Lumber River State Park, North Carolina – 2 Miles – 7/14/12
Well, this was not so much a hike as a fact-finding, curiosity-satisfying, rambling side trip on the way home from vacation. My family spent a traditional week at Sunset Beach, NC, and on our return home I decided to check out Lumber River State Park, just a few miles detour. When I announced my intentions, everyone piled in my husband’s car and I was left (happily) on my own.
I have spent time in most of North Carolina’s western mountain state parks but have only visited a couple of the Piedmont and coastal parks, most notably Eno River near Durham and Jockey’s Ridge on the Outerbanks. So what is Lumber River?
In a nutshell, its name derives from its use as a transportation vehicle for timber harvesting in the late 1700’s. Small towns sprung up along its route. Lumber River is a black water river with deep channels that flows through wetlands and swamps. Decaying vegetation leaches into the water, giving it the appearance of brewed tea. Lumber River is the only North Carolina black water river to earn federal designation as a National Wild and Scenic River.
Rather than one central location, there are several access points that comprise Lumber River State Park with put-ins for paddling, fishing and some small camping spots. I was checking out the Princess Anne Access, one of the main areas that includes a ranger station (closed on the day I visited).
First I planned to drive around and get a feel for where things were, but I quickly saw that Princess Anne is a very small place and I could walk the parking and picnic areas from end to end in less than five minutes. There is a very large picnic shelter with charcoal grills and a large restroom.
It was about noon on Saturday, very hot and only going to get hotter. I walked upstream on Griffin’s Bluff Trail first (1-mile round trip). This is a simple stroll by the river’s edge and it was tempting to move quickly, but I slowed down to look at the details. The water moves so slowly it’s like looking at a lake or pond, reflecting trees and clouds and an occasional fish jumping.
Ethereal Spanish moss
Bald cypress tree
Row of bald cypress trees on the far river bank
Cypress tree with Spanish moss
Near the end of Griffin’s Bluff Trail a side creek flowed ever so gently toward the river. Here you can really see the tea color created by the tannins.
There is a large wooden observation platform jutting out on a gentle bend in the river, a good fishing spot according to locals Gary Jones and his son, Landon, although not much was biting today. Landon was very talkative, and shared with me every fish he had caught this summer.
I backtracked to the main parking area, walked past the boat landing and a few young fellows silently fishing. The stillness of the air made the heat more intense. I headed downstream on the .4-mile Naked Landing Trail (could not find any info on how this got named). This trail passed two campsites, one occupied by a large tent. I was interested to note that there were metal garbage cans with lids right beside the tent. No critter problems?
This trail also stayed right beside the water. I saw more interesting bald cypress trees and knees and wondered for the first time if alligators were common (answer: not common but not impossible). Soon the path narrowed considerably , but I continued to follow it until I got creeped out by the spiderwebs, realizing nobody came this way much, and turned back. More so than alligators, I expected to see snakes, but no luck today.
On my return walk I met a family, grandpa, dad and elementary age girl, who were occupying the tent site. I asked about the garbage cans, and Dad said the ranger assured him that black bears had never been sighted here, so no concerns about garbage (so I didn’t mention raccoons and mice).
Back at the picnic shelter, a group of a dozen or so folks were firing up the charcoal grill for a cookout. They invited me to stay and eat – locals again, good Southern manners. Reminded me very much of my dad’s family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, that would get together in different city parks in Richmond, VA for Father’s Day or just a Sunday afternoon to have a potluck picnic and visit.
All in all my exploration of Lumber River State Park took a little over an hour, well worth the stop to see how our state park system looks outside of the mountains and the population it serves. I’ll bet a leisurely float down the river would be wonderful – in cooler weather. I don’t think I’d ever be enticed into that black water.
I said a sincere prayer of thanksgiving for the air conditioning in my car.
A river is a river, always there, and yet the water flowing through it is never the same water and is never still. ~Aidan Chambers