your paddlesports destination

Merchants Millpond State Park in North Carolina

Trip Overview

My son and I had been planning our first overnight kayak camping trip for months. Nothing was going to stop us this time. It felt as if we were packing enough gear for a month long safari but we were determined not to leave any necessary items behind (yeah, right).

A short, one hour drive from Chesapeake, Virginia, south on US 17, west on US 158, through the town of Sunbury, North Carolina then south on Millpond Road to the parking area of Merchants Millpond State Park put us in a world we thought existed only in the Jurassic Park Movies. After checking in with the park ranger and packing our boats we turned our trusty GPS units on and headed into the dark waters of the millpond. Following the well-marked "trail" to the family campsite was a snap once we found what to look for. As we were the first campers there this day we had our choice of the seven available sites. After thoroughly scouting the sites we settled on the perfect one from which to launch our two-day exploration of the millpond. We set up camp then headed deeper into the millpond to check on the local wildlife.

It did not take long before we knew that we made the right choice in bringing our GPS units. Ten minutes into the millpond and everything began to look the same. We had been told to "follow the shore line back if you get lost" but had a hard time finding a shoreline. Everywhere you look there are towering bald cypress trees with massive trunks. One section of the millpond was covered with lily pads that made paddling difficult but boy was it an awesome sight. With the exception of the many turtles and an occasional gar we were not luck enough to see any wild life but the scenery was more than enough to make up for that. The time in this enchanted world just flew by and soon it was time to head back to camp. Now the GPS earned its keep. Retracing our path back to camp took many turns but soon we were safely back in the confined of "base camp ".

Supper consisted of hearty beef stew with strawberry cheesecake for desert. We soon discovered the need for a small table and something to sit on beside a log. So much for bringing all the necessities (add to the list for next time). A little exploration of the camping area and some wood gathering for great fire in the morning and soon it was time for bed. What, it was only 8 o'clock but a long day and we were ready for some sleep. The frogs and other nocturnal singers were almost too loud. It is hard to believe that something as small as some of the thumb-sized frogs we saw could make so much noise. 7 AM came quickly and breakfast of eggs, bagels with cream cheese, and coffee was just what was needed to get us started. Sunrise was just fantastic and although we were joined at the campground by several other groups (Lilly, the dog didn't like to ride in a canoe but she loved the camp sites and was a great neighbor, much better than the children running through our camp site to get to the water) we still had the feeling that we were the only ones there.

Another trek into the millpond looking for wildlife turned up more turtles but nothing else and soon it was time to head for home. We broke camp and followed the trail back to the put in, unloaded the kayaks and packed the truck. A short time later we were on our way, still talking about the beauty and serenity of the previous day and night. We will defiantly return but with our table and chairs. Lewis and Clark we are not but for "first-time" kayak campers we did just fine!


Parking, canoe rentals, concessions at the put in. Primitive (no water, pit toilet) at the family camp site. Pay shower is a available at the group site.


$8 fee for camping and canoes available for $10 per day.


From Chesapeake, Virginia south on US 17 then west (right) on US 18, through Sunbury, past the first entrance to Merchants Millpond State Park then south (left) on Millpond Road about 1 1/2 miles to the parking lot and boat ramp.

  • Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip