I did the entire Catawba River System from the mountains to the sea (Linville Gorge to Charleston S.C. This is an incredible trip that you should make in your paddling lifetime. The N.C. trip is listed here as the S.C. trip is on the appropriate location; S.C.
The trip is a tough one as you will have to portage multiple dams along the way. There are many boat landings and fairly easy hitchhiking restaurants (keep a razor with you; it is easier to catch a ride if you are well shaven).
The Catawba from Lake James to the bend into Lake Norman is very easy; a bit rocky and rough in the bend though. Lake Norman is very easy for the first half. The second half, once you get to the mile wide crossing, can get extremely rough as the winds whip across the open water. The rest is very easy with nice people to help you out along the way. Call for assistance or help with your route, restaurants, camping etc..(803) 482 3387
River Town Kayaks and Canoes, portaging the dams and setting up food portages throughout the Catawba River.
Catawba River can be accessed along I-40, and I-77