – Falls Dam, NC

I had my last paddle of the year today at Falls Dam.

The US Army Corps cut the release rate down from around 5,000 CFS to 2500 CFS last Thursday. I believe this was in order to reduce down stream flooding along the Neuse River ahead of some rain.

On Saturday, we discussed heading out to the dam to play on Monday morning, assuming they hadn’t increased the release rate by then.

Fortunately for us, they still hadn’t cranked it up at 8:30 when we got on the water and there was a light rain, so we ended up with a wonderfully overcast and cool paddle.

I think for surfing, the sweet spot is a bit lower, closer to 1400 – 1800 CFS.

At the higher rate(2400 – 3000 CFS), I spent less time surfing and more time practicing my ferries and peel outs. My paddle partner, who wears a heart monitor, noted that his heart rate was higher during our session today than it generally gets during his sprint work at the lake.

This made sense to me, as I had noticed that in the first 5 minutes, I was expending more energy and could actually feel my heart beating, than I could over the course of our 13 mile sea kayak surf session the other day.

The US Corps ended up turning the release up by around 600 CFS after we had been paddling for about an hour. I sort of noticed the difference in the back of my mind, but the changes didn’t really click until later when I looked at the water levels during our run and could look at it in retrospect.

In total, we paddled about 3.7 miles, over the course of 2 hours.

Our moving average was close to 2.7 MPH, with a top speed of 9.2 MPH.

We played at three spots today, but mostly under the bridge and by the release point.

The area we were playing in by the bridge and release point is about .07 miles of river, which is where most of that 3.7 miles came from.

As luck would have it, a local photographer, Wayne, was there and took these awesome shots.

Spaghetti Strings: Falls Dam Edition

This weekend, I got to do a little playing at Falls Dam as they were tapering off the release from all the water they got from Hurricane Florence. This was the first time in several months that I have been able to catch a release at the Dam. We have had a relatively dry spell for the past year or so and that, as well as scheduling, has made it difficult for me to get out there when they are releasing at a runnable rate.

So, when they dropped it down to around 2,300 CFS on Friday, I hopped on the chance to head out there, even though for me the sweet spot is closer to 1,500 – 2,000 CFS. I forgot to turn on my GPS on Friday, but the below is from the hour I spent playing at Falls Dam on Sunday morning:

For this trip, I was out for 1 hour and ended up paddling 1.67 miles, with a top speed of 6 MPH. It doesn’t sound like much when you consider that most of my paddles are 10+ miles, but it ends up being a lot of work, especially when you are working against over 2,000 CFS. I did a lot of ferrying and had a few nice surfs on the lower waves and by the bridge. Unfurtuantly, I didn’t have my camera with me, as I buried most of the front end of my boat one time as well.

As was pointed out to my by my buddy that first showed me this area, this is one of the best ways to work on your sea kayaking boat skills inland.

Edit 10/21/2018 – The below is from a different day, this time with a release of around 1450CFS. I paddled for about 2.5 hours, 3 miles, and a top speed of 7.6 MPH:

Finding the Right Water Level for Milburnie Dam Falls

Disclaimer: Please use caution when paddling in moving water, including using all safety gear like helmet, PFD, etc. The below is not meant to be a guide or guarantee of any sort, but merely my observations and how they pertain to my perceived paddling skill.

With the removal of the Milburnie Dam, there are now at least 2.5 nice park and play areas on the Neuse. Milburnie is, of course, one, with Falls Dam and Gunnison Rapid by Pool Road, which is the .5, as you have to paddle about 1/2 a mile to get to it, making up the other 1.5.

While I think Falls Dam has more to offer and so, as a result, would be more likely to go there than Milburnie Falls, Milburnie is a pretty neat spot and I have gone out there a number of times now for a quick hour or so morning paddle. One advantage Milburnie has over Falls is that while Falls is dam controlled 100%, Milburnie gets a bump whenever it rains, so is more likely to be a viable play spot when they are not doing a release. It is also pretty convenient to me and cuts my driving down significantly, which can be nice for a morning paddle.

