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Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina

Trip Overview

Vacationing on the Outer Banks for 14 years, I had passed through the refuge many times but had never seen the refuge in any depth. Being new to kayaking I looked forward to any opportunity to paddle new places. When liv2padl offered to show me some of the refuge by kayak I couldn't wait to go. There are lot of places on the coast of North Carolina to kayak or canoe including the ocean, sounds, river, creeks and swamps. The variety of wildlife here is as varied as the waters. The refuge contains alligators, black bears, deer, cougars, red wolves and a variety of birds including bald eagles, osprey, waterfowl and songbirds.

The plans were to cross the Alligator River, up Whipping Creek into Whipping Lake and then return. Approximately a 15-mile day depending on how much time you spent in the lake. It was October 7 so a few trees had begun to change their colors.

I met liv2padl in Columbia on the Scuppernong River and followed him through cotton and soy bean fields and swamp to the put in.

The river was very calm that day, winds light and between 65 to 70 degrees. We put in and paddled across the Alligator River. About a 2 or 3 mile paddle and didn't see a single boat. Liv2padl told me this same water could be very interesting when the winds pick up. When we crossed, liv2padl let me paddle ahead of him up the creek so I would have the opportunity to see wildlife before we spooked anything. Paddling up Whipping creek was pretty cool. I felt like a kid taking his first walk in the forest. Never knowing what was around the next bend. The water was dark; there was an occasional plop of a Yellow Slider as it entered the water, light breeze in the trees, pair of wood ducks flying ahead of us. Just before entering the lake the creek became narrow, windy and the sides were grassy instead of the logs and tree lined banks we had experienced.

Then the water opened up to Whipping lake. What a pretty sight. No one there but us. We paddled along the shoreline. The cypress was new to me and really cool to see. The great blue herons had filled a few trees with nests. It was nice not hearing the sounds of man as we paddled the lake. As we paddled there were some beautiful pictures with the trees growing in the water, the blue sky, clouds and reflections on the water. We paddled to the other side to where Whipping Creek enters the lake. As we approached the mouth liv2padl pointed ahead of us and we slowed down and watched a small alligator on the surface of the water. We saw a few in this part of the lake. They never let us get very close. Except for one. In the creek one watched us come in and submerged. When we returned into the lake it watched us again, only this time it stayed on the surface until we were within 10 feet and it then submerged. Really cool to be there and watch this animal in its home instead of a zoo.

We paddled the rest of the lake and back down the creek. I hadn't even finished the paddle and already missed what it felt like being in the lake. We paddled back across the river and loaded the cars. I thanked liv2padl for what was a great day for me. Just makes me want to learn and paddle more. Next time I hope to paddle there across the river and into Swan Lake. And I hope the river is more challenging.


There are a number of small hotels and bed and breakfasts and plenty of restaurants in Edenton, Manteo and other towns in the vicinity.


The North Carolina Gazeteer will be needed.

From Columbia follow 94 south about 12 or 13 miles. Left on Old Gum Neck Road. Then a right on Old Swamp Road. Right on
Cahoon Road. Follow Cahoon Road to the Alligator River. Whipping Creek is across Alligator River from here.

  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip