Haw River – Hike, Fish or Run the Rapids

Haw River-6Chatham County, North Carolina.

On our way to Pittsboro, on US-15/501, we crossed a bridge with an unassuming sign labeled Haw River. On the north side of the highway is a small turnoff that might well be unnoticed when motoring by. That turnoff leads to a small parking area and a pick-up/drop off area with a covered bench and a sign advertising the Haw River Canoe & Kayak Company. On this day, however, we were not there for a boat ride. We only stopped to check out the river and the fall colors.

Haw River-1

The Haw River runs through several North Carolina counties on its 110 mile trip to the Cape Fear River. The name is derived from the Eastern Sioux Native American name, Saxapahaw. Located entirely within the borders of North Carolina, the river is now a major attraction for canoeists and kayakers. Hiking trails meander along the river and the counties along the river count it as one of their major attractions.

Haw River-5 After parking our car, we meandered along a short trail to the water’s edge. Looking southerly, we could see the span of the US-15 bridge that we had just crossed. The trail wandered southerly, but our stay today would be short, a hike must wait for another day.

Haw River-4Just north of the highway 15 bridge is a small dam. The slowly flowing water presented an almost mirror-like reflection of the sky and the fall colors that were not quite yet fully developed. With the development of the textile industry, the Haw River suffered greatly from industrial pollution. The decline of the textile industry in the U.S. and the 1972 Clean Water Act as well as North Carolina water quality regulations were all instrumental in greatly reducing river pollution. Today, despite travelling through highly populated areas of Chapel Hill, Durham, burlington and other communities, the river is a natural habitat for much of the state’s wildlife.

Haw River-8

Our trip to North Carolina introduced us to both rural and metropolitan areas of North Carolina from the central to the eastern Outer Banks islands. We will have to wait for a future visit to the state to visit Asheville, the Pisgah National Forest and other areas on the western end of North Carolina. We were slightly early for viewing fall colors at their peak on this trip, but the tree-lined highways were everywhere we travelled. The small town feel and rural vibes made us feel at home. It’s no wonder Andy Griffith, who was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina found himself as star of a situation comedy based in fictional Mayberry, North Carolina. The gallery of images below feature fall colors throughout the state, but mostly around the Haw River. Click on one of the images below to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.



  1. Next time we’ll have to head out to Saxapahaw… With a brewery, butcher and a couple of destination restaurants, it’s a short trip that pays fairly large travel dividends. Great fall pics!

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