Since it’s removal, I have been working with another local paddler to try to determine a good way to gauge the flow here and have an idea of when it would be fun to go out there, because when there isn’t a lot of water, the Milburnie rapid is not runnable…or at least not a great deal of fun and enough to make me want to go there, as opposed to one of my other normal runs.

Why Accurately Gauging the Water Level at Milburnie Falls is Difficult

The main thing that makes determining the water level at Milburnie difficult is that unlike other areas, there isn’t a good USGS(or other) gauge for this section of the Neuse river.

About 14 miles North, you have Falls Dam, which is only really useful when they are releasing water from Falls Lake. At any other time, they keep water levels relatively consistent, usually around 150 CFS, although due to drought and other issues it was around 80 CFS for much of last year. So, when they are not releasing water from the Dam, this gauge only really sets a baseline for the river and doesn’t take into account other factors, like rain and runoff.

Further downstream, there is the Clayton Gauge, which is actually a pretty good metric for knowing what the Neuse river is doing. Generally, when they are releasing at 150 CFS and there isn’t any rainfall, you can expect the Clayton Gauge to read about 300-350 CFS.

However, it is about 25 miles or so from Falls Lake and about 14 Miles from the dam, so when water events happen, including both dam releases and rain, it takes a while for this gauge to register an uptick in water levels.

To further compound the issue, Crabtree Creek is downstream of Milburnie, but upstream of the Clayton Gauge. So, any uptick you see at the Clayton Gauge is in part due to Crabtree Creek. Crabtree Creek flows through Raleigh and is usually a trickle, but picks up quickly when it rains. When paddling upstream from Poole road, it is almost always like going from moving water to flat when you cross the point where Crabtree Creek joins the Neuse, so this has a rather significant impact on lower Neuse water levels.

So, unlike other rivers, where you can simply check a gauge and see what the river is doing, it is often not possible to do it for this stretch of river.

Using other Methods

Since there isn’t a straightforward gauge for Milburnie, one way that we have come up with is to keep an eye on rainfall. What we have discovered, a large part through the analytical work of another local paddler, is that when you see at least a 1/2 inch of rainfall register to the precipitation gauge of either Falls Lake or Marsh Creek, the river will see a noticeable uptick and generally Milburnie is likely paddlable.

We’ve not worked out the timing quite yet, mostly due to needing to spend some time reviewing data, but it is a pretty safe bet that the river will be runnable after that. And larger rain events will have a significant and prolonged effect on this section of river.

In addition to using guages, it is necessary to combine it with visual cues, so by observing the river at various levels, I feel pretty good about being able to determine if it is runnable. Currently, there is a web cam available, so you don’t actually have to drive out there to check out water levels, which can be found here.

Combining Observations with Actual Dam Releases

While we have had a very dry winter and summer, the drought did finally break and Falls lake got back to a healthy water level. What that means is that The Army Corps of Engineers, who controls the Dam releases at Falls Lake, have begun releasing water again from the Dam. Over the past month, we have had several prolonged releases of various sizes, ranging from over 3000 CFS, down to about 500 CFS.

As a result, I’ve been able to compare my personal observations with a known discharge rate and so been able to get a better idea of what rain is probably doing and what level the river is probably flowing at.

This is due to change, but I would say that generally, the 1/2 rain metric we came up with, which is sort of at least in a low-runnable rate, probably puts the river at around 500-1000 CFS. By the time the river is running at around 1200 CFS – 1600 CFS, most of the features will wash out, specifically the rocks in the middle of the Milburnie Rapids. At this time, there are still some cool waves and it is fun to play, as well as being able to go pretty far up the rapid without having to portage. However, when it gets too much above that, it just becomes fast moving water.

By the time it gets to the 3000-4000 CFS range, there is still bumpy water, but that is about it. I’ve not been out there when it is like that, but I think it would still be good ferry practice, as the river is wide enough that the edges are moving much slower, but much like Falls Dam, it gets to a point where it is much less attractive at that rate.

