FAQs & Trail Tails

Frequently Asked Questions

General

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How should I go about planning my trip on the paddle trail?
The first step is to make an honest assessment of your paddling abilities. If you’re a beginner, we suggest you consider hiring a guide.  Beginner to intermediate paddlers may also wish to opt for creek rather than river paddling and plan for shorter distances between stops. Creek routes are preferable if you haven’t paddled with a river current before. If you do take the river, plan a downstream route unless you’re a strong paddler who has paddled upriver before. Check river flow. Check weather reports for the area you are interested in paddling,  And always pack your safety items first! Bring a good-fitting personal flotation device (PFD) for each person. Include a cell phone (although it may not receive a suitable signal at all points along the trail), first aid kit, water and snacks, sunscreen and bug repellent. Good first overnight trips for beginners to intermediates include Beaver Lodge or Barred Owl Roost (by way of Gardner’s Creek and Devil’s Gut) and Royal Fern (by way of Conaby Creek). More advanced paddlers will enjoy paddling the Roanoke to Conine, Bear Run or one of the Broad Creek camping platforms – Cypress Cathedral, Cow Creek or Three Sisters. Or try paddling the Cashie to Lost Boat or Otter One.  Examples of two night stays with no need of a shuttle:  1) Barred Owl Roost and either Cypress Cathedral or Three Sisters on the loop; 2) Lost Boat to Otter One.   Lots of trip options available.  Feel free to email us or call for questions!  See additional trip planning advice from paddler, Melissa:
Where can I get a map of the Roanoke River Trail System?

We don’t offer printed copies of a Roanoke River map, but you can download the digital version and print it for your use. You might consider laminating it with contact paper so it’ll stay dry on your trip.  See separate FAQ for Cashie River.  See Platform Descriptions for Chowan County platforms.

Roanoke River Paddle Trail Map

 

 

Are mosquitoes and other biting insects a problem?
Insects can be a problem at some times and in some places.  Always bring insect repellant, although most mosquito repellents with DEET and the usual ingredients are not very effective at repelling deer flies (locally called yellow flies. During July, you may want to add netted hats to your supplies because of the deer flies. Long-sleeved white or light colored shirts are helpful, too. In normal spring and fall weather, insects are not bothersome. On platforms surrounded by water like Beaver Lodge, Beaver Tail and Barred Owl Roost, campers usually see mosquitoes only around dusk. Most campers retire into their tents until just after, when mosquitoes are usually gone. Yellow flies are not normally seen at these platforms but may be encountered in the larger creeks along the way. Weather conditions and even water levels can make a big difference in insect conditions.
Is there a bird list for the Roanoke River?
Bird List:

https://www.fws.gov/sites/default/files/documents/roanoke_river_bird_list.pdf

What can you tell me about the river basin?
A wild-gem in northeast North Carolina, the Lower Roanoke River and its tributaries offer a unique wilderness experience for kayakers and canoeists. The camping trail presents not only another way to appreciate the beauty of the area, it provides opportunities for the development of businesses geared to the needs of eco-tourists. Meandering through the Coastal plain to the Atlantic Ocean, the Roanoke spreads out through the largest intact bottomland hardwood swamp forest east of the Mississippi. Mistletoe and Spanish moss decorate majestic cypress trees and towering tupelos. Blossoms of cardinal flowers blaze in shafts of sunlight underneath.

The area is home to black bear, river otter, white-tail deer, bobcat, beaver and mink. Over 200 bird species have been identified including bald eagles, barred owl, osprey, and anhinga. Coupled with the hundreds of great egrets and great blue herons nesting in the region, it is a birdwatcher’s paradise. The River is renowned for its abundance of striped bass, largemouth bass, black crappie, lunker catfish, gar and bowfin. Just above the waterline, turtles sun on logs near the banks.

For thousands of years, dugout canoes have been the ultimate vehicle to explore these amazing waters. In this spirit, RRP volunteers and contractors have constructed trails and camping platforms in the Roanoke River backwaters offering a swamp experience unlike any to be found in the Mid-Atlantic 200-mile wilderness eco-adventure for people of all ages. The Trail System features a series of water-bound camping structures that allow paddlers to overnight in some of the amazing water jungles of NC’s coastal plain. Although the trail facilities are developed, built and managed by Roanoke River Partners, many are located on environmentally sensitive wetlands. The partnership between landowners is an excellent example of how RRP can bring together different interest groups for the benefit of all. (Paddle the Mighty Roanoke, Wildlife in NC, by Ida Lynch)

Overnight Stays

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Where can I obtain boat rental, shuttle or guide service?
A few options for consideration:

Cardinal Canoes – Serving eastern NC and Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area.  Call 252-752-0697 or email: dcschwartz@hotmail.com.

