Kayaking Goose Creek State Park Return to Forever

paddling map of Goose Creek State Park

Occasionally, planning a group outing can take weeks of preparation and planning. Not this one. Instead it seemed to create a life of its own, a simple twist of fate and the next thing we know, we were venturing out on a spring passage that would return us to forever.

Not really but here’s how it all got started. Last month, I ran into one of my local paddling partners at the Edenton Farmers Market. I greeted him with, “Let’s plan another paddling trip.” Allan encouragingly agreed, “Send me some ideas and dates and I’ll take it from there.” Three weeks later, five paddlers were caravanning down NC-45 heading to Goose Creek State Park for a spring sampling of Pamlico paddling.

Telltales & Tall Tales

The park’s boat ramp at Dinah’s Landing is located approximately 12 miles east of Washington, NC in Beaufort County. We managed to load five kayaks onto two vehicles. I was riding shotgun and my job was navigator since I was the only one in our group who has paddled the Goose Creek Canoe Trail and the surrounding waters along the Pamlico River. Allan was driving and my neighbor, Mary was squeezed in the back seat between the gear. Manú and Maridale were right behind us in their car towing a nifty trailer and two spiffy kayaks. Both of them are experienced kayakers who gained most of their expertise on the Chesapeake Bay.

Our shuttle group caught up with each other while we traveled down the rural landscape. We randomly started sharing paddling “misadventures” over the years. Allan told us about a twenty-mile paddling trip on the Roanoke River. He and a friend had concocted the last minute trip over a few beers the night before. They got up the next morning and spotted a vehicle at the take out near the mouth of the river then drove to the put-in at Windsor, NC. The pair shared a full-day, full sun paddle that seemed like it would take forever. So this is the portion of the story that relates to “forever.”

I mentioned my all-star launch on the floating boat ramp along the Scuppernong River. In front of a large group of tourists, I embarrassed myself and my wife as the stern of my kayak got hung up on the defective ramp causing me to initiate a wet exit into the murky water. My wife got a big laugh out of it!

Both Allan and Mary recalled their Dismal Swamp/Lake Drummond group outing and the infamous cypress tree that was supposed to serve as their bearing point to reenter the canal. The problem they encountered after six hours on the water was that every cypress tree on Lake Drummond looked identical to their telltale landmark. Oops! This is second reference to the subtitle “forever.”

Goose Creek Canoe Trail

Wind on the Water, Sunshine on our Backs

We arrived at Dynah’s landing and scouted out an area to launch our kayaks. A grassy area parallel to the sandy shoreline provided our staging area as we off loaded the boats, gear, food and drink. A light breeze signaled an opportunity to paddle out to the expansive Pamlico River before the forecasted wind and chop increased. So we excitedly launched our boats, casually paddled out of the Upper Goose Creek to the river. A pod of dolphins immediately greeted us and appeared to escort our group along the southern shores of Goose Creek State Park. We paddled approximately a mile east taking in the views of the river and the narrow strip of marshland that separated Flatty Creek from the Pamlico River.

As we turned around and reversed our direction, I was surprised how the morning light, now behind us, accentuated the surface texture of the water. Each little ripple seemed to appear in high-definition in contrast to the land and sky. Just a few minutes earlier, the glare directly into the sun had dulled the light and exposed the thick moisture in the air. Now we all had brighter skies and a slight headwind to negotiate until we dipped back into the protected waters of Goose Creek. Without acknowledging the fact, we all knew we had made a good decision to paddle the river section of our trip first thing in the morning before the wind picked up.

As we entered the mouth of Upper Goose Creek, we saw a few pleasure boats and anglers trolling the shallow water near Flatty Creek. We hugged the eastern shore and continued along a remnant Cypress grove and exposed stumps closer to land. An hour into our trip, we paddle into the entrance of Flatty Creek. The thin strip of land we had seen while paddling the river provided a nice buffer against the wind. The stillness of the water against the Carolina blue sky was magnificent. Maridale noticed a large bird of prey perched in the top of a snag on the northern bank. Manú pulled out his binoculars and quickly confirmed the Bald Eagle.

