Contributions by Dale Weston, Doug Toltzman, and the late Elmer Eddy. Photos by Doug Toltzman. Click on images to enlarge.
The White Oak River begins in Hofmann Forest. The highest upriver access is at Emmet’s Lane Bridge. With adequate rain, it should be possible to paddle upstream a mile or so from Emmet’s Lane Bridge. One local landmark is the “Kodak Tree” (as named by Elmer Eddy). It’s a large cypress with enough space inside the trunk for two or three people to have their picture taken.
The section from Emmet’s Land Bridge down to Gibson Bridge has not been cleared for several years. At one point (2011?), seventeen blow downs and strainers were removed. Some land is agricultural, but most is unblemished swamp. In the photo, you can see that we encountered at least one beaver dam.
Gibson Bridge down to Hwy 17 is similar in history and scenically predates human intrusion until you approach the town of Maysville.
Mike Banks runs the White Oak River Campgrounds and is a great current source for conditions both up river and as far downstream as Haywood Landing.
Downstream from Maysville you’ll pass through the quarry lakes and you’ll encounter some limestone ledges and a stretch with a limestone precipice on river right. The ledges can produce a small (class 1?) rapids at higher water levels, or a short portage at lower water levels. Just keep your nose pointed downstream and watch your footing and you’ll probably pass without a hitch.
Other hazards you may encounter anywhere upstream, and possibly for a couple miles downstream of Dixon Field are deadfalls, or blow-downs that block the river and require careful navigation. Blow-downs usually span deep water, so please take care when negotiating your way around or over them.
Dixon Field is between the quarry lakes and Haywood Landing. It is a nice kayak launch site, and not a bad primitive camping site. There is a primitive toilet up by the parking lot. Although it is accessible by car, it’s well off the main road.
If you plan to camp at Haywood Landing, you should be aware that no camping is allowed near the landing (within 1000 feet?). The “no camping” signs near the ramp are really easy to miss. There are places to camp, but you have to go down river a bit or inland from the landing. Scouts often camp at Haywood in a clearing not far downstream on the left. Regardless of where you camp, you will need protection from mosquitoes during summer and early fall.
The river widens and is clear of all obstructions by the time you pass Haywood Landing. A couple miles past Haywood Landing, you’ll come to Long Point landing/campground. Long Point is a nice primitive campsite (they offer an outhouse, but no running water). Long Point is easily accessible by road, so there can be a fair amount of local traffic in and out until late at night. It is a nice campsite with a great view of the river. It would be nicer if it was gated off after dark.
One of the larger tributaries joining the White Oak is Hunters Creek, which has it’s origin at “The Great Lake”. It flows into the White Oak a couple miles downriver from Long Point Landing. Hunters Creek can be a fun paddle and has some interesting landmarks, like a huge cypress sawdust pile from the days when they had a sawmill along the river. Aerial photo looking up White Oak from below Hunters Creek
The other tributaries are nice for exploring and experiencing local flora and fauna. Lots of blooms and lots of snakes and turtles. (Remember, the venomous ones swim mostly on top of the water … if his body is not showing, he’s just a water snake.)
The Boondocks campground and boat landing is located at the Stella bridge. The contact there is Scott and his number is (252) 422-4531. They have a nice boat landing, with parking and a campground. Scott is very paddler friendly. You may want to call him if you need any information about his rates or facilities. He may also offer some sage advice on the river; he’s been there a long time, and I believe you can arrange shuttle through him. Scott also has a power boat, in case you are in need of rescue.
Once below Stella, the river widens considerably and the prevailing southwest wind can be a factor. Sometimes it is easier to paddle upstream with the wind and tide from the Croatan Wildlife Ramp to Stella. Typically the wind is not much of a factor until afternoon.
Jones Island is near the mouth of the White Oak River and it is part of Hammocks Beach State Park. It is a worthwhile stop on your way down the river. Much restoration is occurring in cooperative actions with NC Coastal Federation and Hammocks Beach State Park.
April Clark at Second Wind Eco Tours in Swansboro is a great resource for information on activities as she is a North Carolina Coastal Federation board member and also conducts Eco-tours with Jones Island as the destination. She conducts tours throughout the Swansboro intracoastal and White Oak River areas and is an excellent resource for the lower portions of the White Oak.
Also, Lamar Hudgens of Barrier Island Kayaks is a world class kayak instructor as well as a good guy for every day paddling fun. He may be helpful for checking out the islands and Hammocks Beach area.
Access points in and around Swansboro include:
- Cedar Point Park Wildlife Ramp
- Centennial Park in downtown Swansboro
- Wildlife Access Ramp in Cedar Point on HW 24, just east of the bridge over the White Oak River
- Hammocks Beach State Park
For additional information, see Ferguson’s book, Paddling Eastern NC
Purposeful Paddlers a documentary about Elmer Eddy and his Waterway Stewards’ contribution to cleaning up the White Oak River basin and beyond.
The late Elmer Eddy’s Paddling Blog with lots of great photos: The Waterway Stewards (You’ll want to look back in the archives to 2012 and before.)
For more about rivers in the Carolinas, see also Carolina Rivers. Thanks to Julian at Carolina Rivers for encouraging me to create this page!