New River in High Water

New River in High Water

The Saturday of May 27, 2017, some lawyer buddies and I took a paddling trip on the New River in Ashe County. My partner Mike Cooper, Drew Willardson and his Maryland lawyer buddy Justin canoed and kayaked from Zaloo's Canoes just south of NC Hwy 88 north about 6 miles to the Wagner Access New River State Park.


I paddled my own canoe. It was outfitted with all sorts of safety, rescue and flotation gear. Drew went to Hickory the day before and purchased a 10 foot kayak for himself. Drew also borrowed two other 10 foot kayaks for Mike and Justin. We met at the McElwee Firm in North Wilkesboro and carpooled to Zaloo's with our boats tied onto our vehicles. The weather was a perfect sunny day with temperatures in the high 70's. The water temperature was brisk but manageable.

We reserved a shuttle from Zaloo's. Even though we had our own boats, it was more convenient to hire the outfitter to pick us up at the take out and give us and our boats a ride back to our trucks at the put in. Then we put in the river at the outfitters store on NC Hwy 16 just south of NC Hwy 88. The river winds north-north-east across Ashe County and eventually into Virginia. The water level was up from large recent rains and the current was pushy. Many of the smaller rapids were over flowing with flat, fast water. Most of the eddies along the shore were replaced by constant current. There were no real rapids above Class 1 waves, but the mild danger was if you capsized, then there were no islands or eddies to get out of the current and get re-situated. Fortunately, none of our crew dumped, except once while we were standing on the shore.

During the trip I got to play Ranger Bob, meaning render some assistance to another paddler who was in some trouble. A young lady on a kayak hit a rock and capsized. She immediately stood up and saved herself, but her boat continued downstream without her. The only other person in her group, a young guy, was in an inner tube and he could not paddle fast enough to catch the errant kayak. I scooted ahead, retrieved the kayak and brought it back upstream to the young lady. She was appreciative!

We made it safely to the takeout at the Park. Zaloo's picked us up with no delay, and we all headed home. A successful trip!

Bob Laney

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Bob is the site curator and writer of Blue Ridge Outing. Since starting the Blue Ridge Outing travel blog in 2002, Bob has written, recorded and documented countless expeditions in the US and around the world.