This tidal river can be navigated for about 14 miles. The lower third of the river becomes ever wider, until it becomes a large tidal basin before reaching Lockwood Folly Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean. It is surrounded by marsh, while the rest of the river is narrower and mostly surrounded by dense forest with some marsh.
This river is known as a nature haven, especially for many bird species. The river has some development, but for the most part retains a wilderness atmosphere.
DIRECTIONS: There are several options. They are listed north to south. The first option involves driving Highway 17 South away from Wilmington. Where the highway splits into Business and Bypass, turn onto Business Route 17. Hang a left onto Gilbert Road; the bridge will come up shortly. Park on the southeast shoulder; access to the river is fairly easy.
The second access option puts you roughly at the mid-point of the river. Again, take Highway 17 South. At Supply, turn left onto Highway 211. The river will come up shortly. Park on the northwest shoulder of the bridge; access to the river is fairly easy. DO NOT drive down to the boat ramp unless you have 4-wheel drive; the driveway is quite steep.
The southern access is the Sunset Harbor Wildlife boat ramp. Continue past the river bridge on Highway 211, then take a right onto Sunset Harbor Road. The access will be at the end of the road. This puts you at the tidal basin section of the river, near the ocean.
The other take out you may use is at Varnamtown. From US 17, turn onto Stone Chimney Road (near NC 211) and head toward Holden Beach. After about 5.5 miles, Stone Chimney Road turns left at an intersection (if you don’t look for it, you’ll go right past it). Take the next left onto Varnamtown Road and follow it until it ends at the public boat ramp (public parking is nearby). This ramp is almost directly across the river from the Sunset Harbor ramp.
|Difficulty||Easy (out and back paddle) to Moderate (shuttle and paddle 14 miles)|
|Hazards||Wind and current in the southern end of the river, as well as bigger boats.|
|Time/Distance||14 miles can be done in 5-8 hours, depending on current, wind, and your paddling speed|
|Serenity||Pretty lonely in the upper reaches, progressing through a golf course and other developments near the take out.|
|Map||Highway 211 Access|
Sunset Harbor Access