Playing at Falls Dam

Several years ago, I discovered the area on the other side of the Falls Lake dam, which is the start of the Neuse River. It can be a great park and play spot, with a short stretch of several cool water features that offer a nice standing wave, several cool rapids, and plenty of places to practice ferrying across moving water.

Unlike places further downstream, like the Gunnison Rapid near Poole road or the site of the old Milburnie Dam, that are directly affected by rainfall, the Falls rapids are dam controlled and so you can only go out there when they are releasing from the Dam. I’ve found that around a 1300-1800CFS release is probably the sweet spot for me and while I’ve been out there at much higher rates, once it gets above 3K practicing ferrying is about all I can do. However, at the lower rates, there are several nice surf spots and plenty of places to play around.

The year I discovered this cool play spot was exceptionally wet and so there were a number of releases. I think I made it out there at least 30 times, most of the time with one of my buddies who was practicing for his 5 Star BCU assessment. Unfortunately, we’ve had a very dry spell this winter and before, so there have been much fewer releases this year and so, combined with scheduling issues, I’ve not been able to make it out to the Dam as much as I would like in the past year.

However, I caught the tail end of the most recent release this week, which peaked at around 4K CFS, but was running at around 1300CFS when I went out there. Just as I was getting out from a short hour long session, a guy who had been taking pictures around the dam approached me and asked if I would do one more run in order for him to take some pictures. I obliged and he was kind enough to email them over. Several of them are below:

Four Descents Down Milburnie Dam in Raleigh

We had some snow this week and a .6 Inch rain event, which was enough to get the water running at Milburnie Dam in Raleigh. I decided to go out there for about an hour and do some playing. Here is a video of four of the descents I made that day, along with a couple shots of attainments while surfing just below the main rapid.

For the better part of the year, they have been maintaining a very low release rate at Falls Dam, about 70CFS. It will be interesting to see what happens when they return(hopefully) to a more normal release rate of about 150CFS once the lake fills up. And of course, what happens when they do a larger release to let some water out.

Milburnie Dam Run 03/02/2018

Since the Milburnie Dam was removed, I’ve tried to get out there after we’ve had some rain, which I’ve only managed three times so far. Through the help of a very knowledgeable acquaintance, I’ve been working on a way to gauge the river in order to be able to have a way to determine if the Milburnie Dam rapid is runnable. The closest USGS gauge is about 15 miles downstream in Clayton and, among other issues, that means any info you get from the Clayton gauge is quite delayed in terms of what is happening at the old Dam.

We’ve not worked it out completely yet, but I think we are close to having figured out how much rain upstream results in a bump at Milburnie Dam. The issue now is trying to determine how long it takes after a rain for it to pickup enough to make the rapid runnable.

Below are two videos from my run today, one downstream and then another after I turned around and did an attainment back to the second ledge at the Dam.

Keeping the Neuse Clean

The Neuse is a river that flows out of Falls Dam in Raleigh and is 275 miles long, flowing into the Pamlico Sound. Since I live nearby, I often find myself on it.

When water is releasing from Falls Dam, there are several nice play spots within about a 1/4 mile of the dam, where you can practice ferrying and surfing. Further down, the Neuse is mostly flat water and can offer some good endurance paddling options. The Neuse was actually the first river I ever kayaked on when I was very young in summer camp and then later, I would go down it in a Canoe with a friend and it would draw me into the sport.

One of the first things I noticed when I started kayaking on the Neuse was how dirty it felt compared to other rivers I have been on, such as the Cape Fear, Roanoke, and Haw. The Neuse is full of trash filled strainers and all matter of human debri, enough so that I always felt quite dirty when I first started kayaking on it.

As I think a lot of kayaker’s do, I got tired of seeing such a dirty river every-time I paddled, so began bringing gloves and trash-bags with me whenever I go out and try to at least bring in one load of trash each time I paddle the Neuse. One person realistically doesn’t do a lot, but I try to keep several areas free from trash and rescue bottles/trash floating from the river whenever I safely can.

