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Welcome to our Blueways Guide, your ultimate resource for exploring and navigating the river trails and waterways in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. 

For Beginners & Seasoned Paddlers alike

Our region is home to stunning rivers, conveniently located right in your backyard. The Yadkin, Deep, Dan, Haw, Mayo, and other tributaries are showcased in this blueways guide. Whether you’re a first-timer, a seasoned paddler, or an experienced enthusiast, this guide is for you. Get ready for unforgettable trips as you venture into these diverse waterways. 

Our guide provides curated maps, safety info and expert tips to help you embark on unforgettable paddling journeys. This information is enough to get you where you need to go, but remember to always check with the official river organizations and USGS water gauges for the most up to date info on our dynamic rivers.

For Beginners & Seasoned Paddlers Alike

Our region is home to stunning rivers, conveniently located right in your backyard. The Yadkin, Deep, Dan, Haw, Mayo, and other tributaries are showcased in this blueways guide. Whether you’re a first-timer, a seasoned paddler, or an experienced enthusiast, this guide is for you. Get ready for unforgettable trips as you venture into these diverse waterways. Let the rivers lead the way to countless adventures.

Our guide provides curated maps and expert tips to help you embark on unforgettable paddling journeys. This information is enough to get you where you need to go, but remember to always check with the official river organizations and USGS water gauges for the most up to date info on our dynamic rivers.

Click on the interactive map to discover river accesses, dams, and river outfitters. 


You can never step into the same river twice.

Each paddle trip is unique. Because each segment has varying experiences, distances, and levels of difficulty, please plan your route accordingly and take all proper safety precautions before setting out.

Plan a trip based on your capabilities, and paddle with a buddy. If you are new to river boating, start with a guided trip with a local outfitter or join a local group that has experience on the river. Dan River Basin Association, Yadkin Riverkeeper, Piedmont Land Conservancy, and Haw Riverkeeper all plan outings for their members on our local rivers and you can join in on the fun!

If you are hitting the rivers in our area, you will want to call a local outfitter to reserve a shuttle spot, or plan your own! Plan roughly 2-3 miles per hour in normal conditions on a river. 

If you are paddling in advanced rapids, consider taking a swift water rescue course at the White Water Center or Landmark Learning or Cape Fear River Adventures.



  • Research the location: Identify a suitable paddling destination, considering factors like water conditions, difficulty level, and available amenities. Make note of distance, how long you expect the paddle to take, when to expect a dam/portage, and what you need to look for at the take out so that you do not paddle past it. Plan on paddling 2-3 miles an hour when canoeing and kayaking in “normal” conditions.
  • Invite a friend: Don’t paddle alone! 
  • Plan your shuttle:
    • Option 1) Reserve a spot with a local river shuttle.
    • Option 2) you can do it yourself if you have 2 cars strategically parked at the put in and take out.
  • Check weather conditions: Monitor the weather forecast to ensure safe paddling conditions during your trip. Stay off the water during threat of a thunderstorm or inclement wether.
    • Tip: Use the 100 degree rule. The air temperature + water temperature must = over 100 degrees. 
  • Check water gauges: Never paddle during flood conditions. Paddling time will vary trip to trip based on the flow of water in the river. 
  • Gear and equipment: Ensure you have all the necessary paddling gear, including PFD, paddles, waterproof bags, and appropriate clothing, fishing supplies and fishing license. See packing list here.
  • Physical preparation: Engage in some physical activity and exercises to build your strength and endurance for paddling.
  • Notify others: Let someone reliable know about your trip, including your planned route and estimated return time.
  • Emergency contact information: Save emergency contact numbers and nearby medical facilities in your phone or on a paper.
  • Double check your packing list before leaving the house


    • Morning preparation: Start early in the morning. It is always better to finish up earlier than later, especially so you do not end up paddling in the dark. 
    • Follow the plan: Stick to your planned route, but be flexible to adjust if conditions change.
    • Stay together: Paddle as a group and maintain visual contact with each other to ensure everyone’s safety.
    • Hydration and snacks: Stay hydrated throughout the trip and carry snacks to keep your energy levels up.
    • Respect nature: Observe wildlife from a distance and avoid disturbing natural habitats.
    • Regular breaks: Take short breaks to rest and enjoy the scenery, but be mindful of the time to complete the trip as planned.
    • Communication: Stay in touch with the group and maintain communication with each other using radios or mobile phones if necessary.
    • Portage around ALL dams.
    • Keep all of your trash with you and out of the water! 


