Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Jill Howell is no stranger to epic kayaking adventures. In 2020, she and Sound Rivers’ Program Director Clay Barber did the 10-day Tour de Tar on the Tar River, from Oxford to Washington, then completed the entire river the following year with the five-day Pamlico Paddle, taking up where they left off in Washington, ending in Swan Quarter.
Jill hadn’t spent much time on the Neuse River, however, but after recently completing the 11-day Neuse River Rising paddle with fellow Riverkeepers Samantha Krop (Neuse) and Emily Bowes (Rogue Riverkeeper, Oregon), she was struck by the similarities of the two rivers.
Q: Jill, you’ve said the Neuse really reminded you of the Tar-Pamlico. What is so similar about them?
A: I feel like they look and transition the same way. The middle Tar and the middle Neuse are pretty undeveloped and have forested banks with lots of wildlife — deer, osprey, beaver, eagles. The water of both has that same brownish look, it’s tannin-y. And in the lower Neuse, as with the Tar-Pamlico at Washington, the rivers open up. I feel like, ecologically, they transition much in the same ways.
Q: What about the issues you encountered — are they the same, as well?
A: The issues are largely the same. You have erosion and sedimentation in the more urban areas. We also passed by similar industries — wastewater treatment plants, CAFOs — that impact the rivers.
There’s also the question of accessibility: access on the Neuse leaves a lot to be desired; it’s better on the Tar River, but even with the Tar being part of the Water Trail, there are still some areas where finding a place to camp is hard.
Q: What about the people you encountered?
A: Much like I found on the paddles on the Tar and the Pamlico, there are people on this river that really care about the river and the water and are incredibly helpful and generous. I think that’s the same wherever you go on both rivers.