Where is All this Trash Coming From?

It took me spending a ton of time playing at the Dam to realize that all of this pollution, aside from the questionable water quality of Falls Lake, is the result of trash from Raleigh. The area by Falls Dam is relatively clean, but gets progressively dirty as it flows through Raleigh.

This becomes even more obvious when you start going a bit further down the river, as the run from even Auburn Knightdale or Covered Bridge Road to Smithfield gets increasingly cleaner the further you get away from Raleigh.

The below is an incomplete list of some of the sources of pollution to the Neuse River:


I don’t know if they are the largest polluter, but fisherman definitely are a large source of Neuse River pollution. You can spot fishing spots by grocery bags of trash laying in piles by the shore or hanging from a bush. The blue plastic fish bait containers, along with the styrofoam versions, often litter the bank. Bottles and other trash, including piles of beer cans, can also be an indication that you are looking at a fishing spot. Hooks, bobbers, and tangled lines also often litter the shore.

Its common to see these all up and down the bank, but they are even more prevalent in areas that have easy access to the road, like close to the New Bern Road bridge and by the Milburnie Dam. Here, you will see multiple spots where fisherman spent an afternoon enjoying the river, just to leave their mess behind.

Fisherman will often leave behind all their trash and of course when the river rises or it rains, this gets swept down river.

Four Wheelers and Kids

There are several four-wheeler trails that run along the opposite side of the Neuse River, as well as subdivisions that are within walking distance. I will often come across failed fire pits, characterized by poorly chosen logs that are charred, but obviously too big/wet to actually burn, along with piles of Budweiser cans, with the odd import thrown in. These sometimes appear in the middle of large rocks and are interchangeable with the fisherman group. That is to say, its not uncommon to find fishing lures, bait cups, and fishing line within the pile, but drinking, as opposed to fishing, seems to be the primary goal for this group.

Sometimes, an effort was made, like the fisherman camp, to corral all the trash and keep it in one place. However, no-one takes responsibility for it when it is time to leave.

Cars and Bridges

Almost anyplace there is a vehicle bridge, you can expect to see a bit more trash than normal.

Some of this is due to trash/items being lost from vehicles, such as trash left in the back of a truck or trash lost from garbage trucks. Other people purposely throw items out into the river when they cross a bridge.

One of the spots I always try to stop at is the New Bern Avenue bridge. Almost every time I go, I find new trash here. Sometimes it is fast food bags, but I also often find things people are trying to dispose of. For example, it is common to find beer cans and other illicit paraphernalia here, as it is an easily accessible area to dump things they don’t want in their house/car. I’ve even seen a full cash register thrown here, which I can only imagine had an interesting story behind it.

All sorts of debris comes over in these areas, including traffic cones and barrels…I even saw a twin bed when out this weekend.

The Neuse River Trail

The Neuse river trail, which runs 27 miles through Raleigh and then even further as part of Clayton’s trail, is pretty neat, especially if you are a biker. It is a paved low grade trail, with a cool natural environment and is quite popular with bikers and walkers.

However, the Neuse River Trail significantly increases the accessibility to the river and pretty much all up and down the trail, at least in areas where the river is easily accessible to walkers, you will see an increased amount of trash. This type of trash is usually different from Fisherman sites, as it will just be a couple bottles or a styrofoam cup.

Boaters and Swimmers

There are several float runs and depending on the weather/time of year, a fair number of people boat on the Neuse. Sometimes, I will come across things that are obviously from other boaters, such as busted pool floats, paddles, and other lost gear. These are often easy to spot as they are in places that trash that are not easily accessible to walkers/fisherman or is obviously something a boater would of brought with them.

Other Sources

Of course, this is just a small list of some of the more common sources of trash I have observed, but I’m sure there are others.

Trash Strainers

A typical trash strainer. Trash collects here until a big rain or dam release and then flows into the river.
A typical trash strainer. Trash collects here until a big rain or dam release and then flows further downriver.
One of, in my opinion at least, the most disgusting parts of the Neuse is the trash strainers. Trash, such as bottles, bags, and plastic, catches on strainers on the side of the river. These collect and build up, resulting in a nasty swarm of disposable products and river gunk, which would make for probably the worst strainer experience imaginable.