Edenton Paddlers enjoying Flatty Creek

I had observed a pair of eagles in the spring during a weekend camping and paddle boarding trip so it was refreshing to share a similar experience with my paddling pals. We soaked in the stillness and slowly drifted with the light wind through the narrowing creek. The water level was higher since the last time I paddled in the area so we were able to explore much deeper into Flatty Creek. I pointed out the 351-acre natural area of the park that is designated a National Natural Landmark. According to the National Park Service, which administers the program, the National Natural Landmarks Program recognizes and encourages the conservation of sites that contain outstanding biological and geological resources.

Only 13 properties in North Carolina share this unique designation. The .3-mile Flatty Creek Trail near the park’s campground provides hikers with an up-front and personal experience of the native flora and fauna of the park. A boardwalk and overlook leads visitors to an outstanding view of Flatty Creek.

If the Pamlico provided the “welcome” this morning, Flatty Creek felt like she kindly said, “Y’all come back” as we reluctantly parted her sanctuary and returned to the freshening southwest winds blowing across the upper reaches of Goose Creek.

Kayaks beached at Goose Creek State Park

We paddled around the bluff on the west side of the campground and beached our boats in a small protective cove. The group enjoyed a lunch-with-a-view from the two park benches on the bluff that are located at the western terminus of the 2.5-mile Goose Creek Trail. The hiking trail traverses the park’s southern shoreline and runs from the campground to the beach and swimming area.

From our lofted dining point, we ate a light lunch as we watched cruising boats and gliding kayaks on Goose Creek. After lunch we would continue our adventure along the Goose Creek Canoe Trail.

Each member of our party seemed eager to begin the afternoon session of our paddling excursion so we packed up our lunch, returned to the boats and one-by-one launched our crafts back into the water. A few of our party opted to utilize the campgrounds restrooms and take a sneak peek at the camping sites. I refilled my water bottles and chatted with a few boaters preparing to launch their SUP’s.

I’ve camped all four seasons at the park and I’ve shared the campground with sailors, boaters, paddlers, anglers and others who enjoy family camping.

Run the Same River Twice

The final leg of our trip seemed to be icing on the cake as we wittingly paddled the tranquil waters of Goose Creek. Manú took the unofficial lead toward the backwaters. We all seemed to be in awe of the splendid beauty of the natural landscape. A downed pine obstructed the passage along the stream’s most northern reach. But Manú carefully threaded the needle and led us all through a sneak route toward further adventures. We all followed one-by-one until we crossed over into a section of creek that seemed almost primordial. Rays of sunlight penetrated through the canopy of cypress, gum and cedar to highlight blossoms of swamp rose and lizards tail. A stunning outcrop of florescent green sedge sprouted from a rotting stump. Each bend of the creek lured us further upstream.

paddlers on Goose Creek

The lush vegetation slowly crowded in on us obstructing the breeze and trapping the moisture in the air. We decided to depart the dense wetland and return to the refreshing breeze on the open water. Once on the main channel of Goose Creek, we continued along the trail until the creek became impassible.

The final stretch to the landing became a reflective and joyous retreat. We combined three waterways to complete the 7-mile round trip and in turn the streams connected us to the region of the Pamlico. We’ll return that’s for sure but for now, we all realize that we shared a special day paddling the tributaries of the Tar-Pamlico River Basin.

 

journey notes to road tripGoose Creek State Park is located approximately 12 miles east of Washington, NC in Beaufort County on the north side of the Pamlico River. The peninsula-shaped property encompasses 1,672 acres and a variety of coastal plain habitats – from extensive wetlands along the rivers and creeks to cypress swamps and saltwater marshes.

2190 Camp Leach Rd, Washington, NC 27889; (252) 923-2191; goose.creek@ncparks.gov

Local Outfitter ~ Inner Banks Outfitters

Start or end your trip with a visit to Inner Banks Outfitters. Friendly, knowledgeable staff and full service paddling & cycling services. The shop offers kayak and paddle board rentals, paddling gear and accessories. Located on Runyon Creek near the City of Washington’s Havens Garden public boat ramp.

