Neuse River Rising paddle: Day 9

Environmental, Sound Rivers

Posted on September 27th, 2022



Day nine on the river took us downstream of Kinston through 24 miles of swampy backwaters. The river was moving much more slowly than days before—a sign that the floodwaters from hurricane Ian have passed through. Water levels began to drop precipitously midway through the day,  giving us the feeling that we were truly paddling through a low lying swamp.

We woke up earlier than usual, in an attempt to get a jumpstart on the very long paddle day. 24 miles is significantly farther than we had paddled in previous days, and the slow moving river was bound to make for longer hours on the water. Unfortunately, we ended up wrestling with a series of comical hangups, including the loss of the key to our kayak lock, meaning we had to take apart pieces of the kayaks in order to detach them from each other.  We still don’t where that key is, but are so thankful that Kelsey from Knee Deep Adventures was there with her Phillips head screwdriver to conduct surgery on our kayaks and get us on the water in good time.

Our first stop on the water was at Adkin branch, which flows through downtown Kinston and drains most of that town into the Neuse River. Adkin branch is beautiful, yet also known for being polluted with trash and other invisible toxins that runoff from the town’s roads and sidewalks when rains come in. Thankfully there is an exciting initiative to revive Adkin branch and the low lying floodland surrounding it. A local community group, Kinston Cares, received a large grant to do research, community education, and cultural engagement in the land around Adkin branch. We love to see land protected as a community resource both for the benefit of our watershed and all of the folks who rely on it.

We encountered a ton of wildlife paddling this long remote stretch of the river. Some of our sightings included deer, bald eagle, turkeys, and even a groundhog. We continue to be a surprise by how much life is all along the Neuse.

Many hours later on the water we paddled past the confluence of the Neuse and Contentnea creek. Contentnea is a beloved major tributary of the Neuse. Running through the towns of Snow Hill, Hookerton, Grifton, and Tick Bite before running into the Neuse. Contentnea creek is a popular place for on the water recreation including paddling, waterskiing, and fishing. Contentnea creek has also been on our radar lately because of a major pollution event that we riverkeepers have been busy uncovering.

During a routine monitoring flight back in August, we flew over a swine CAFO biogas facility near Fremont, and noticed something wasn’t right – – there was earth work being done in the vicinity of the waste lagoon, and the digestor cover was deflated.  After looking through public records for the facility, we found out that back in May, more than 3,000,000 gallons of hog waste, expired food products like hotdogs and deli meat, and dead hogs spilled out of the lagoon when the digester cover ruptured. The Department of Environmental Quality failed to notify the public about this incident, despite the significant environmental impacts and threats to public health not only from what toxins ended up in the Nahunta swamp, which flows into Contentnea creek, but also from the gas, like ammonia, that is released in the air. We are continuing to investigate this issue and hoping to learn more about the extent of the cleanup and environmental pollution that occurred as a result of this discharge. Learn more about the biogas experiment that resulted in disaster on our previous write up here.

Our long day on the river ended as the sun was setting. We paddled through a changing sky, as the colors turn dark blue and pink, and the birds all came out for their last hurrah. It was truly the most beautiful time that we had on the water yet. We highly recommend an evening paddle on the Neuse river.

Arriving to our campsite for the night at Maple Cypress wilderness boat launch, we were thrilled to be met by a friend and supporter, Pat Griffin, who greeted us with a riverside home cooked fish fry. The food was unbelievably delicious, complete with fresh caught fish and hush puppies, and it was exactly what we needed after 10 hours on the river.

Day number 10 is our last full day on the river and will bring us almost all the way into a New Bern from Maple Cypress boat ramp to Cowpen landing boat launch. We so look forward to our final day where we will be greeted by members of the public for the last handful of miles on this 150 mile Neuse river Paddle journey. If you have access to a boat and would like to paddle the last stretch with us, here is all you need to know:

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