Boating Is a Breeze in the Triangle
Triangle families looking for ways to savor the last few weeks of summer together can take advantage of an abundance of waterways and spend a few hours boating — a great opportunity to enjoy the water without necessarily getting wet. With sailboat, canoe and other boat rentals available at area lakes and rivers, families don't need to own a boat to get out on the water.
My husband Eric and I — along with our kids Matthew, 13, and Stephen and Sarah, both 8, — recently experienced a 3-mile, 90-minute quick trip at a local paddling spot that's ideal for beginners and young families. Paddle Creek, a canoe and kayak outfitter in Wake Forest, runs scenic paddling trips on the Neuse River Canoe Trail, a winding, calm-water section of the Neuse River. Not only was it fun to float down a river, the outing was also a perfect way to catch a breeze on a warm afternoon. And for our three kids, 90 minutes ended up being just the right amount of time on the water.
Our adventure began with the friendly Paddle Creek crew giving us and another family a brief safety lesson near the Falls Lake dam. We then donned our life vests, nestled into our boats and were pushed off onto the water. The Neuse's current isn't too brisk in this area, and within minutes I learned how to steer Stephen's and my tandem kayak with ease, while Eric, Sarah and Matthew worked as a team to power their big canoe.
Stephen dipped his paddle in the water from time to time but found peering into the river to see what lay just below the surface much more interesting. Schools of darting gray fish entertained him, as did a baby turtle no bigger than a half dollar that bobbed up and down in the current. Eric and Sarah spotted a foot-long lone fish in a nearby section of shallow water, which Matthew measured with his outstretched hands.
Along the water
Iridescent blue dragonflies raced alongside our boats, turtles of all sizes basked on logs, and several large birds flitted from tree to tree above our heads. Along the Canoe Trail, hundreds of hardwood and pine trees reach up from the steep banks to create a shady canopy, which shielded us from the bright sun and provided some relief from the heat. We had hoped to spot deer and other wildlife along the river, but they most likely were enjoying afternoon siestas in the shade.
While some sections of the Neuse are quite deep, others are so shallow that our boats ran aground on sand, making it necessary to climb out and pull them to deeper water. Some parts of the river flow more swiftly than others, presenting occasional, but not difficult, steering challenges to avoid overhanging branches and partially submerged logs.
At the end of the journey, Paddle Creek's crew met us at the stopping point, graciously lifted our boats out of the water, and took us back to the parking lot in their van. And although my family was fairly tired, we unanimously agreed to find a weekend before summer's end to go canoeing together again.
Paddle Creek is at 9745 Fonville Rd., Wake Forest. Visit www.paddlecreeknc.com or call 919-866-1954 for boat and trip information, prices and reservations. Children must be 5 years old to paddle. Paddle Creek provides life vests for all boaters. A signed waiver is required.
Getting on the water
Various other locations throughout the Triangle offer boat rentals or trips for families who want to test the waters. The cost of boating trips can range from $4 per hour for small boat rentals to more than $100 for guided trips. Check websites or call ahead for details about the following area rental or trip options.
Bond Metro Park
801 High House Rd.
Canoe, kayak, rowboat, pedal boat and sailboat rentals. Private boats permitted.
West Point on the Eno
Frog Hollow Outdoors
Guided paddle trips and canoe/kayak rentals.
Lake Michie Recreation Area
2303 Bahama Rd.
Canoe and Jon boat rentals. Private boats permitted.
Little River Lake
Intersection of Orange Factory Road and Blalock Road in north Durham County.
Electric motor and rowboat rentals. Private boats not permitted.
975 Buffaloe Rd.
Jon boat rentals. Private boats not permitted.
Fishing and pontoon boat rentals.
Jordan Lake Tours
Guided boat tours on Jordan Lake.
Triangle Boat Tours
Guided boat tours on Jordan Lake.
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Sailboat, canoe/kayak, rowboat and pedal boat rentals. Private boats permitted.
4601 Avent Ferry Rd.919-233-2121www.raleighnc.gov
Pedal boat, canoe/kayak, Jon boat and Sunfish sailboat rentals. Private boats permitted.
William B. Umstead State Park
8801 Glenwood Ave.
Canoe and rowboat rentals on Big Lake.
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Pedal boat, canoe/kayak and Sunfish sailboat rentals. Private boats permitted. See website for details.
Falls Lake, Jordan Lake, Neuse River and Eno River also offer canoeing and kayaking with your own boat.
If your family is planning a boating trip, keep these tips in mind:
* Wear comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes that can get wet and dirty.
* Apply sunscreen liberally; it's easy to get sunburned while on the water.
* Use insect repellant.
* Pack a hat, towel, sunglasses and bottled water.
* Consider carrying a camera and binoculars, but take care they don't get wet.
* Take a change of shoes and socks.
*Wear a life jacket.