It’s something you should do at least once every ten years. It’s been a decade for me so let’s get paddling. Destination: Black River Preserve in Pender and Bladen counties. Oh, what a sweet river with a rich history. It’s a lazy canoe ride but don’t forget to look up and savor the trees. You’ll be looking at ancient history. The bald cypress trees that line this waterway are believed to be the oldest trees east of the Rocky Mountains. How did they withstand the assault of turn of the century loggers? Well, they thought the trees were hollow and worthless. Their oversight – our gain today! You can pick out these ancient trees by their mammoth buttresses and flat tops which have been carved by numerous storms. Other trees including black and tupelo gum along with ash, longleaf pines and turkey oaks form a lush canopy along the river. You will love these dark and peaceful waters below. Look up at the cypress and the Spanish moss and you will feel the tension spring from your body. The Black River runs for more than 60 and empties into the Cape Fear River 14 miles above Wilmington. The Black River is recognized as one of the cleanest in the state. Its rare fish species include the Santee chub and broadtail madtom. The river also provides habitat for neotropical songbirds, black bears and bobcats. There are two public boat landings on the river: one is five miles north of Beatty’s Bridge on Ivanhoe Road. The other is just west of the 11/53 bridge off Route 53. State wildlife officials say you can “access the river fairly easily from either side of Beatty’s Bridge. There is a sandy bank under the bridge that provides good canoe access.” And here is what they recommend for a daylong trip down this magical river:
Put in at the Wildlife Resources Commission public landing approximately five miles north of Beatty's Bridge on Ivanhoe Road and take out at Beatty’s Bridge. This stretch is about nine river miles and passes through some bottomland hardwood areas as well as cypress swamp. You can park a car on the side of the road at Beatty's Bridge.
If you are ambitious, you could put in early in the morning at Beatty's Bridge and canoe about 14 miles to another Wildlife Commission public boat landing that is about one and a half miles south of the 11/53 bridge just outside of Atkinson off Route 3. This stretch of the river contains Larkin's Cove and Three Sisters, sites where the oldest known stands of bald cypress have been found.
Another option is to park and put in at the second Wildlife Commission landing and canoe upstream toward Three Sisters. This is a nice area because it contains several coves with ancient cypress.