Tar-Pamlico Water Trail
Sound Rivers has been an advocate for public access, for canoeing and kayaking, to the Tar-Pamlico River System since its founding in 1981. While SRI’s primary goal is the protection of water quality within the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse River Basins, SRI is continually developing and implementing programs that promote ecotourism, educate local citizens about the area’s abundant natural resources, and expose people to aspects of the river/estuary that would otherwise go unnoticed.
The original concept for the Tar-Pamlico Water Trail along the Tar River was developed by a graduate student intern at SRI in 2008. The student was hired to determine the feasibility of various overnight camping
facilities along the lower Tar River between Greenville and Washington. In discussions with recreational users of the river, SRI discovered a perceived need for overnight camping facilities, especially during high flows, as typical riverside camping areas at sand bars and point bars disappear. Advancing forward almost 8 years, Sound Rivers now has seven platforms completed, with funding for seven additional sites and three ADA-compliant kayak launches.
With the development of the Tar River Legacy Plan in Greenville, SRI became interested in partnering with the City of Greenville, who owns and manages several tracts along the Tar River in Greenville, to build camping platforms that would integrate into our existing water trail. After a day trip from the water treatment plant in Greenville to the Port Terminal WRC ramp, SRI and the city were able to identify three sites along the Tar River in Greenville to locate more platforms. Funding for these sites have been provided by the City of Greenville ($10,000) and another local non-profit organization ($5,000) to help with construction.
The platform system provides overnight access to the Tar River for canoe and kayakers, recreational boaters, hunters, and fishermen, but has lacked the ability for persons with disabilities to access the river. SRI applied and received an $115,000 grant from the Recreational Trails Program to build three fully accessible kayak launches, one in Greenville and two in the Washington area. By increasing access, we will be creating an environment that can be used by all people, including those who have disabilities. Making increased accessibility a priority makes for a larger pool of potential users that do not currently have the facilities necessary to launch kayaks. Providing access for people with disabilities is another way that SRI can help to increase diversity of users to the river and to the local communities.
SRI’s ultimate goal is for a continuous series of camping platforms beginning at the most upstream navigable waters in Franklin County to the mouth of the Pamlico Sound. Providing public access to the river, a public resource, via camping platforms has promoted greater recreational use, reduced safety concerns of illegal camping, and helped promote local economies by increasing tourism throughout the watershed.