Inner Banks Outfitters

And while you’re there…

Stop by their neighbors at Blackwater Jacks Tiki Bar & Grill for some fine coastal seafood, a great selection of craft beers on draft, live music and monthly tiki parties!

Postcards from the Albemarle Sound Sketches, skiffs and seafaring tales

Albemarle Sound Postcard 2017

We’re sagging south on the Long Trail—the trail that is always new
– Jack London, The Sea-Wolf

As we welcome autumn to the region of the Albemarle Sound, we take time to reflect back on some of the exciting adventures we shared this spring and summer. Although most of our journeys were short excursions around our beloved Albemarle Sound, we also enjoyed day trips to inland treasures, overnight excursions to state parks and summer vacation island hoppin’ the Outer Banks. Coastal byways took us from Corolla to Ocracoke and Belhaven to Camden. Blackwater streams and intracoastal waterways led us to natural heritage sites, secluded beaches and wild wetlands. We skiffed, sailed, paddled, fished and kayaked skinny creeks, open bays and a number of sounds.

Along our travels, we met innkeepers, brewers, anglers, captains, tourists, artists, environmentalists, fish doctors, volunteers, retirees, old salts, and boat builders. The folks living in our region where land and water merge always inspire us. We discover something new and wonderful every time we venture out. This reminds me what a wise old neighbor once suggested. The Englishman softly spoke, “Learn young, learn fair; learn old, learn more.”

Here are a few of our favorite outings the past several months. Hope you enjoy!

 

2017 Postcards from the Albemarle Sound

 

Goose Creek State Park Pamlico River Connections

Panoramic view of Flatty Creek

The Tar Heel State offers a lifetime of cultural, natural history and outdoor recreation opportunities from the mountains, foothills, sandhills and coast. Last year, North Carolina State Parks celebrated their centennial and nearly 17 million people visited the NC State Parks in 2015.

The NC State Parks System is managed by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, which includes 41 state parks and state recreation areas, as well as 33 undeveloped conservation areas. These state protected properties feature ancient mountains, pristine beaches, lazy rivers, open waters and diverse forests. In 1980, Goose Creek State Park was designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. A plaque along the Goose Creek Trail states, “This site possesses exceptional value as an illustration of the nation’s natural heritage and contributes to a better understanding of the environment.”

As a 27-year resident of the Old North State, I’ve camped, fished, run, hiked, cycled and paddled most of the system’s parks. Since moving to the coastal plain, Goose Creek State Park has become one of my favorites!

Paddle boarding on Goose Creek

Natural Beauty, Nationally Recognized

The park is located approximately 12 miles east of Washington, NC in Beaufort County on the north side of the Pamlico River. The peninsula-shaped property encompasses 1,672 acres and a variety of coastal plain habitats – from extensive wetlands along the rivers and creeks to cypress swamps and saltwater marshes. These areas provide ideal habitat for birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Wildlife sightings include alligators, bears, otters, bobcat, foxes, red wolves and a variety of waterfowl.

There are plenty of things to do for both outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The park can be enjoyed all seasons and is open year-round with the exception of Christmas Day.

Friends of the park volunteer hiking along Goose Creek Trail

Take a hike!

Goose Creek State Park has one of the longest and best-maintained trail systems on the NC coast. There are 8 miles of maintained trails that meander through the property and more trails are currently being constructed. The entire trail system can be hiked leisurely in one day. Some trails have trail benches, boardwalks and interpretive signs to enjoy along the way. Most visitors prefer to break up the trails into sections varying from .2 miles to 2 miles. Trails are blazed in unique colors and different shaped markers. The Flatty Creek Trail offers a convenient and scenic stroll from the parking area along Campground Rd. The .3-mile orange-blazed trail loops through an upland pine forest and leads visitors to an outstanding vista overlooking Flatty Creek and the Pamlico River. The 2-mile Goose Creek Trail begins at the campground near the mouth of Goose Creek and snakes along the Pamlico River to a nice sandy beach and swimming area.