  • Clean up: Dispose of any trash properly and leave the area as you found it, respecting the environment.
  • Update your contact: Inform your emergency contact person that you have safely completed the paddling trip.
  • Gear maintenance: Clean and store your paddling equipment properly to ensure it stays in good condition for future trips.
  • Plan the next adventure: Start thinking about your next paddling adventure, using the experience gained from this trip to make it even better.


Each river, and river segment has a “minimum flow level” it is very important to know if the river is paddle-able or, if you are about to go on the best walk you ever took with a kayak. It is not uncommon for river levels to be extremely low. On this site, each river will have a “Water Gauge” section with the minimum flow, whitewater minimum flow and maximum flow. The river flow needs to be appropriate for your level of experience. Be certain you know what you will be paddling. The USGS website is a great resource with up to date information on the entire nation. River flow is measured in CFS- Cubic Feet per Second. There is no magic number for every river, since each river has its own specific geography. Visit the river specific section of this blueways guide to see each rivers max. and min. 

If you are looking for more info- there is a really great blog here on how to read water gauges


Very Easy. Lake water. Still. No perceptible movement. Wind can be a challenge.

Easy. Smooth water; light riffles; clear passages, occasional sand banks and gentle curves. The most difficult problems might arise when paddling around bridges and other obvious obstructions.

Moderate. Medium-quick water; rapids with regular waves; clear and open passages between rocks and ledges.  Maneuvering required. Best handled by intermediates who can maneuver boats and read water.

Moderately difficult. Numerous high and irregular waves; rocks and eddies with passages clear but narrow and requiring experience to run. Visual in spection required if rapids are unknown. Open vessels without flotation bags will have difficulty. These rapids are best left to paddlers with expert skills.


Sun Protection 

  • Sunglasses 
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen


  •  Water (recommended 1 gallon per person per day)
  • Snacks 


  • First Aid Kit (preferably waterproof)
  • Bow and Stern line
  • Cell phone or VHF radio in a waterproof container
  • Whistle
  • Map


  • PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
  • Paddle
  • Headlamp
  • Watershoes (old tennis shoes are ok too!) 
  • Dry bag
  • Trash bag
  • Dress as if you will end up in the water (bathing suit, or quick dry clothes)
  • Potty Packs (Toilet paper, zip lock bags, hand sanitizer, and trowel) 


OPTION 1 – Shuttle Service 

  • Check out a local shuttle service on the river and pay a fee for them to transport you and your boat. All you have to do is keep an eye out for the take out signs.

OPTION 2 – DIY with 2 Vehicles (A & B)

  1. Meet: Both vehicles meet at the downstream take out location.
  2. Inspect: Walk to the take out location to make note of signage or significant landmarks that will signal your take out on river right or left.
  3. Separate Gear: Leave all post-paddle supplies in vehicle B: snacks, change of clothes, towels 
  4. Keys Option A: Leave vehicle B keys with vehicle B. Duct tape it to the inside of the car, hide the keys under a rock, bury them in a ziplock bag, or whatever works for you. This prevents the keys from getting lost on the river, or left in vehicle A.
  5. Keys Option B: Secure keys in a waterproof bag or ziplock. Attach it to your PFD.
  6. Pack Vehicle A: Pack up ALL paddling supplies into vehicle A.
  7. Head Upstream: Drive the people and gear to the put in upstream in vehicle A.
  8. Double Check: Set up all supplies, double check that you have all of your paddling supplies. Especially the keys to vehicle A.


Plan Ahead and Prepare:

  • Check the website for the area you are visiting to understand rules and regulations.
  • Check the weather reports.
  • Gear lists are a great way to make sure you bring everything necessary.

Dispose of Waste Properly:

  • Pack a trowel and learn how to dig a cat-hole
  • Use a Potty Pack system to pack out all human and even pet waste. Take all toilet paper with you, do not burry.
  • While finding a secluded “facili-tree” avoid stepping on plants and keep an eye out for poison ivy.

Leave What You Find:

  • Flowers, sticks, and artifacts are amazing to find. Leave them for others to explore.
  • Wash inside and outside your boat to prevent invasive species from being spread.
  • Do not stack rocks (Cairns) 

Respect Wildlife:

  • Keep your distance from wildlife.
  • Use binoculars or a camera for a close up view.
  • When bringing a pet, keep them on a leash to avoid negative interactions with wildlife.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors:

  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Speakers and loud music can be disruptive to wildlife and other visitors.
  • If you are looking for peace and solitude, consider visiting the area during off-peak times.


