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Uwharrie River in North Carolina

Trip Overview

Uwharrie River - Highway 109 bridge to Morrow Mountain S.P.

The Uwharrie is usually too low to run this time of year, but two nights before my trip we had a heavy rain, and when I got to the put in the water level was just about perfect. Summer storms can make this a dangerous river very quickly, but in the 36 hours or so since the rain stopped the water had come down to the "Goldilocks" zone.

The put in under the bridge is new, the access road has been recently graded and graveled and there is ample room to unload (park along the access road, not at the unloading site). There is a newly constructed wooden staircase leading down to a launching platform, and a slide rail for easing canoes and kayaks down to the water.

The current was steady at the launch point at about 2 to 2.5 miles per hour, speeding up at the numerous small (class I) rapids and dropping to barely perceptible on the wider, deeper stretches. I made the 7+ mile run to the dock at Morrow Mountain State Park in 2 hours and 20 minutes without much heavy paddling.

There is a major obstacle about a quarter mile down from the put-in you should know about, however. As you leave the put in you'll go around a bend in the river to the left, and after a few hundred yards you'll come to a large island which you go around either to the left or the right. I choose to go right, and found that a very large tree had recently (maybe during the storm two nights earlier--there were still fresh green leaves on the tree's branches) fallen directly across the stream. There was no way for a canoe or kayak to get under, over, or around it. Luckily there was an easy portage of about 50 yards on the right bank. That land, like several other spots along this river, was posted against trespassing, but I had no choice since the current at that point was too heavy to try going back up stream to take the left route around the island. Anyway no one was about, so I made landfall and carried my ten-foot kayak around the obstacle and re-launched.

The Uwharrie is pretty wild and undisturbed through this section, with just enough minor rapids to make it interesting at a high enough water level. If you run it when it's lower you'll spend a lot of time scraping bottom and getting stuck between rocks. But there is a good bit of wildlife in the area and no real development, although some landowners have set up camping and partying sites alongside the river (most of which are festooned with "No trespassing" signs).

Some things to look for on this stretch of the Uwharrie are the high bluffs to the left (east) side of the river about half way down, especially the feature known as the "elephant's toes." You'll know why they are called that when you see them. The river is deep enough to enjoy a swim in at that point, but since the water was still quiet muddy from the recent rains I declined to do so on this trip.

Not far from the toes you'll round a bend to the left and notice that there are a lot of large, white quartz rocks seemingly scattered at random in the woods on the right side of the river. This area is known as Cotton Place, and there is an old Forest Service road (USFS Rd. 555) that terminates here. I understand that people used to use this as a put-in or take-out, but it's very overgrown now and I'm not sure if the road is usable any longer.

Not far below Cotton Place you'll come to the last, and largest rapid on the river. This last rapid is probably more like a class II than a class I, especially when there's a good water level in the river, and the only one like it I'm aware of anywhere on the Uwharrie. You'll drop about a foot or so when you go over it.

At this point you're still over a mile from the end of the line, but once you are past it it's flat water all the way to the Pee Dee, so be prepared to paddle. You'll see a string of river houses with pontoon boat docks on the right side of the river, part of a development called Green Gap Shores. You may also encounter power boats here, especially bass boats, as fishermen from Lake Tillery venture up the Uwharrie as far as the rapids in search of game.

Once past the houses you'll see the broad stretch of Lake Tillery in front of you; paddle across it (watch out for power boats!) to the docks at Mount Morrow State Park, and you're done!

This stretch of the Uwharrie is a fun and easy for most kayakers, perhaps a bit challenging for novices depending on skill level and equipment. The main thing is to only try it when the water is up and there is no threat of a sudden downpour. This river can be very, very dangerous if you are caught on it during a summer storm, as the water level can rise quickly. Also, one must constantly be on the lookout for fallen trees, as the river traverses forested land throughout its length and trees are constantly falling from the eroding banks into the river, creating hazards for navigation. Pick the right day, go with an experienced, level-headed friend, and pack the usual emergency gear--you should have a great day on the water!


Excellent and well-maintained.




Just Google Map it like I did.

If you can find highway 109 coming north east out of Troy and follow it until it crosses the Uwharrie (zoom in) you'll see exactly where the put in is.

  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip