Twelve hardy paddlers, and I mean hardy if not dumb but tough, braved the cold weather to put in at Smithfield Town Commons on the Neuse River on Saturday, Jan 31 for the long journey down to Richardson Bridge, a distance of 27.5 miles according to Ferguson�s book. This was an overnight paddle due to the distance. As I said the cold weather was really cold with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark.
Paddlers on this trip were Emory Sadler, Omer "Crash" Register, Tom Williams, Camille Warren, Marianne Hartman with dog Jax, Charles "Beaver Stick" West, Craig "Hippie" Smith, Mimi Strand with dog Bailey, Alan Chapman, Muskie Cates, Chuck Miller with dog Smoky, and this writer Don Meece.
After the gear was unloaded we headed down to the take out for the shuttle of vehicles, and thanks to Emory for running the shuttle with eight drivers and a dog! We finally headed out around 1030, with a plethora of boats, 6 canoes and 5 kayaks. Water gauge at Clayton was approximately 1.65 ft with 500 cfs at the Clayton gauge.
After about an hour of paddling we passed underneath the Hwy 301 Bridge and then I-95 Bridge and quickly disappeared down the "Let Lones" as this section is called. Around noon we stopped on river left on a muddy bank with an incline for lunch. It was rough getting up the slippery bank and during lunch Camille and Marianne almost lost their canoe as they did not have it up on the bank high enough.
After lunch we were off again and wouldn�t you know it, a little ways down the river we found a much better place for lunch, part of the river law. All of us were wondering about finding a campsite as the banks on this river are steep, Emory and I decided that around mile 14 we would try and find a campsite. We passed by a nice one with a gravel bar in hopes of finding another one closer to our 14 mile goal. At mile 13.5 we found another site and decided to take it after I got out to scout the site out. While everyone was in their boat watching me on the bank looking at the site, I saw a wild pig with about five piglets. I invited everyone to come up and see what they thought about the site. It was a go.
Everyone picked out a tent site and firewood was collected. Thanks to Chuck for getting most of it and cutting it up and also thanks to Muskie who brought a bundle of hardwood. We sat around the fire and with rounds of hors d�ouevres passed out to include venison summer sausage and crackers, mixed peanuts, roasted peanuts, smoked sardine jerky. Supper was next on the agenda with everything from steak to MRE�s. The night was getting cold and the fire felt good but some people opted to hit the sleeping bags early. About three of us stayed up until about 10 pm.
Overnight, with the owls hooting, the temps dropped below freezing as evident by the frozen water bottles and bags in the morning. A good fire was started and people started thawing out in their tents coming down to the fire to finish the thaw. The next order of business was breakfast, eggs and sidemeat for Charles and I and oatmeal for some, not sure what other menus included. Emory, Tom, and Omer were packed up and said goodbye to the group around 0915. The rest of us finished breakfast, packed and headed out around 1000.
The river had a good current as we paddled along until around lunch we found a nice place. We were glad we camped where we did as we did not see a good campsite until a lot farther down the river. Around 1230 we found a good lunch site and the day was warming up with layers of clothes coming off. We reached the take out, which I showed 28.27 miles on my GPS. After packing up the vehicles, saying our goodbyes we were off to home.
The river was open with a few trees across the river but passable, wildlife seen were kingfishers, hawks, pigs, and the only deer was a skeleton of a deer hanging in a tree. The put in and take out were both at boat ramps although very muddy as was most of the river banks.
Even though the Neuse is not one of my favorite rivers it was nice to get away paddle and camp and an enjoyable weekend, even though cold, made you appreciate a warm home to get to.
Smithfield, NC has numerous hotel along I-95, however during trip none were used
Six Canoes; Mad River Guide Solo, Old Town Pathfinder, Wenonah Solo, Blue Hole Tandem, Mohawk Solo 14, Old Town Guide and Five Kayaks.
No Fees or permits
Put in was at the Smithfield Town Commons Park off Hwy 70 business downtown, take out was on Richardson Bridge Rd all in Johnston County, NC
"Paddling Eastern NC" by Paul Ferguson, DeLorme NC topo atlas, and NC topo maps