The half-mile Palmetto Boardwalk Trail is a good family friendly option. Various wildlife and plant ID markers assist visitors along the self-guided tour of the freshwater marsh.

Campground at Goose Creek State Park

Goose Creek State Park Activities

The parks’ family campground is ideal for families, hikers and anglers who plan on spending a night or two in the park. The facility offers 14 private tent sites each with tables and grills. Toilets and drinking water are centrally located in the campground. The park also has a reservation-only group camping area available from March 15 – November 15. Registered campers can easily access the six-mile Goose Creek State Park Canoe Trail  from the campground’s put-in area.

Anglers fishing on Goose Creek

Boating and fishing are both very popular activities at the park. There is a public boating ramp and parking area on the west side of Goose Creek at Dinah’s Landing.

Park visitors can access three picnic areas in the park. Picnic shelters are available on a first-come, first-served basis or can be reserved for a fee. Pets are permitted in NC State Parks so long as they are on an attended leash no longer than 6 feet. Whether you are day tripping or camping for a week, be sure to stop in the park’s Visitor Center to pick up a map, learn more about the park and view the wonderful exhibits.

Goose Creek State Park's Discovery Room

journey notes to road trip

 

Goose Creek State Park is an excellent “jumping off” point for Outer Banks-bound travelers heading to the Swan Quarter Ferry Terminal. The park is within and hour’s drive for tidewater townies looking for a day-outing chock full of adventure. Cyclists touring on the NC 2 Mountains to Sea Route should plan on a convenient overnight camp during their 700 mile, two-wheel odyssey.

Local eats ~ Grab a cup of NC-roasted coffee at Rachel K’s Bakery in the historic waterfront town of Washington. Be sure to try one of their delicious pastries, scones and hand tarts — yummy artisan sandwiches and wraps for lunch too! Experience Washington Crab and Seafood Shack for some of the best fried shrimp you’ve ever tasted. Quirky, quaint, quick and delicious! Not in a hurry? Kick back, select a steamer plate with a cold beer and enjoy the friendly staff and patrons!

Eats & Drinks at Washington Crab and Seafood Shack

Washington Crab and Seafood Shack

 

 

Register for one of the park’s upcoming events! The park organizes a number of monthly events. A quick peek at the park’s calendar revealed a children’s scavenger hunt, kayak fishing and a guided hike. Another way to plug into the park’s resources is to get involved with the Friends of Goose Creek State Park to join fellow members on paddle trips, hikes and volunteer projects!

Map of Goose Creek State Park

 

 

Weather or Not, Here We Go! Midwinter Sound Sampler

Midwinter Sound Sampler of things to do around the Albemarle SoundSo far this winter, we’ve experienced a baffling pattern of weather. A series of cold, windy days gives way to near record high temperatures the following day. Just when you start to take advantage of a spring-like day, the weather changes. Regardless of the unpredictable forecast, we’ve designed a sundry list of things-to-do for the next month or so. This midwinter sampler of events includes a celebration of Black History Month and a state park rain-or-shine outing. We’ve also featured a local Mardi Gras fundraiser and a spring gardening workshop. As you all know, when February rolls around, we coastal plain dwellers optimistically predict that spring is only a few weeks away. Some years, that’s certainly the case so keep your fingers crossed and sync one or two of these events to your personal calendar. We tried to make it easy for you by including indoor and outdoor events. And just in case the fickle weather continues, we added a few more options under the quick-links listings.

Judging by the early display of flowering quince and daffodils blooming in my neighborhood, it looks like smooth (spring) sailing ahead!

Featured Events

Black HIstory Month events along the Albemarle Sound

Slave Voices in North Carolina
Creswell High School Auditorium
Saturday, February 18, 1pm

Somerset Place State Historic Site will share a Black History Month lecture “Slave Voices in North Carolina,” at Creswell High School. The free program will present words from the enslaved including the personal narratives of Moses Roper, Lunsford Lane, and Harriet Jacobs; and the poetry of George Moses Horton.

