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.
Recent construction along the Neuse has changed several of these launches. Poole Road, Milburnie Dam, Anderson Point, and Smithfield remain the easiest in terms of launching.
- Auburn Knightdale is the most notable change in terms of difficulty. Construction here has removed easy access to the side opposite the trail parking lot and this area is now much more overgrown.
- Poole Road launch has been improved.
- As of October 2023, Anderson Point access is limited due to construction, so you may need to carry your boat further to access this launch.
- With the removal of the Milburnie Dam, several of the bridges have become inundated with trees(strainers) and sediment has impacted the river making it difficult to navigate in low water conditions.
- Access to Highway 42 has been limited
Approximate Distance in Miles
|Auburn Knightdale Road
|Mial Plantation Road
|Covered Bridge Road
|Highway 42, Clayton
|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
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
Update: As of October 2023, construction access has made access more limited, although still possible, the carry may be much further.
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
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
Caution: This launch has become more tricky and even dangerous in high water, like after a rain, due to nearby construction.
For parking, there is a paved parking lot for accessing the Neuse River Trail with plenty of parking usually available.
Put-In / Take Out Notes:
There are two ways to access this area:
Parking Lot Side Access:
If you park in the parking lot and carry your boat down the trail to the river approximately 600 – 700 feet, there are at least two areas that can be launched form.
From the parking lot, carry your boat down the trail and when it forks, turn right to walk over the wooden bridge. Immediately after the wooden bridge, turn left towards the river and there is a small path that you can follow to the rocks. Fisherman are often here.
If you walk a bit further, there is a different set of rocks a bit further down on the left.
Please note that in high water, this can be tricky, as the rocks are slippery and the water depth drops off quickly. In lower water the area a bit further down may be easier and in either case, watch out for mud as when the water recedes, the rocks can become slippery with mud.
Road Side Access:
When coming from Grasshopper road, there is a small access road on the left immediately before the bridge. It is possible to launch from here, but public access has been limited and especially during the summer, it has become very over-grown. From here, you can hike your boat down under the bridge and then move your car to the parking lot.
This spot is much easier to launch from though during low water, as a small sand island forms here.
If you pass over the bridge coming from Grasshopper road, there is also 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 launch off the rocks by the bridge, and then move your car to the parking lot.
My preference during the summer is the first option, carrying down the trail and launching from rocks, but especially in high/fast water, this can be a tricky launch, as the water depth drops off very quickly here.
Covered Bridge Road
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
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
Update 2023: Note that construction here has limited or changed access to this launch.
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
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.
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.