Choosing a Trip
To help you choose an appropriate paddling trip there are several variables for you to consider.
- Length of trip – All of our self-guided trips are organized according to the average time they take to paddle from the put in to the take out. There are Short trips of 1-2 hrs, Half Day trips of 2.5-4 hrs, Full Day trips of 4.5-6 hrs and Overnight camping trips. Our day and evening Guided trips average between 2-3 hrs. Consider how long you (and the others you are paddling with) want to be on the water as well as any other time constraints you may have. Plan on adding an extra 30-60 minutes to your time on the water for checking in and getting to and from the water. Plan to arrive 15 min. before your trip start time to check in.
- Physical ability, and skill level of paddlers – Different trips require different levels of physical exertion and paddling skills in terms of the class of water (flat or rapids) and the condition of the put in and take out access points (easy, moderate, or challenging). A few sections of the river require you to portage or carry your boat around a dam. You should also consider the type of trip your group is looking for, whether it be a calm relaxing paddle or a trip with some excitement. We recommend choosing a trip that is suitable for the whole group and accommodating the person in your group with the least ability or that there are others in the group, with more experience, able and willing to help those with less skill/ability. We also have easy flat water trips perfect for families with young children, groups of kids or older adults.
- Class of water (flat/rapids) – The Haw River includes a range of water classifications from flat water to class III rapids. Sections of the river just above or between dams are calm, flat water (class A) with very little current. These flat water sections remain a more consistent water level and can be paddled throughout the year. Stretches of the river with varying class I-III rapids are dependent on water levels and are predominantly run during the spring flow from March to the end of May. In the summer and fall the river levels are usually too low to run the rapids cleanly, and only occasionally after a good rain are river levels sufficient to paddle these sections of the river. Minimum river levels are listed for each trip. The Haw has two river gauges which can be checked online. The town of Haw River gauge is used for all the sections above 15-501 dam and the Bynum gauge is used for the sections from Bynum down to Robeson Creek where the Haw flows into Jordan Lake. We also suspend our services when the river levels are too high for the average paddler to safely paddle the river.
- Guided or self-guided – Our self-guided trips cover different sections of the Haw River from Altamahaw in Alamance County down to Hwy 64 near Pittsboro in Chatham County. All trips include shuttle service making them perfect for groups who want to go on their own without the hassle of transporting the boats. Many of the self-guided trips are fine for the beginner or paddlers with little experience. All of our listed self-guided trips are also available as guided trips for groups of four or more paddlers with an added fee of $5.00 per person. If you would like a guide for your trip and your party is smaller than four people let us know as it may be possible for individuals from different groups to be put together to create a guided trip. There are several reasons why you may prefer a guided trip. You may like the company of others and meeting new people or are curious to learn more about the river, its history and the flora and fauna to enrich your paddling experience. You may wish to have a guide along to lead you through sections of the river you have not paddled before or are not confident in your groups paddling skills. We offer a variety of guided trips from relaxing social outings to whitewater adventures as well as special trips to encounter the river in a different light, like a Sunrise Paddle, Full Moon Paddle or Stargazing Paddle.
- Type of boat – We offer three main types of boat.
- Canoes – All of our canoes can accommodate two adults (a young child weighing less than 100 lbs, who isn’t able to paddle, can ride in the middle of the canoe at no extra charge). Canoes offer greater freedom of movement and ability to change positions from sitting to kneeling within the boat. A canoe can be more comfortable and easier to get in and out of for those who are less flexible or whose knees or legs get stiff. There is more room in a canoe for carrying supplies, coolers, camping equipment etc. Paddlers use a single bladed paddle and often paddle on opposite sides of the boat with the person in the stern having more control of the steering. Paddling a canoe requires coordination and team work between both paddlers.
- Kayaks – Single kayaks accommodate one person. Tandem (or double) kayaks accommodate two people. There is a small amount of room in a kayak to carry supplies. Paddlers sit down in a kayak with their legs out in front of them covered by a deck in a single recreational kayak or more open in a tandem kayak. Paddling a sit-on-top kayak you are basically sitting on top uncovered (as the name implies). Paddlers use a double bladed paddle alternating sides as they paddle. Kayaks can be paddled by children as young as eight years old depending on the height, skill, and comfort level of the individual. Touring kayaks are used for open flat water stretches of the river. Single and tandem recreational kayaks are used on flat water and mild class I rapids. Tandem kayaks require not only cooperative but also synchronized paddling by both paddlers. Sit-on-top kayaks are used primarily for sections of the river with rapids since they can be flipped right back over without filling up with water and no previous kayak rolling experience is needed. Sit-on-tops can also be used on flat water though they tend to be slower then a recreational kayak.
- Stand-Up Paddleboards (SUPs) – Paddleboards accommodate one person. SUPs require some practice to maintain balance as paddling occurs from a standing position. Paddlers should plan on getting wet and there is a good possibility of falling in the water. Paddlers use a special long single bladed paddle that is adjustable to the paddler’s height. You can lay down on the SUP to take a break and relax. SUPs are used only on the flat water sections of the river.
All trips include boat, paddles, PFDs (personal floatation devices) and shuttle service. An experienced guide accompanies all guided trips. Walk-ins are welcome for self-guided trips but it is always best to register or call ahead since we are often busy running shuttles or guiding trips and boat availability may be limited. We add trips to our Paddle Calendar as they are requested . If you don’t see the trip you would like on our schedule, you can register for the trip you are interested in and we will add it to our calendar as long as our schedule permits. Trips are created on a first come, first serve basis so the further ahead you register the more options you have in trip selection and start time. All of our trips start on the hour.
Once you have decided on a trip please look under the “Reservations” tab and select the Registration Form. Complete and submit a registration form to create a reservation request. Once your registration form is received we will determine if we can accommodate your request or contact you if adjustments need to be made. You will then be sent a confirmation email with the trip details and meeting location along with an invoice for payment. Payment must be completed to secure your reservation. If you choose to pay on arrival be sure to call an hour ahead of your trip start time to confirm you are coming and check that the boats you requested are still available. If you have questions or would like some advice in choosing a trip please contact us, we are glad to help.
Trip availability always depends on the river levels. Sometimes river levels can be too high after a heavy rain to paddle safely or too low to negotiate rocky stretches of the river. Outdoor activities are always subject to changes in weather. If there is just a light rain or passing shower we can go ahead with the trip. In case of storms with heavy rains and/or lightning we will cancel the trip and notify you as far ahead as possible.