Segments 11A-16A: The Neuse River Paddle Route
Falls Lake Dam to the Neusiok Trail
Distance: 216 miles
Trail Communities: Raleigh, Clayton, Smithfield, Goldsboro, Seven Springs, Kinston, New Bern
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By Sound Rivers
The Neuse River runs 227 miles from Falls Lake to Pamlico Sound. This guide provides directions for paddling 216 of those miles as a way to complete the MST from the Falls Lake dam in Wake Forest to Pine Cliff Recreation Area where MST travelers can pick up the Neusiok Trail to head east toward Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the eastern terminus of the trail.
For the first 150 miles, the Neuse River is fast moving and narrow. In western Craven County, it begins to open up to become a slow-moving, wind-influenced, brackish, mile-plus-wide estuary. At Pine Cliff Recreation Area, where the MST paddle route ends, the river is 2.5 miles wide. The river flows on another eleven miles to reach Pamlico Sound, where it spreads to five miles wide.
Although the river flows past Raleigh, one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, you will see few homes along the banks due to the adjoining floodplain. Throughout your paddle the shores are heavily forested. The banks range from water level to the 90-foot-high Cliffs of the Neuse. The few towns along the way are welcoming and interesting places to stop for a break, a meal, or to camp.
Around every bend you will find new wonders: cypress swamps; sand banks and bars for camping; birds of every description (heron, kingfisher, osprey, warblers); and deer and turkey watching you from the shore.
For an advanced look, take a virtual trip down the river using Google Earth or Mapquest Satellite.
- Abundant birds, wildlife, and native plants
- An experience of wilderness in the midst of an urban and agricultural part of North Carolina
- Graceful pedestrian bridges over the river built for Raleigh’s Neuse River Greenway
- Historic towns and villages on the river—including Smithfield, Seven Springs, Kinston, and New Bern—where you can stop for a meal, drink, and stroll
- Parks welcoming you to special spots along the river, including Howell Woods, Old Waynesborough, and Cliffs of the Neuse
- The majesty of the river when it widens to more than two miles as you reach Pine Cliff Recreation Area at the end of your journey