Then, when the river starts flowing, such as after a rain or when they release from Falls Dam, the strainers washout and release a mass of trash that goes a bit further downstream.

Eventually, some of this will make it all the way to the coast and pollute the ocean.

I haven’t figured out a good way to clean these up safely, but would love to use these as a way of catching and removing trash from the river. I have thought about putting nets along the tree, and then reeling them in periodically. In addition to safety concerns, I worry about the impact that might have on the eco-system, although surely the trash has a more negative impact.

Cleaning Up the Neuse

Almost since the first time I went out on the Neuse, I thought about how I should bring a bag to police up some of the trash I saw. However, it took awhile for this thought to actually transform into action.

Once I started, it has become sort of an obsession in that I go out of my way to find/remove trash and typically remove at least one trash bag of bottles, cans, plastic, and other trash each time I go out. Sometimes, I do more and have to make pit stops along the river to drop off bags of trash.

This evolved into using a trash-picker-upper, which I learned from trial and error needs to be secured to the boat and have flotation on it. Part of this is so that I don’t have to touch things and can grab items without crawling through the bushes or undergrowth. However, it also helps on the back, as I don’t have to bend over as much.

This is trash collector version 2.1, it has a PFD and rope, as version 1.0 did not and fell overboard.
This is trash collector version 2.1, it has a PFD and rope, as version 1.0 did not and fell overboard.

You Can’t Get it All

One sad fact that you have to accept when you start trying to clean up a river is that there is no way you can get it all. Some things simply can’t be gotten to safely, others are too large to fit in the boat, and somethings are just plain nasty and sadly probably need to be cleaned using a hazmat suit.

Accepting this is important, because if you let it discourage you and simply don’t do anything, the trash is just going to sit there and go further down stream. I often remind myself that if I do not grab it, who will.

It is also easy for me to get upset with the people who simply leave their trash around, like fisherman, but I have found that you need to get over the idea that you are cleaning up after someone and realize that, again, if you don’t do it, who will?

When I can, I try to help make it clear that trash should be picked up. For example, at the end of my run, I clean up the launch area and if someone is fishing or hanging out, I make a point to ask them if they have any trash they want me to throw away and see if they need a trash bag. Occasionally, people and children see this and end up giving me a hand with cleanup, which I think has a certain amount of long term value.

What Can Bottle Manufacturers Do?

I think charging a tax/fee for bottles, which a person can refund easily and quickly at convenient locations(such as grocery stores) would at least have some impact on the amount of bottles/cans that end up in the trash.

As it is now, while other states in the area do have return fees, North Carolina does not. While some people collect aluminum cans for scrap metal, this is not something that is easily accessible for most people, as you have to go to one of several recycling centers and most people simply don’t consumer enough cans for it to be profitable.

By charging an extra fee, along with making it very easy to get a refund for this fee, some people would be more inclined to return their cans/bottles and get a dollar or two off their next 18 pack of beer or soda. It would also make people more likely to pickup bottles in order to collect refunds. This could be especially profitable for beer companies if they all got together and standardized their glass bottles so that they could be cleaned/reused. I believe this is already being done in other countries.

In addition, money collected by bottles that do not get returned could be put aside by the soda/beer manufactures to help fund cleanup efforts, so even though many people would still just throwaway or discard their bottles, the funds collected could be put towards offsetting this to a degree.

What Can the City of Raleigh Do?

The Neuse River Trail just as a result of paving 27 miles of nature has a major impact on the environment. However, by introducing all the extra people traffic, the trail also has an impact on the amount of trash that litters the river and forest. One thing that could be done to help alleviate this is to add more trashcans along the trail and make an effort to regularly pick them up.

While the morality of someone who just discards trash on the ground is questionable, I like to think that at least some of these people when faced with a conveniently placed trashcan would make an effort to use it. So, a good first step is to improve the amount of trashcans available to the hundreds(or more) of people that use this trail daily.

