South Fork of Catawba River, Goat Island
A Saturday paddle close to Charlotte. Gaston County town of Cramerton has a new riverfront park, Goat Island. We launched our Pungo 120's and paddled upstream to the McAddenville Dam. We were warned by a local not to exit on the rocks below the dam so we returned back to Cramerton.
The river was a gentle flow and easy paddle, about 75-90 minutes lazy round trip. Banks are steep, so no where to land. Riverfront has very little development and is mostly wooded. Pleasant paddle. Saw blue heron and kingfisher birds.
We had a picnic lunch at the new Goat Island park, then went downstream for about a 30 minute paddle (you can go much further, all the way down to the Armstrong Ford Road low dam) and then returned to the park.
Total time was about 4 hours, very easy paddle, nice lunch, loading and unloading the boats. Kids will enjoy the big adventure play area on Goat Island (both land and boat access). The river is about 75-100 feet across, no rocks but upstream there are a few fallen trees to navigate around, not a problem.
Behind the fire station the launch area consists of a wooden platform and a set of fairly steep steps going right down to the water. The "kayak launch" is the ramp that runs right along the steps, it's very steep, like 45 degrees, and made of the fake wood planks it's slick. At the bottom of the ramp there is only the last step to use to get into your boat, which is not easy. There is a modest overhead pipe sort of railing that you'll hang onto trying to get into the boat from the step. I've never encountered this design before and found it very awkward. The launch/dock across the river at Goat Island is the same design, so is the one on the other side of town. There is a "normal" boat ramp made of concrete just a short distance away that the fire dept apparently uses to launch their rescue boat, a big sign says for "official use only". Many were using the concrete ramp for their kayaks as the steps were so steep.
There do not appear to be any public toilet facilities in the town of Cramerton. There are 2 portable toilets over on Goat Island, but nothing in Cramerton. This seems odd as they have a "bandstand" and farmer's market in the square. At least the day we were there we didn't see any Port a Potties in town.
Not that we are aware of. Parking is free but you can't park right behind the fire station, you move your car over a very short distance away.
Cramerton is off of I-85 just west of Charlotte. Take the Belmont Abbey College exit; Cramerton is the next town to the west of Belmont. We launched behind the fire station on the town square. The Goat Island Park is actually across the river and you have to drive over there, follow the signs, it's too far to walk. There is a bridge from the parking area to the waterfront park (children's play area, picnic area, and disc golf on the "island"). The distance from the Goat Island parking area to the Goat Island dock and launch is a LONG way, so we launched from the fire station which is right across the river from the Goat Island launch/dock. There is also another riverfront park area on the other side of town, we paddled over there, they have a launch/dock and parking area over there too. Not as crowded as the "downtown" one.