by Lizzy Nist
Being an intern for the LandTrust for Central NC, this summer has been one of firsts for me: first time discovering arrowhead cores, first time snorkeling for mussels, and first time kayaking. I have canoed a few times in recent years, but until this past week, I had never even sat in a kayak. My maiden kayak voyage took place on the Little River, just south of Troy.
Our three-hour journey took us from the Pekin Road Wildlife Resource Commission Access to the Capelsie Dam and back, which is about five miles round trip. It is a perfect paddle for a hot summer evening, especially for me, a kayaking novice. The water was flat, which helped me to paddle without losing control, and the water was shallow enough for me to not worry too much if I did turn over. The put in was also easy to access, and it has a parking lot and a fishing pier. What makes the Little River especially good for summer paddling is that the water level doesn’t get too low because of dams on the river, and overhanging trees keep the sun off the water in the evening. The stretch of river we paddled was also incredibly scenic; the entire time we passed overhanging trees, elderberry bushes, blooming crossvine, and an interesting lack of privet (an invasive plant). Apart from one house and the old forgotten Capelsie Mill, this stretch of river is undeveloped and naturally beautiful.
Our adventure was not only scenic, but it teemed with river wildlife. At the put-in dock, we saw a giant six-spotted fishing spider, which is perhaps one of the most interesting spiders in the region. Despite their large size, these spiders can float on top of the water, and either catch insects at the surface or dive under water for prey. When they dive, their body hairs trap air, which is then used as a ‘scuba tank’ that can keep the spider under water for up to 45 minutes. They typically hunt insects, but the spiders also prey on tadpoles and small fish, hence their name.
We also saw three great blue herons, several red breasted sunfish, crappies, and even a northern water snake skin. Interestingly, a few weeks before on the same stretch of river, one of the paddlers in our group found a timber rattlesnake floating on the water, which is unique because rattlesnakes are not typically found on water. Though we did not see any, the Little River is also known to have rare species of mussels because of the high freshwater quality. We also heard the songs of prothonotary warblers, white eyed vireos, and summer and scarlet tanagers.
Before Crystal Cockman, a few friends, and I launched our kayaks from the put in, one of the members of our group joked, knowing my minimal canoeing and nonexistent kayaking experience, that canoeing is for those who have never kayaked. Now that I can proudly say I have kayaked a few miles having not tipped over, I have to agree.