I’m sure there are other things that could be done too, such as cracking down on illegal fishing, but simply adding trashcans more frequently along the trail and, just as important, regularly getting out there to pull the trash, would have a not-insignificant impact on the amount of trash that ends up in the river.

What can I Do?

As a kayaker, you have an opportunity to help keep the river clean at a level that most people don’t, which is to say, you can get to areas that can’t be reached from the bank and are on a much more personal level with the river than people who simply walk the bank.

Use this as an opportunity to clean up.

Pack some gloves and bags and commit to picking up some trash each time you go out.

Again, you won’t be able to get everything and it is important to not put yourself at personal(or chemical/hazmat/biological) risk, but any trash you pull out of the river makes a difference, even if it is just a bag or bottle.

Lower Neuse River Runs – With Mileage and Takout Points

In part due to its proximity, I tend to spend a lot of time kayaking the Neuse near Raleigh. For the most part, it isn’t a particularly exciting river, with only a few places that have rapids, but it can be very beautiful and I often enjoy moving on a river more than flatwater. When the river really gets flowing, I often think of it as fast moving flat water.

The below table describes several runs you can do, along with the mileage and takeout points. While I’ve been as far as Goldsboro on the Neuse and you can actually take it to the coast, the below only covers the Wake County to Johnston Country runs(Milburnie Dam -> Smithfield.) There are about 14 Miles above this as well, from Falls Dam to Milburnie Dam.

Click on the location name to view more details about the takeout point, including the address and ease of access.

Approximate Distance in Miles

Location Anderson
Poole Rd Auburn
Knightdale Rd
Plantation Rd
Bridge Rd
Hwy 42
Market Street
Milburnie Dam 2 3.5 6.3 10.3 14.7 17.6 31.7
Anderson Point 1.5 4.3 8.3 12.7 15.6 29.7
Poole Road 2.8 6.8 11.2 14.1 28.2
Auburn Knightdale Road 4 8.4 11.3 25.4
Mial Plantation Road 4.25 7.15 21.25
Covered Bridge Road 2.9 17
Highway 42, Clayton 14.1
Market Street, Smithfield

* Other Locations: There are a few other locations you can take out/put in, but the below are the ones I’ve found to be easiest and (IMHO) make for the best runs. See the other locations section below for some other spots you can put in at.

Milburnie Dam takeout

Approximate Address: 5800 Loch Raven Pkwy, Raleigh, NC 27604 (View on Map)

Directions: Coming from Raleigh, Turn left on Old Milburnie Road and take first left onto Loch Raven Parkway. Entrance is first paved road, about 400 feet down on right. There is a sign, turn right and follow road to end.

Distance to Parking: ~200 Feet

This is the entrance to the Milburnie Dam Launch point.
This is the entrance to the Milburnie Dam Launch point.

Parking/takeout Notes:

Parking is in a gravel parking lot, with several spaces and spots to park on the side. This is a popular place for fishing, as well as access to the Neuse River Trail, so can fill up.

There are several easy places to launch a kayak or canoe near the pedestrian bridge.

Anderson Point Raleigh

Approximate Address: 168 Anderson Point Dr, Raleigh, NC 27610(View on Map)

Directions: Located by Anderson Point Park, Near Highway 264. Kayak Access is on the left, before the bridge. At intersection of Gilman Lane and Anderson Point Dr.

Distance to Parking: 0-20 Feet

See the white line for access point. Drive through parking lot.
See the white line for access point. Drive through parking lot.

Parking/takeout Notes:

Enter parking lot and goto the end. Follow small road to the right and you can drive right up to entrance point. There is a large gravel lot, with plenty of room for trailers and turnaround. Since it is secluded and people like to hang out here, it may be better to move your car back to the parking lot after dropping gear.

A small gravel/block access ramp is available to launch from.

