By Claude Milot
It looks like spring is arriving early this year. Unusually high temperatures have already caused trees to flower, daffodils to bloom, and kayakers to begin planning new explorations of North Carolina’s many rivers and creeks.
The Albemarle Loop organization www.albemarleloop.com, originally established to invite boaters sailing the ICW to explore the cities and towns along the Albemarle Sound, has actively promoted events and activities in the area with Life on the Loop www.facebook.com/albemarleloop. This year Albemarle Loop has added a wealth of information on paddling and kayaking opportunities.
One of the favorite venues for kayakers is not a river or a creek, but a pond. The 700-acre Merchants Millpond is part of the 3,500-acre Merchants Millpond State Park located near Gatesville, North Carolina. Built in 1811 to service gristmills, sawmills and other local enterprises, the pond itself is one of the most popular places to explore by paddlers in canoes and kayaks.
Merchants Millpond is actually a swamp featuring towering bald cypress and beech trees, Spanish moss, and a wide variety of exotic wildlife, all of which create what has been described as an “enchanted forest.” Here is how one kayaker described the adventure:
“Paddling along the smooth, dark waters of the millpond enabled our group to see and hear wetland wildlife. More than 200 species of birds, ranging from egrets to turkeys and owls, have been recorded in the park. We saw prothonotaries, blue herons, and yellow-throated warblers. Many turtles sunned on logs and a few water snakes slithered by the kayaks. Venomous cottonmouths are in the area, but, fortunately, we didn’t see one. Nor did we see any of the alligators that are frequently spotted by paddlers. Though beavers are rarely encountered, dams, lodges, and teeth marks attest to their presence. Bats roost in clumps of Spanish moss and can be seen at dusk as they dip to the surface of the pond to drink.”
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