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Paddling in Eastern North Carolina, Part 6: New Bern’s Neuse River

This is the last of six guides to paddling Eastern North Carolina. They are formatted to enable easy printing and following while on the water. Slip the pages in sheet protectors and under the hold-downs of your boat for easy, waterproof reference. Brad’s other guides, featuring Greenville’s Tar River, Bear Island, Devil’s Gut, Little Washington and Cape Lookout, are here.

Text and photos by Brad Beggs
Guardian columnist

This short loop makes for the perfect half-day paddle trip, with ample time to float, fish, bird watch and still meet up with friends or work around the house. If you want a longer paddle, see the map for an optional 4.8 mile loop adjoining the main trail.

IMG_6231Paddle this loop in the spring to see numerous active osprey nests and flowers. Summer is hot and the water warm; you’ll find some shade, but you’ll need to seek it out. Fall paddling here offers subtle changing colors, greens to oranges and then brown.

Stories of the River

“I’m pretty sure we just paddled to Florida,” I told my friend, as he j-stroked the canoe into the shade of a 10-foot-round cypress tree.

“I think so, too. Kinda feels like home, with this much Spanish moss on every tree,” he replied.

Brian grew up in north Florida, where the moss is abundant; the trees along this section of the Neuse are as heavily draped with the stuff as those in Florida.

In daylight, the moss has antebellum charm as it sways in the wind. But on a moonlit night, its strands become creepy-looking tentacles, seemingly in wait to grab an unsuspecting paddler.

The Main Paddle Trail: ~3.8 miles round trip | 2-3 hours

IMG_6243Who Should Paddle This Trail

This trail is for you if you:

✢ want a great spot for a moonlight paddle;
✢are looking for a quiet but good place to catch fish;
✢enjoy playing disc golf (there’s a course next to the park’s put- in);
✢love seeing osprey; and
✢ like new paddles and cool historic towns like New Bern.

The Trail Details

✢ Paddle in a clockwise loop; this is the easiest way to find the right creek to explore.

✢ From the ramp, head to your left/west. As you paddle, the park is on your left with towering cypress trees covered in Spanish moss lining the bank. Three houses are tucked back from the shoreline just past the park.

✢ At the first creek (Blackman’s Creek, marked with buoys), take a left (somewhat southwest). After paddling 800ft, you’ll come up on Hatteras Yachts, an active factory. Passing the yachts via the narrowing creek leads to classic eastern North Carolina wetlands and a large lake, my favorite section of the trail.  

✢ Few spots in eastern North Carolina make me gasp in amazement but this lake, with an island of towering cypress trees layered in long strands of moss, did so. Paddle here under a full moon and you’ll likely see fairies flitting about.IMG_6210

✢ Once you’ve spent enough time here, continue forward until you can take a right (east) and follow a canal back to the Neuse proper. If you head left at the canal, you’ll find good fishing and clear water at the terminus of the canal.

✢ Once at the Neuse, cross the boat channel directly in front of you, heading north to the shallow waters on the other side of Marsh Island.

✢ For a shorter trip, paddle the north side (the side you can’t see) of Marsh Island, heading back towards the boat ramp (to your right/east-ish). To continue the full loop, cross a branch of the Neuse towards the moored sailboats. Paddle close to the north shoreline to see birds and deer.

✢ The second highlight of the trip (especially if you paddle in nesting season) is beyond the moored boats at the tiny island in the middle of the Neuse. Here you’ll find four or more active osprey nests – don’t get too close, as you’ll cause the osprey to fly around you in alarm. See the ‘binoculars” on the map for the exact spot.  

✢ Once you’ve had your fill of osprey calls, head back (southwest) to the boat ramp a half mile away.

What You’ll See

✢ This trail surprised me. Most open-water paddles in eastern NC have only water to look at, but this trail has interesting side creeks, islands, and so many osprey.

✢ The yacht factory makes for a neat rest point. You’ll see completed yachts and enormous molds used to create them.IMG_6213

✢ Besides the four active nests (during breeding season) in the middle of the Neuse, the blackwater lake past the yacht factory is home to several other osprey nests.

The Local Knowledge To Make it Great

✢ The ramp itself has no facilities but the park is heavily used, with multiple picnic shelters. Head towards the shelters if you need a restroom or water.

✢ Because this paddle has some open water, if the winds pick up (over 12 mph) you’ll find plenty of waves.

✢ Once on the water, you won’t find dry land. If you need to stretch your legs, find shallow water and get your feet wet.

✢ Early spring offers the most bird viewing, but summer nights lit by full moons are amazing.

✢ The fishing is good in shallow brackish water; your only competition is the large population of osprey in such a concentrated area.

Food & Drink

✢ Head into downtown New Bern for food or coffee. Trent River Coffee Company is right downtown.  For lunch/breakfast most days and dinner on the weekends, Baker’s Kitchen is tasty with good service. 

Outfitters & Clubs  

✢ To rent a SUP board, check out Stand Up Outfitters, with two locations in New Bern, one on land, one on the water. 

✢ To meet local paddlers, the Twin Rivers Paddle Club organizes paddles almost every weekend. 

Park Info

Glenburnie Park Boat Ramp: GPS: 35.13967, -77.05998

✼ 312 Glenburnie Drive. Glenburnie Park, New Bern, NC 28560
Cost: Free

Where to Stay

Downtown New Bern is home to several highly rated B&B’s on Trip Advisor, as well as major chain hotels. There are two campgrounds somewhat close to the featured trail, and to other hiking and paddle trails.

✢ Flanners Beach National Forest Service Campground

✼ GPS: 34.981881, -76.949462
✼ Phone: 252-638-5628
✼ Address: 300 Flanners Beach Road New Bern NC 28560
✼ Website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/null/recarea/?recid=48472&actid=29

✢ New Bern KOA

✼ GPS: 35.135685, -77.02977
✼ Address: 1565 B Street. New Bern, NC 28560
✼ Phone: 252-638-2556
✼ Website: http://koa.com/campgrounds/new-bern/

Detailed Google Map

Use this map to see the exact route to paddle, concessions and other optional paddles.

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