I finished work early on Friday, October 5, and decided that despite the threatening rain (we need it in this record-breaking drought!), I'd hit the Neuse for a couple of hours of paddling. I loaded up the canoe in the back of the pickup and headed for the nearest access.
The day was overcast and threatening rain, but it wasn't raining yet when I put in at the Wildlife boating access at Whitetail Landing (just north of the US 117 bridge across the Neuse). The rain began about 5 minutes after I launched, but that was OK because the temperatures were fine for a wet afternoon of paddling.
I paddled upstream about 1 1/3 miles (just beyond the point where some high-tension power lines cross the river) before I turned around. Upstream at the next bend I could see two large strainers (very big trees...one from each bank) have blocked a majority of the river. Being alone, I decided it would not be prudent to attempt the upstream passage between them despite the low water levels. The float back to the access site was slow and leisurely and I spotted herons, ducks, and some nutria during the passage.
I also had what was one of the most thrilling moments of my life during the float back. A hawk (maybe an Osprey, but I'm not sure as the light was not optimal) dove and took a fish from the river not more than 60 feet in front of me. Simply beautiful!
After I got back to the access site, I decided that I had had enough of a rest that some more paddling could be attempted, so I continued to float about 1/3 of a mile downstream to check the confluence of the Neuse Cutoff with the River. Water levels are currently low enough that the part of the cutoff that I could see was not navigable by canoe, but the view up the stream bed with its overarching trees was a sight for which I wish I'd had a working camera! After talking with a couple of fishermen, I paddled back upstream to the access site, loaded up the canoe, and headed home.
Total elapsed time: 2 1/2 hours
There are several hotels in Goldsboro and multiple access sites to the Neuse within easy driving distance.
No fees or permits required at the Wildlife access site. Be sure to park in the access site parking area rather than at the private club.
From Goldsboro, take US 117 south toward Mar Mac. About 1/3 mile before the Neuse River bridge, take the old road to the right (there is a "Wildlife" access site sign posted) and turn in at Whitetail Landing (a private club). The access site is next to the club and has a brand new concrete ramp and ample parking. The ramp was just rebuilt in August/September 2007.
"Paddling Eastern North Carolina" by Paul Ferguson is a great resource for paddlers in this area.
Additionally, I used the USGS Map labeled "Southwest Goldsboro." The access site is indicated on it.