New activities = new lingo! Check out the terms below to stay in the loop.

cfs – a measure of the rate of water.flow in cubic feet per second. 1 cubic foot = 7.5 gallons.
PFD – personal Flotation Device (typically called a life jacket)
portage – to carry your boat and equipment to travel around obsticles in the water such as dams, and rapids. Also used a term for the route followed while carrying your paddling equipment.
put-in – to launch a boat / the place where a boat is launched
river left – the left side of the river while facing downstream.
river right – the right side of the river while facing downstream
shuttle – the process of getting paddlers and equipment to and from a river by positioning vehicles at the put in and take out.
strainer – anything that water can move through but a swimmer or paddler cannot. typically a tree, branches, or manmade objects like pipe and cable.
take out – to remove a boat from the water, usually at the end of a journey / the place where a boat is taken out of the water and put onto land.
whitewater – stretch of water with rapids.


Read about paddling

  • Paul Ferguson’s Paddling Eastern North Carolina is a phenomenal paddlers guide to rivers, creeks, swamps, whitewater, flat water, with trip descriptions, and maps.

Sign up for a Guided tour 

Sign up for a Class

  • Get Outdoors | Greensboro, NC
    • Adaptive Paddling Clinics – Instructive program for people with physical or communication disabilities who would like to learn paddling strokes, techniques and safety that can lead towards more inclusive paddling opportunities. You CAN paddle! Participants will be accompanied by experienced safety boaters and instructors.
    • Rolling ClinicsBecome a more skilled and knowledgeable paddler in this five session, kayak rolling focused clinic! Wet exits, proper form, stroke techniques and bracing are also covered.
    • Rescue / Recovery Classes- Learn and practice basic kayak and/or paddle board rescues from the comfort of an indoor pool.


GetOutdoors Pedal & Paddle | Any River

1515 W Gate City Blvd. Greensboro, NC 27403 336-294-3918 Rent or Purchase: Kayak / SUP

Haw River Canoe & Kayak Company

6079 Swepsonville-Saxapahaw Rd Graham, NC 27253 Rentals: Kayak / Canoe / SUP / Shuttle

Mayodan Outdoor Sports, Inc. | Mayo & Dan River

100 East Main Street Madison, NC 27027 336-548-6296 Rentals: Kayak / Tube

MadTown Tubing | Mayo & Dan River

102 N. Water St. Madison, NC 27027 336-548-2789 Rentals: Kayak / Tube

Dan River Company

1110 Flinchum Rd. Danbury, NC 27016 336-593-2628 Rentals: Kayak / Tube / Shuttle

Dan River Outfitters & Glamping

4890 NC Hwy 704 Madison, NC 27025 336-916-7070 Rentals: Tubing / Events / Camping

Endor Paddle | Deep River

3485 R Jordan Rd, Sanford, NC 27330 919-628-7827 Rentals: kayak / Tube / Shuttle

Rocky Forest River Run| Yadkin River

Shop at top of hill, Rocky Forest Trail, Elkin, NC 28621 336-469-8652 Rent or Purchase: Kayak / Tube / Shuttle

Hometown River Co. | Yadkin River

474 N. Bridge St. Jonesville, NC 28642 336-404-1616 Rentals: Kayak / Tube & ShuttlesI

Foothills Outdoor Adventures | Yadkin River

2618 NC-268, Wilkesboro, NC 28697 Rentals: Kayak / Tube / Shuttles & More

NC River Riders | Yadkin River

201 Big Bend Rd, Ronda, NC 28670 (336) 244-6220 Rentals & Services: Tube, Kayak, Canoe, Shuttle

River Daisy Outdoor Co. | Yadkin River

4021 NC-109, Troy, NC 27371 704-985-6002 Rentals: Kayak, Canoe





Disclaimer: This information is used entirely at the reader’s discretion and is made available on the expressed condition that no liability, expressed or implied, is accepted by the author or publisher or any of its associates, employees, branches, or subsidiaries for the accuracy, content, or use thereof. River channels are dynamic features and thus change frequently; the boater must be aware that hazards exist and be wary of them. Paddling poses significant potential hazards, including the risk of injury or death, and each person participating in this activity needs to understand the risks involved, obtain the necessary training, and take all the needed precautions. This guide provides general information on the topic of paddling, and by providing this information, we do not assume any liability for its use.