Frog Hollow Outdoors – Provides residents and visitors of the Triangle and North Carolina a resource for canoe and kayak education, the exploration of nature, relaxation, adventure, self-discovery, and a greater overall connection with the outdoors.  Call 919-416-1200 or email:  info@froghollowoutdoors.com.

Harbour Masters Office –  Boat rentals and other additional services for the area.  103 W Water Street, Edenton, NC.  Call 252-482-2832 or email:  edenton.harbor@edenton.nc.gov.

Lake Gaston Outfitters – 2401 Eaton Ferry Rd, Littleton, NC 27850 Call 252-586-1770 or email:  info@lakegastonoutfitters.com.

Roanoke Cashie River Center – Science, art, nature and history come together for a great experience for the visitor.  Boat rentals are offered.  112 W Water Street, Windsor, NC.  Call 252-794-2001 or email:  rcrckayakrentals@gmail.com.

Roanoke Outdoor Adventures – Provides guide and outfitting services for canoeing, kayaking, camping, and hiking on the lower Roanoke River and adjoining waters.  Willliamston, NC.  Call 252-809-9488 or email:  roanokeoutdooradventures@embarqmail.com.

 

Do I need to make a reservation to camp on a platform?
Yes, and we advise you to make your reservation well in advance if it is during the spring or fall, or if it is during a holiday.  We are open 365 days of the year.
How many people can camp on a platform?
Our standard platform comfortably accommodates six to eight campers and gear. For larger groups, consider renting Beaver Lodge and Beaver Tail, which consists of two full-sized platforms connected by a walkway and bridge. For even larger groups, Barred Owl Roost is a short paddle away from the Beaver platforms (about 1 mile). Conine can also accommodate larger groups, with some dry land nearby the platform which can be used for tents. Cypress Cathedral and Three Sisters platforms are in close proximity for larger groups.  Camping at the land based sites of Tusca, Tillery, and The Bluffs can also handle larger groups.  The Chowan County sites located on Holladay Island and John’s Island are also ideal.  For assistance in planning trips for larger groups, please send us an email or feel free to call us as we’re happy to assist you!
When is "Check Out" and "Check In" time for the campsite?
You should be OFF the campsite NO LATER THAN NOON. This gives the new renter time to set up for their night’s stay.  New arrivals should try to plan for noon or shortly after.
Can I paddle upriver?
That depends. If the river is not flowing very fast, paddling upriver between Plymouth and Williamston is not difficult. Westerly winds or faster flows can make upriver paddling a chore for those other than experienced, strong paddlers. During slow flows and gentle breezes, however, a paddle from Jamesville upriver to Devil’s Gut and on back to the Lower Deadwater platform, Barred Owl Roost, can take an average paddler only an hour and 15 minutes. Check our web section Trail Tales for paddlers’ experiences, some of which refer to paddling upriver.
Can I fish on my trip and are there any regulations I must follow?
Yes, you can fish and YES there are regulations. You must have a license. There are number and size limits on some species. You should check the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s web site for further information. The Roanoke is sometimes called the Rock Fishing Capital of the World.
Are guns allowed on the platforms?
No handguns are allowed. Hunters who rent the platforms are allowed to store their guns on the platforms but ARE NOT allowed to shoot them from the platforms.
Can I rent a canoe or kayak once I'm there?
You SHOULD NOT wait until you get here to rent a boat. You should bring your own boat or make advance arrangements with an outfitter of your choice to ensure that a boat or boats will be available. See FAQ: Where can I obtain boat rental, shuttle or guide services?
What kind of kayak should I use on the Roanoke--sit-on-top, open or skirted?
That is up to you but most kayakers prefer open or skirted kayaks. If you are not familiar with skirted kayaks, you should probably use an open model.
What should I do if walkways to the platforms are flooded?
During seasons when there have been heavy rains in the Roanoke River basin, water levels and flow rates may vary widely. During periods of high water and flow, loading docks and walkways of some camping platforms may be underwater. The platforms themselves are built to top 35,000 cfs flows and in most cases, canoes and kayaks can be paddled around the walkways and docked directly at the main platform. DON’T walk on loading docks and walkways covered even slightly by flowing water. Check Water Flow & Weather for dam releases and weather information.
How far up or down the Roanoke can I navigate?
The river is navigable from Weldon to the Albemarle Sound and from Roanoke Rapids to Weldon if dam releases are about 7000 cfs or greater. Be aware that the river flow in this area can change drastically and quickly because of power production releases from the dam at Roanoke Rapids. Local fishermen (familiar with navigation in this area) use the river at much lower levels but they know where the rocks and rapids are! The river is navigable from the NCWRC boat landing in Weldon at Hwy 301 all the way to the Albemarle Sound. Some creeks and shortcuts may not always be navigable due to downed trees or other obstructions.
Is the water tidal?
The Roanoke is subject to wind tides and, to a small degree, lunar tides. Particularly around Beaver Lodge, Beaver Tail, or Barred Owl Roost (because these are surrounded by water), you may notice the water moving gently out of the swamp past the platform. This movement can make a noticeable, but not drastic, difference in the water level around the platform and is interesting to observe.
Can I use a water filtration system to filter river water rather than having to carry all my drinking water?
After talking with state water quality officials, RRP recommends that campers carry sufficient water (bottled or tap water) on their trips rather than relying upon filtration devices. You can buy water at many convenience stores, gasoline stations, grocery stores, variety stores and other locations in the area.
