The heat of summer in Carolina can be a formidable thing. It’s not the dry heat that Arizona is so proud of. It can be a sticky ball of humidity with it’s own mass, weighing down any and every outdoor activity. Hiding out in the perpetually 60 degree movie theater with a bath tub size vessel of popcorn is a good strategy for avoiding the heat but not the best for a healthy lifestyle. Luckily there are options in any direction you travel from Charlotte to enjoy the many waterways in the area. If you SUP, kayak, or canoe, here are some of the most popular itineraries to the north, south, east, or west, for non-motorized water travel. While you’re saving the environment by using paddle power instead of gasoline to get around on the water, you’ll want to have a place close by to refuel yourself during or after your paddle.
West: Multi-sport paddle on the Catawba
Put your trail shoes in a dry bag and paddle from Belmont to the USNWC. Access the river at the public boat put-in about 10 yards south of where Highway 74 (Wilkenson Blvd) crosses the Catawba River on the Belmont side. You can get to the put-in via the rough gravel road to the left of the gas station. Paddle upstream about 1.5 miles until you see Tallrace Marina on your left. Directly across the river from the Marina you’ll see a small clearing, this is the U.S. National White Water Center. Pull your boat up here and access the trails for a walk or jog. These are multi-use trails so be aware of mountain bikers. Your paddle home after your trail time will be even easier since you’re traveling with the current.
Look out for herons, turtles, osprey, and deer along the way.
The USNWC has a full service restaurant and a better than you’d expect beer selection. You’ll see it from the trails and is a perfect break before your paddle back to your car. Check their website for hours of operation.
South: Paddle for your lunch on Lake Wylie
Copperhead Island is part of the McDowell Nature Preserve located in South West Charlotte. The boat launch area has multiple ramps, plenty of parking, and basic bathroom facilities as well as a few scenic walkways along the shore of Lake Wylie. Paddling from the ramps you can circumnavigate the island. There are plenty of inlets and coves to stick your nose into.
After you’ve prowled around the island, cross the lake to the South Carolina side for lunch. You can paddle right up to T-Bones on the Lake for a light meal of fish and chips or a 16 ounce steak.
North: Catch your own lunch on Mountain Island Lake
The Neck Road Access to Mountain Island Lake is a couple miles north of Latta Plantation. There are no facilities here other than a small pier, boat ramp, and parking lot. Mountain Island Lake is smaller and slightly less congested with boat traffic, making it a favorite for many SUP-ers and is recommended by the Charlotte area SUP experts at Aloha Paddle Sports. One of the biggest draws of this area, however, is the fishing. Many a catfish have been pulled out of the banks around this spot. A favorite bait? Try Vienna sausages. You’ve finally found a use for them.
Just about 15 minutes away from the put in at Neck Rd is a unique beer experience right in the middle of Huntersville. The Crafty Beer Guys have created a haven for beer lovers to both purchase packaged beer and wine, as well as enjoy a pint from their constantly rotating taps. And it’s all loaded into what looks like an everyday 2 story house. The large porch makes for a perfect place to relax after a hard day of paddling.
East: Enjoy a peaceful paddle surrounded by ancient mountains
While the peaks of the Uhwarrie mountains aren’t what they once were, (they have eroded from a lofty 20,000 feet to their current height of just over 1000 feet), they still provide a great back drop for a quiet experience on the water. From the put in at Morrow Mountain State Park you can access Lake Tillery and the Pee-dee river. If you don’t have your own craft you can rent one on most summer days from the boathouse located in the park.
Off the Square in Albermarle is one of those gems you find in an unlikely place. Surrounded by fast food and chain restaurants, OTS offers menu choices like pan seared duck breast and peppercorn filet. Consider the better than average beverage selection and you’ve got the makings of a go-to restaurant on the way home from your Morrow Mountain adventure.
Tips for your trips:
Plan to paddle during a full moon. Mountain Island Lake and the Catawba are perfect for it.
The law requires you keep a wearable floatation device on your craft (life jacket).
If you’re paddling at night, you are required to have a white light on your craft. A headlamp is a good option.
Put your paddle to good use:
You can put your new found kayak skills to good use raising money for the N.C. Wildlife Federation. Their 10th annual Kayak-a-thon is being held at Mountain Island Lake on June 7th. Raising money for the worthy cause also gets you chances to win a new kayak from Great Outdoor Provision Company.