Cape Fear - Person Street Upstream (?) 3/31/07
- Omer and I did a dawn launch (just before 7) at the Riverside Sports
Center boat ramp on Person St. in Fayetteville (river left just below
the bridge) with the intention of paddling upstream to explore some
and drop by the Clark Park Spring Nature Fair on the way back. I had
called earlier in the week about launching at Clark Park, but Amber,
the ranger there, informed me that they no longer allow people to
drive down to the launch site effectively making it an unusable
site. As the 8 to 4 park hours had always made this site
impractical, I'm not sure if anybody ever made much use of it anyway.
So we launched at Person St., paying the $5 fee. This was more
practical than the free wildlife launch 3 miles downstream. There
was a beaver swimming around at the ramp, unexpected in this urban
area, but auspicious for our journey. We paddled up past the wreck
to the opening of Cross Creek. There was no prohibitive tree fall
there as has been the case in the past. We were able to paddle up
to the Grove street bridge before the water became to shallow to
paddle upstream. There is a steady current coming out of this source
of Fayetteville's settlement in spite of multiple dams upstream.
Banks are steep with no realistic access points observed.
Once again on the CF, we found a ramp on river right just below the
301 bridge. This was heavily silted in, but we decided to explore it
anyway. This is accessed by a dirt road blocked by a gate and is
apparently a part of the botanical gardens. It would take a day's
work with a Bobcat to make this usable by any but the most
masochistic of mud waders at this level (about 12 feet at Person St).
We proceeded upriver exploring various small creeks along the way.
There is a rail bridge across the river upstream from 301. Most of
the channel is blocked here by a very large pile of flotsam (tree
level stuff) leaving only part of one span for the water to come
through. There is a waterfall on river right here.
A little further up, about a quarter mile past the imposing white
edifice that is Fayetteville PWC's water intake was the entry to the
old Fayetteville Canal, hardly recognizable as such. Just inside
lies the alleged Clark Park take-out. Originally constructed as a
series of steps to accommodate changing river levels, this has been
silted over with only the top ridges of the steps and one of the hand
rails sticking out of the mud. There's about a 30 degree muddy slope
here, making take-out an acrobatic feat.
After some further exploration up to Gum Swamp Creek, in the
Methodist College area on the Fear, we came back and attempted the
take out. With the aid of the hand rail and digging a few foot holds
we were able to do it without either of us taking a mud bath. We
trekked the quarter mile or so up to the Nature Fair where we visited
with members of the LRCC and Friends of Sampson County Waterways,
watched kids rocking kayaks and canoes on the lawn (next year let`s
bring a pool), and visited other exhibits. When we got ready to
leave, Omer recruited a newspaper photographer, Marc Hill, to
accompany us back to the take-out. I commented that perhaps photos
of the actual put-in might shame the park people into maintaining the
take-out but he didn't want to involve the newspaper in any
controversy. Getting back in the boats was actually a little easier
since we had gravity working with us. We considered sliding in but
concluded that we'd probably end up with our bows stuck in the mud.
After waving bye for the camera (see the 4/2/07 Local section of the
Observer for the outcome), we proceeded downstream into a headwind.
Since the only way to paddle in a strong headwind is continuously and
wide open to avoid losing ground, we made it back in about 45
This is a broad stretch of river with little visible development. In
proceeding up toward Methodist we were occasionally able to pick out
our location by spotting bridges over creeks along the Cape Fear
River Trail. Only a few stairs approaching the water are visible at
the River Ridge subdivision, just upstream from Clark Park. Some of
these look like they may be let down as needed. The variable nature
of the Fear, flooding violently at times, but mostly just ebbing into
a muddy backwash from the Huske Dam downstream, makes for some
problems with maintenance of docks and ramps. The slowing of the
water here causes a deposition of silt making for muddy banks and
silting up of ramps and take-outs.
Removal of the dam has been discussed. This might return the river
to a more natural state as has been seen upstream in the popular
stretch between above Erwin. As the current load of silt gradually
washes out, we may eventually see the return of such sights as Racoon
Falls and Jones's Falls, currently hardly detectable under the muddy
depths. As it stands, this section of river is just a big muddy lake
with little current. It holds relatively little interest for
paddlers and, from the look of things today, relatively little
interest for motor boaters as well.