Poole Road Raleigh

Approximate Address: 6602 Poole Rd, Raleigh, NC 27610(View on Map)

Directions: Coming from Raleigh, access is on left past Barwell Road and Riverview Road. Immediately before bridge. One of the only rapids is right before this takeout, about a quarter mile upstream. It is sometimes referred to as the Gunnison Rapid and is usually a pretty fun/short/safe rapid.

Distance to Parking: 330 Feet

Both the parking lot and launch are pictured here
Both the parking lot and launch are pictured here

Parking/takeout Notes:

There is a paved parking lot, as well as several places to park in grass. This is a very popular place for bikers and walkers, so the parking lot does fill up.

There is a bit of a hike to the put-in. The put-in includes several wooden steps and a shoot that you can use(depending on the height of the water.) This one does get pretty muddy after a rain or when the river is flowing fast.

Auburn Knightdale Road

Approximate Address: 2955 Auburn Knightdale Rd, Raleigh, NC 27610(View on Map)

Directions: Coming from Grasshopper Road, there is a bridge over the Neuse. Access is immediately before the bridge on left or past the bridge on left(see below for description.)

Distance to Parking: 300 – 400 Feet

Just before the bridge, there is a small access road on left.
Just before the bridge, there is a small access road on left.

This is a view of the bridge, the right side would be the access road and left would be putting in from parking lot.
This is a view of the bridge, the right side would be the access road and left would be putting in from parking lot. Water is very low here(~300cfs). Compare to below for much higher/faster water.

River is running at around 3100cfs now. Compare the location of pilings to image above.
River is running at around 3100cfs now. Compare the location of pilings to image above.

Parking/takeout Notes:

For parking, there is a paved parking lot for accessing the Neuse River Trail. There are a couple options for launching(or stopping) from here:

– It is possible to park in this parking lot and hike your boat about 350 Feet to the river. If you go this way, especially when the river is very high, it can be a bit of a scramble to get to the bank. However, when it is low, you can climb down to several rocks.

– Coming from Grasshopper road, there is a small access road on the left immediately before the bridge. It is possible to drive down it, but I would recommend just parking at the top. From here, you can hike your boat down under the bridge and then move your car to the parking lot.

– Coming from Grasshopper road, there is a small gravel spot on the right immediately after the bridge. It is possible to park here, hike your boat down under the bridge, and then move your car to the parking lot.

My preference is the second option, the small access road on the left before the bridge. Even in high/fast water, it is usually easy to launch here.

Covered Bridge Road

Approximate Address: 2600 Covered Bridge Rd, Clayton, NC 27527(View on Map)

Directions: Coming from Raleigh, cross over the bridge and parking will be on your right.

Distance to Parking: 460 – 600 Feet

Parking lot is on right, access is under bridge.
Parking lot is on right, access is under bridge.

A view from under the bridge(river is flowing fast here.)
A view from under the bridge.

Parking/takeout Notes:

For parking, there is a gravel parking lot with plenty of spaces. I’ve not seen this fill up. Just before the parking area, there is a small gravel spot that you can park your car at temporarily to load up and save a couple hundred feet of walking.

To launch or get out, I’ve found it easiest to come in on the inside of the Bridge Pilings. It can get a bit muddy, but there are some rocks you can use to get up. Your kayak will need to be dragged up the hill.

Covered Bridge Rd, Auburn Knightdale Rd, and Mial Plantation Rd are probably the trickiest to launch from.

Mial Plantation Road

Address: 5620 Mial Plantation Rd, Raleigh, NC 27610(View on Map)

Directions: Coming from Clayton, turn onto Shotwell Road off of 70, which turns into Mial Plantation Road. Cross over the Neuse River bridge and parking lot is on left. This is part of the Neuse River Trail – Capital Area Greenway

Distance to Parking: 450 – 500 Feet

If you are coming from the Knightdale/Raleigh side, the parking lot is on your right before the bridge.

The putin is a little steep, so use caution!

Parking/takeout Notes:

This is part of the Neuse River Trail and there is a paved parking lot and trail. Head towards the bridge and take the worn path off of the paved trail to get to river. It is a little steep and a bit of a scramble to get to the river.

