Adventures on the Yadkin River #1: Shoals Road to the Donnaha Bridge

Adventures on the Yadkin River: Shoals Road to the Donnaha Bridge  #1

YRK will be paddling this stretch on Thursday, August 20th as part of our Paddle-a-Thon Tour weekend.  If you want to join us sign up here.

Adventures on the Yadkin River is written by former journalist and life-long river enthusiast, D.R. White. He is a self-proclaimed guardian of the Shoals Road to Donnaha Bridge section of the Yadkin River. Over the course of the next few months, he will bring this stretch of the river to life in words.

The seven mile stretch of the Yadkin River from Shoals Road to the Donnaha Bridge (Hwy. 67) in Yadkin and Surry counties of North Carolina has been described by some as the most scenic along the entire upper river. The surreal magnificence of Bean Shoals, the mostly undeveloped river banks, the many islands, and the huge boulders and rock formations make this river section a candidate for National Geographic magazine.

Lesser known about this part of the Yadkin River is its rich Native American past and historical markers that may go unnoticed to the new or casual paddler. These hidden treasures are not-to-be-missed. They give insight into the river’s tremendous influence on the culture and people, who depended on it centuries ago, and depend on it today.

The most visual landmark is the failed cannel project at Bean Shoals, which runs along the north bank, and begins about a half mile from the put-in at Shoals Road. The lesser-known artifacts are five Native American fish weirs (stone fish traps) that date to the late Woodlands Period, making them 500-800 years old.

Each time I go down this stretch of the Yadkin River, I try to see something I’ve never seen before. I have not been disappointed. My long list includes: A bald eagle, river otter, muskrat, great blue herons, Canada geese, mallard and wood ducks, hundreds of swallowtail butterflies gathered at a water pool along the riverbank, and an abandoned beaver dam.

My river expeditions are made in a 50-year-old, 14-foot, aluminum Grumman canoe (The Beast) which has seen rivers in Canada, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana and Missouri. Its bottom was nearly pristine until it met Bean Shoals ten years ago. Now it shows the scars of many, many trips down this section of the Yadkin River.

Along this 6.9 mile stretch, the Yadkin drops approximately 60 feet or about 8.5 feet per mile. This keeps the current moving and almost makes paddling optional. The entire trip takes from three-and-a-half to four hours, depending on how frequently you pause and enjoy the river’s many offerings.

In the spring (March and April), the river is high, cold and runs fast. The rocks and boulders are less of a concern, but still require a watchful eye. Should you dump your canoe or flip your kayak the power of the current and the cold water temperature make for a dangerous situation (yes, it happened to me once).

During the summer months this river section is generally shallow – knee- or waist-deep or less in most places – with some deeper spots north of Donnaha. This makes the rocks at Bean Shoals a real challenge for canoeing and, to a lesser extent, for kayaking. Yet, these obstacles can make for an exciting one mile.

In my next blog post, I will describe what to expect and experience as you put in at Shoals Road and begin down the river. More later.

-- D.R. White