A Riverkeeper Voyage

In 2016 your Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette paddled the entire Cape Fear River basin from Mermaid point (where the Haw and Deep river come together near the coal ash plant) all the all the way to Bald Head Island in an effort to provide outreach for the Cape Fear. We photodocumented the trip and have shared it with you – all 200 miles! Enjoy!

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Day 1

Mermaids Point – the beginning of the Cape Fear! Deep to my right, haw to my left!



coal ash
We passed the retired Duke Energy Cape Fear Plant Thursday. The plant burned coal for decades and this is a picture of a “seep” or a leak from one of the five unlined coal ash ponds at Cape Fear. This all leaks into the Cape Fear River. 
Get more info on the latest here



Passed this tree full of great blue heron nests!


This is the put in – Jordan Lake dam. Jordon Lake was formed when the Haw River was dammed in the early 70s.

voyage panoramic

Panoramic of where it all begins! Where the Cape Fear River is created from the Haw and the Deep Rivers.


Fun with river otters!

Day 2


Areas like this (a few hours paddle below Lillington) are where anadromous fish like striped bass, sturgeon, and shad can spawn. But right now Lock and Dam 2 & 3 are preventing anadromous fish from reaching this area.and Bladen Counties)




Raven Rock State Park.


This is our campsite from night #2.

Day 3


We had a 33 degree chilly start to day 3! The day warmed up to be really nice though!


Just 100 more miles to the Memorial Bridge!


Can you name this flower found in the woods downstream of Fayetteville?


Lots of these mini-waterfalls above Lock and Dam #3. Usually they have deposited a small sandbar where they enter the river.

Day 4


This is just below Lock and Dam #3. Look how many folks are out fishing. We talked to fishermen who caught shad and striped bass yesterday! Fish passage is working! Spawning habitat is working! Now we just need fish passage at Lock and Dam # 2 & 3.


The first cypress tree we saw below the fall line! The river is slowing down.
Starting to feel like home!

Day 5


Locking through Lock & Dam #2! Thank you to the lock master for letting us through!


Locking through!


Tons of folks were fishing and we saw this guy with his catch – a shad! Our Executive Director Frank is shad sampling tonight at Lock & Dam #1!


Big Sugar Loaf south of Lock & Dam #2! Just one more dam to go until the homestectch through downtown Wilmington!

Day 6


Passing Elwell Ferry! The last inland ferry in NC! Just 9 miles to Lock & Dam #1! Its been raining all morning!


We found this interesting plant – can you name it?



The rock arch rapids at the Lock & Dam #1, from just below the rapids.



The new boardwalk at Lock & Dam #1!


The start of the Black River. Making our way home!


Day 7


Sunrise on the Cape Fear River! Today is the day we will make it to Wilmington!

voyage downtown

Guess what we see?! Downtown Wilmington! We are getting SO close!

voyage ramp

We made it to Wilmington! We pulled into Dram Tree park around noon. Now for some lunch along the beautiful Cape Fear River and rest up for tomorrow – our last day!

voyage kemp

Celebrating making it to Wilmington!

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Day 8 – Last Day!


It’s an early departure for us this morning, we want to get to Southport!



A ship coming into port in the early dark hours of the morning.


voyage 22

The last beautiful sunrise over the Cape Fear.



Shrimping boat – we are getting closer to the ocean!




Southport! Almost done!



We made it!


And now… we eat! Chris (Hook, Line & Paddle) and I are happy to report – mission complete!

We have had a wonderful trip and we thank everyone who has followed along, what an adventure! From freezing temps, to paddling 37 miles in one day in the rain, to 30 species of birds, alligators, amazing plants and more – the Cape Fear River is sure worth exploring! Please consider supporting the Cape Fear today by becoming a member of Cape Fear River Watch!

This is your Riverkeeper signing out!

-Kemp Burdette




Check out his route!