Are there any rapids along the Roanoke?
The Roanoke does have one area of rapids, a rarity east of I-95. Ideal levels for the whitewater enthusiast are from 1500 cfs to 3000 cfs. Depending on flow levels (the lower the level, the higher the class) the river offers riffles with Class 2 to Class 3 rapids near Weldon. Boaters can launch at Weldon and paddle 100 yards to the main rapid there for surfing and playing. This rapid ranges between Class 2 and Class 3 depending on levels and what channel is run. As the water level rises above 5000 cfs, the rapids begin to be covered up. River flow and water levels should be reviewed before any trip. The flow releases from the Roanoke Rapids Hydroelectric dam operated by Dominion Power should be considered. You may also want to contact the Roanoke Rapids Recreation Department for additional information. See FAQ: Helpful Links for waterflow, weather and other resources.
What is platform camping like?
Platform camping is primitive camping in an isolated setting – and an excellent way to enjoy the many habitats of the Roanoke. You’ll be surrounded by nature, so bring your camera or your sketchpad! You will bring everything you need in your canoe or kayak, so pack light. Roanoke River Partners asks that campers adhere to a strict “pack it in, pack it out” policy. The “Leave No Trace” policy includes carrying your camping toilet and carrying ALL wastes back to land for proper disposal. (Tip: Porta-Potties–or even a 5-gallon plastic bucket–can be lined with heavy duty plastic bags containing a small amount of kitty litter to absorb liquid wastes and help with odor control.) Be sure not to leave any food wastes, as well, since food can cause problem with, and for, wildlife. Please… leave no trace of your visit when you break up camp.
What safety gear should I pack?
A personal flotation device (PFD/lifejacket that fits well is the first thing you should pack for each paddler! A cell phone (although it may not get a clear signal at all points along the trail), insect repellent, sunscreen, extra clothes for inclement/cold weather or to replace wet clothes (water rings out of some fleece well), a hat and sunglasses, a flashlight with fresh batteries, plastic bags that “zip” to keep phone, flashlight, matches, snacks, and other non-waterproof items in, plenty of drinking water in separate containers, a bilge pump or water scoop, An extra paddle is a good idea, too. If you are camping in bear country (Royal Fern, Otter One) be sure you have containers that can store food and refuse well enough that bears cannot smell either. Do not leave paper towels or other debris that may have food or food odors on it un-stored. Leave an itinerary with family and stick with it.
What should I bring on my camping trip?
Useful items include a pop-up tent (must be free-standing and we recommend that you have one with good screening) and/or a tarpaulin, food, bedding, a camp stove if you want to cook (NO CAMPFIRES are allowed at platform campsites, even on nearby dry ground UNLESS SPECIFICALLY DESIGNATED AT THE CAMPSITE AND ONLY IN THE FIRE RING PROVIDED), water for drinking and sponge baths, sunscreen, insect repellent, a first aid kit and cell phone (although a useable signal may not be available at all points along the trail). You MUST bring your own camping toilet. If you do not have a camping toilet, you can use a 5-gallon bucket with a lid, fitted with a heavy-duty plastic bag (a trash bag works.) Kitty litter helps absorb odors. ALL waste must be disposed of properly when paddle trips are over. DO NOT dump waste at or near platforms! There is NO running water or electric hookup on platforms. We try to keep a broom on the platform but you might consider bringing one as sometimes they disappear.  All food and debris should be stored in air-tight bags or containers so as not to attract bears or other animals. Bears are prevalent around some platforms and this warning must be taken seriously!
Can I swim near my platform?
Some campers do but we do not recommend it.
Should I take a GPS?
We would highly recommend taking a GPS. The GPS coordinates are posted for each camping location on our web site. During the seasons of peak foliage, it is easy to accidentally paddle by our naturally camouflaged sites. You can find the GPS coordinates of each location on the description page for each site.
I am not an experienced paddler. Is there a group I can paddle with?
There are organized paddles throughout the year which usually are advertised through regional newspapers and social media. (ex: newsletter, website, facebook, or instagram).  There are also guides available.  If you are a novice, we suggest you contact a guide for safety reasons and to enhance your enjoyment of the trip. Most guides are very knowledgeable about the history and ecology of the area and can offer a lot of interesting information. Many guides also offer group trips, as well. See FAQ: Where can I obtain boat rental, shuttle or guide service?
Are there safe places to park my vehicle(s) while I am camping?
Roanoke River Partners cannot and does not guarantee the safety of your vehicle at any parking area. There is parking at all of the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission access points. There is also parking space available at some other areas. Any unattended, parked car is vulnerable to vandalism. Currently, we know of only one incident during all the time we have been in operation, but as we stated earlier, we cannot be responsible for your vehicle.
Should I use a free-standing tent or one that can be spiked or attached to the surface?
All tents MUST be free standing! We suggest that you use tents with a floor and a zippered door. There are also eye-bolts on uprights along the platform’s edge that allow you to attach a rope from one side to the other. You can throw a tarp over this rope and attach it for added protection to your tent during rainy weather.
Is there a "latrine" on the platform?
Most of our campsites do not have latrines on the platforms–only a small wooden enclosure to provide privacy for you to place your own port-a-potties.

