A paddle a day keeps the doctor away

“A paddle a day keeps the doctor away.” That isn’t quite the famous saying, but it rings just as true. Kayaking and canoeing are fun and healthy ways to enjoy the outdoors, and there is plenty of water to be paddled nearby. One of those great streams in the N.C. Piedmont that’s now easily accessible as a newly opened blue trail – Hitchcock Creek.

The Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail in Rockingham, about 70 miles east of Charlotte, was created following the 2009 removal of the Steeles Mill Dam. The nonprofit group American Rivers and other partners worked to remove the dam, which had previously impeded Hitchcock Creek just north of downtown Rockingham, blocking not only fish migration but community recreation. The result of the dam’s removal and the City of Rockingham’s protecting 100 acres of bottomland forest was a 14-mile Blue Trail for the public to enjoy.

Hitchcock Creek is a calm float with a few small rapids mixed in, a bit better suited for single kayaks than canoes because of the shallow depths and sometimes tight spots that require some maneuvering around rocks. The surrounding area is beautifully forested, with the trunks and limbs of trees growing over the creek, providing a beautiful view and welcome shade for hot summer days.

Paddling south from the Roberdel Access in Rockingham to the Steele Street Access is about 4 miles, but completion times depend on the water level in the creek. The first time the LandTrust for Central North Carolina scouted the route, the sailing was peaceful and relatively quick with everyone in single kayaks. A return trip with canoes required more maneuvering of boats through shallow areas, despite heavy rain the night before. Expect somewhere between an hour and a half to two and a half hours’ float time under normal conditions.

This section of Hitchcock Creek also counts toward the LandTrust’s new Paddle Challenge. The challenge is an initiative by the nonprofit land conservation group to encourage more people to see the natural sites in the Uwharrie region. Participants can choose eight of the qualifying paddle routes and report their progress online, to receive an embroidered patch. Learn more here: http://landtrustcnc.org/get-involved/hike-paddle-challenge/

The LandTrust for Central North Carolina will host its first canoe trip in Richmond County on the Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail on Oct. 19. We will meet at 2 p.m. at the Steele Street access in Rockingham. Click here to register for the event. For more information contact Crystal Cockman at crystal@landtrustcnc.org.

Click here to learn more about the LandTrust for Central North Carolina’s Hike & Paddle Challenge

Click here for more information on how to access the Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail.

Click here to download the American Rivers trail map for Hitchcock Creek.

Erika Hansen is an environmental education and outreach graduate intern with the LandTrust for Central North Carolina and a master of environmental management candidate at Duke University.