Lucinda MacKethan, Ph.D. will present the lecture drawing from these narratives and interviews from the Works Program Administration. She will discuss how these works offer an authentic picture of how NC slaves lived, worked, created families, worshipped, and sometimes escaped from bondage.

The lecture will focus on Somerset Place in Creswell, and Historic Stagville State Historic Site in Durham. A reception will follow the program. This project is made possible by funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council. More info.

 

Programs at Goose Creek State Park

Wetland Wonders!
Goose Creek State Park
Washington, NC
Saturday, February 25, 2017 – 2:00pm

Spend the afternoon with a ranger while learning about the amazing animals that call our wetlands ‘home’.  This program will take place in the Discovery Room which is located in the visitor center. More info.

Goose Creek State Park's Discovery Room

 

 

Goose Creek State Park Trip tip ~ Plan on taking some extra time before or after the program to explore this natural treasure perched along Goose Creek and the Pamlico River. Check out the trails, enjoy a picnic and discover the coastal gem. Be sure to tour the wetlands along the .5 mile Palmetto Boardwalk or enjoy the family-friendly Discovery Room that includes interactive exhibits and a bird observation station.

2017 Mardi Gras Gala for the Outer Banks Children @ Play Museum

The 2017 Mardi Gras Gala for the Outer Banks Children @ Play Museum
Saturday, March 4, 2017, 7:00pm
Jarvisburg, NC

The event hosted by Sanctuary Vineyards features a traditional New Orleans style buffet, wine and beer, live music, dancing, a silent auction and more. Proceeds from the gala benefit the Outer Banks Children @ Play museum – a family interactive museum designed to encourage families to learn and grow together through play! Tickets sell out quickly. $65/person.

 

The Elizabethan Gardens Spring Annuals Workshop

Spring Annuals Workshop
Saturday, March 11, 10am – 12pm
Manteo, NC

The Elizabethan Gardens invites folks to come out from under the winter chill and join the staff for the hands-on workshop. Gardens and Facility Mgr. Jeffrey Wuilliez will discuss and demonstrate techniques in cutting, setting up and designing dormant beds, design layouts and the plantings of spring annuals. Advanced registration required. Limited to 12 participants. $15 for members. $30 for not-yet members.  Some events are subject to change and availability. Please call ahead to confirm details and interest 252.473.3234.

 

things to do along the Albemarle Sound

Midwinter Quick Links

Through February – College of the Albemarle’s Annual Jewelry ExhibitDare County Arts Council host this annual exhibit of jewelry and metalwork, featuring the talents of College of the Albemarle’s Professional Crafts: Jewelry Program.

The Historic Edenton State Historic Site celebrates Women’s History Month with Daily tours throughout March. The guided tours focus on the women who lived and impacted the town and beyond. Historic sites include the James Iredell House, St. Paul’s Church, Cupola House, Barker House and the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse.

SA (3/11), 8am – Running of the Leprechauns, Nags Head, NC. The annual event offers a choice of 5K & 10K routes. Post race party with Irish Stew, Sweet Potato Biscuits & Beer. Packet pick-up will be held at Outer Banks Sporting Events from 4:30-7pm on Friday and race morning from 7-7:45am.

SU (3/12), 1:00-2:30pm – Merchants Millpond State Park invites you to Canoe the Pond in a canoe or kayak.  This is a good time to get a closer look at the mistletoe deformed water tupelo trees, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and various plant life. Meet at the visitor center located at 176 Millpond Road, Gatesville, NC. 27938.  Canoes and kayak provided by the park. FREE. For more information call: (252) 357-1191.

(3/23–27) – The Outer Banks Restaurant Association presents the Outer Banks Taste of the Beach which features four days of food, drink, fun and festivities. This year’s festival includes beer pairings, wine tastings, cooking classes, special multi-course menu presentations, brewery tours, tapas crawls, cook-offs, showdowns and progressive dinners. Over 30 participating venues and nearly 60 events along the Outer Banks showcase the innovative culinary opportunities and talents of the region’s creative chefs.

 

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