*Several of our campsites on the upper Roanoke have in-ground or outside toilets (Tusca, Tilley, The Bluff and River Landing). You can look at the individual descriptions of each campsite for addition information about such amenities.

PLEASE DO NOT empty your port-a-potty around the platform when you leave! We suggest that you line your port-a-potty (5 gallon bucket) with a heavy-duty trash bag. ALL WASTES must be taken back to land and disposed of properly.

Suggestion: Some paddlers use kitty litter in the plastic bags to soak up liquid waste and reduce odor.

Can we camp along the bank of the Roanoke where there are no platforms?
Not without permission from the landowner. The land along the Roanoke is owned either by state or federal entities or by private organizations, hunting clubs or individuals. Some of this land, like that owned by the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge, prohibits camping. For safety reasons, the only exception is for seasonal hunters that have been drawn for a given refuge tract during their hunt slot so they don’t have to navigate the river when it’s dark to get to their hunt spot before sunrise.
Are there any additional sites in the area for camping that are not part of the Roanoke River Trail System?
Green Acres Campground, Williamston, NC. – Phone:  252-792-3939

Roanoke Cashie River Center – Windsor, NC – Phone:  252-794-2001

Town of Windsor – campground and treehouses – Phone:  252-794-3121

 

How long does it take to travel by boat from Weldon to the Sound and what can you tell me about doing this trip?
On average, a person can travel from Weldon to the Sound on about 12 gallons of gas, if in a 12 foot joh boat, with 1 overnight around Hamilton (camping on sandy beach on gamelands).  Two full days.
What are the distances in the lower Roanoke?
There are helpful mile markers shown on our upper river and lower river map.  You might also review the chart shown:

See chart:

Is there a bird list for the Roanoke River?

Trail Tails