Staff Spotlight: Caroline Newlin

As a local business, we love to hire within the community. Often we find people who not only love the water but also have a deep-rooted connection to the North Carolina Piedmont.

They bring local knowledge.

They bring integrity.

And sometimes…they ride unicycles.

Which brings us to Caroline Newlin.

A resident of Snow Camp, North Carolina, she started working at The Haw River Canoe & Kayak Co. when she was 16. What began as an unpaid internship through The Hawbridge School soon turned into a paying summer gig that has lasted for six years.

Since Hawbridge P.E. classes teach canoeing, she credits them, as well as 4-H programs, with developing her appreciation of paddling.

Flora & Fauna

Caroline is drawn to nature and plant life. She’s a gardener who finds it “fascinating how a simple organism can turn into something you can eat.” Thanks to her father’s influence, this fascination extends beyond the garden and into the wilder world. Caroline loves to identify and forage for wild plants, and when she began sharing this knowledge with our paddling guests, she noticed that they appreciated when she “pointed out cool plants.”

Her coworker, Ben, noticed the same pattern when he shared facts on local geology, so the two of them combined botany and natural history to design our popular Flora & Fauna Paddle.

It’s been a successful offering that teaches guests that you don’t have to wander far to appreciate the natural world’s bounty. In fact, on the HRCK patio, the water-filled canoe has “duck potato” growing in it. When she’s leading a tour, Caroline likes to dig around and demonstrate how these edible tubers can be eaten. 

Her other favorite trip is the Moonlight Paddle. For her, the nighttime world focuses her attention, allowing her to hear owls and deer and to see foxes and fireflies. 

Family First

Talking to Caroline, it’s apparent that family plays a significant role in her life, and when discussing her interest in plants and nature, Caroline frequently mentions her father. When she was a kid, he stoked her love of nature by teaching her a lot of “really cool plants,” and she furthered this interest by taking horticulture classes at Alamance Community College and later transferring to NC State where she double majors in Forestry and Horticulture.

She stays involved with family, continuing to work their massive garden and trying new projects. This year, she grew corn just to try making cornmeal, and her family always cans beans—another thing she admits her dad mostly handles.

Getting Started with Plants

For others who want to learn about plants, Caroline suggests using field guides, and if possible, taking a course at a community college. These two methods provide foundational knowledge.

For children under 12, she suggests DK books for their ability to inspire young people.

While these suggestions may sound old fashioned to younger readers, Caroline stands by these methods. She says nature identification apps are “cheating” because they require no effort, and recently when she visited the Great Smokies, she found herself without cell service and was glad she never relied on apps to appreciate the landscape. If she had, her experience would have been far poorer.

If you’d like try identifying plants, consider joining our Flora & Fauna paddling trip. You’ll learn different plants with each season, and our experienced guides will help you decipher the wall of green.