The history of Davidson County is linked intimately to the ageless presence of the Yadkin River, along whose banks Native Americans camped more than 12,000 years ago. The river’s importance as a trading route was well-established even before the first European settlers traveled it in the early 1700s, and legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone lived along its banks. Later, mills and manufacturing facilities capitalized on the river’s energy, with a dam project forming High Rock Lake, the second-largest in North Carolina.
Today, the river’s flow is harnessed less for trade and more for recreation, as the Yadkin has become a favorite avenue for paddlers, who enjoy its smooth serenity and the lake’s broad surface in canoes, kayaks and even trendy paddle boards. And, with both the river and lake long renowned for their finned residents, kayak fishing has become a fast-growing activity, while paddlers also revel in the wildlife and forests found along the river.
Pristine Natural Setting
“The Yadkin River is a beautiful natural setting and an often overlooked asset,” says William Deal, executive director of Davidson County Tourism and Recreation Investment Partnership. “There are sections of the river that are pristine, just as they were hundreds of years ago.”
To capitalize on the Yadkin’s scenic and recreational appeal, Davidson County, assisted by the Piedmont Triad Council of Governments, developed a wide-ranging “blueway” plan to develop and enhance recreational access for both visitors and residents along the river’s 22-mile course. By definition, a blueway is a water trail with launch points, public facilities such as campsites and picnic areas, and designated points of interest.
Over time, the objective is to encourage and support more non-motorized water travel on the Yadkin and its tributaries, with access points every two to four miles. Highlighting the trail will be a series of 8-foot-tall cairns that serve as guideposts for paddlers and also provide cultural and historical information. In addition to significant natural areas, cairns will mark such features as an antebellum plantation house, old ferry crossings and Boone’s Cave, long associated with the famous explorer. The cavern is the centerpiece of a 100-acre park with a large portion designated a Natural Heritage Site that’s home to more than 100 native wildflowers.
Paddling Equipment Available
Providing the original impetus for the development of the blueway plan was a local group of dedicated paddling enthusiasts, with High Rock Outfitters in Lexington providing commercial support needed to fuel activity through the sales and rentals of equipment. Chris Phelps, owner of the outfitting company, says a primary objective of the blueway project is to increase awareness of the Yadkin River, its natural beauty and recreational opportunities.
“Being on the river gives you a completely different perspective than crossing over it, which thousands of people do every day,” Phelps says. “It’s a great way to get back to basics and appreciate the natural beauty we’re so fortunate to have in Davidson County.”