WASHINGTON, N.C. — One-hundred, fifty miles of the Neuse River in 11 days — that’s what awaits Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop and Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Jill Howell on Sept. 28.
From Smithfield Town Commons to New Bern’s Lawson Creek Park in New Bern, through cities and endless, swampy lowlands, the two will experience the river by kayak, an adventure they’re calling the Neuse River Rising.
“Neuse River Rising is about getting to know the river, inside and out — all of it — by being on the river and seeing it from a different perspective than most people are able to experience,” Krop said. “We’re also doing it to raise awareness about all the ways people can enjoy the river, all the unique and beautiful parts of it and, of course, the threats to water quality and all the species and people who rely on the river.”
The Riverkeepers opted to name the kayaking adventure Neuse River Rising for several reasons: as an acknowledgment of the Clean Water Act’s 50th anniversary and the impact of that legislation on the Neuse’s water quality; to highlight the clean-water successes over the decades and the work that has yet to be done to achieve environmental justice, combat pollution and address the many issues exacerbated by climate change.
The two Riverkeepers mapped out the long paddle over the past month, planning where to camp, how much food and water to bring, organizing drop-offs of supplies and selecting which issues to highlight as they kayak more than half the entire length of the Neuse River.
“There’s a lot of planning that goes into this, but there’s also a lot of unknowns. There are stretches that are really remote and really beautiful, and we don’t really know where we’re going to camp, so there’s going to be a lot of problem-solving as we go,” Krop said.
One of the unknowns is the area known as the “Let’lones,” a colloquialism referring to the stretch of the Neuse between Smithfield and Goldsboro that points to a certain illustrious past.
“People used to have whiskey distilleries out there, and everyone said that area was best ‘left alone.’ Over time, they just started referring to the area as the ‘Let’lones,’” Krop laughed. “We’re all excited about the Let’lones stretch — who knows what we’re going to find?”
On Oct. 8, experienced kayakers with their own vessels are invited to join the Riverkeepers on the last leg of the Neuse River Rising paddle. Meet-up will be at the Glenburnie boat access at noon on Oct. 8, for a paddle to Union Point Park in downtown New Bern. This leg will take approximately two hours, depending on conditions. For more information, visit soundrivers.org.
Founded in 1980-81, Sound Rivers is one of the oldest grassroots conservation organizations in North Carolina. Sound Rivers monitors and protects two watersheds, covering nearly a quarter of the state. With Riverkeepers on the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico rivers, Sound Rivers’ mission is to preserve the waterways’ health and the health of the people who rely on them through science-based advocacy and environmental justice.