Anytime I’ve passed the bridge, there have always been a lot of trees and branches caught on the pilings and a water gauge operated by NC State. So, take care of strainers, especially if the water is moving above average.

Highway 42, Clayton

Approximate Address: 20 Castleberry Rd, Clayton, NC 27527(View on Map)

Directions: Coming down 42 from Highway 70, cross bridge and make left onto Castleberry. takeout is immediately on your left.

Distance to Parking: 0 – 300 Feet

If you decide to drive down, walk first...there are some huge ruts!
If you decide to drive down, walk first…there are some huge ruts!

A shot of the launch point.
A shot of the launch point.

Parking/takeout Notes:

For parking, there is a gravel/dirt space at the top that can accommodate several cars. It is possible to drive down to the river, however there are some very deep ruts, so walk down there first to make sure your vehicle can make it!

There is a large flat area to launch from, which works well even when the river is very high. It can get a bit muddy though.

Market Street, Smithfield

Approximate Address: 99 N Front St., Smithfield, NC 27577(View on Map)

Directions: Coming from Raleigh down Business 70, make first left onto North Front Street, after you cross the bridge. Drive to the end.

Distance to Parking: 0 – 150 Feet

View of parking area, ramp entrance is by red point.
View of parking area, ramp entrance is by red point.

Parking/takeout Notes:

This is part of the Smithfield Neuse Riverwalk, so there is plenty of parking. There is also a semi-paved boat ramp, which you can use to launch from. You can drive your vehicle down to the boat ramp for loading.

The boat ramp can get pretty muddy, but the city does periodically clean it.

Other Takeouts

There are a few other places you can probably put in/take out on this stretch of the Neuse, however the above are the ones I use. Some(most?) of the below do not have great access or parking.

Some other possibilities are:

  • Sam’s Branch Greenway, Clayton
  • Fire Dept Road, Clayton – No Good Parking
  • Highway 70 Clayton(Near Johnston Correctional Institution/Prison) No good parking, but can pickup by bridge
  • M. Durwood Stephenson Hwy Smithfield No good parking and a hike to the road.

Neuse River Run: Poole Road -> Milburnie Dam

I live close by the Neuse and so I spend a disproportionate amount of time on it compared to other rivers. One of the things I really like about it is that, especially during the summer, it is often low and slow enough to go up it. So, you can often get by with only one car and just go upstream and turn around.

The pictures below are from starting at Poole Road and going up to Milburnie Dam.

About The Run

I’ve been up and down the Neuse from Wake Forrest -> Goldsborro and I never get tired of the Milburnie -> Poole Road run. I think that during normal conditions, the small set of rapids right before Poole road is probably the only set of rapids all the way to Goldsborro to speak of. I typically like to skirt to the side, so as not to get wet, but you can just go down them too.

It is always neat to check out the Dam too, sometimes you see people fishing with nets out there and wading around under the Dam.

Depending on the time of day and temperature, I can usually make it up to the dam and back in a few hours.

Keeping the Neuse Clean

This weekend, I was going upstream and ran into a pile of trash left over after someone had a fire by the river-bank and wished for the hundredth time that I had remembered to bring a trash bag with me. Well, about 30 minutes later while stopped under the bridge, I noticed some trash and a grocery store bag that was empty and just lying on the ground. I filled this bag and another one that I found with bottles, cans, plastic containers, fishing line, and other trash. Unfortunately, Its not a lot, a tear-drop in a bucket really, as there is still a ton of trash on the river.

As someone who frequents the Neuse River, and well any river that is near people really, it can be painful to see all the trash that ends up polluting these wonderful places. From people that fish the banks and then just leave their trash to things that end up in the river from the roads, it can be both disturbing and disgusting to see how some people treat nature.

So, I always try to clean up a little whenever I go out. Often this is cleaning the boat ramp at Poole Road, where people fish and then just leave their trash. It seems like every time I go out there, I clean up several bags of trash from weekend fishers.