Shallow Ford Natural Area to Indian Valley

Shallow Ford Natural Area

1955 Gerringer Mill Road, Elon, NC 27244


Indian Valley Paddle Access

930 Indian Valley Drive, Burlington, NC 27217

Downstream from Shallow Ford Natural Area:
Distance: 4.2 miles/2.0 hours
Difficulty: Beginner
Minimum USGS Gauge Level: 2.0 ft at Haw River

A good stretch of river if you’ve noodled around on flat water and are interested in going to the next level. Over its 4.2-mile run you’ll encounter seven Class I rapids, none of which are likely to separate you and your boat.

Warm up with a mellow 0.8-mile paddle on a flat water stretch made intimate by high banks topped by mature hardwoods. The first Class I rapid is perhaps the easiest, with several possible passages. The next five Class I’s are best run river right or center, and their spacing allows ample opportunity to regroup and review your performance. Most of these rapids announce their presence with a mellow murmur, though it’s easy to be deceived by the murmur of cars passing on nearby two-lanes.

After running your seventh Class I at mile 3.0, you’ll have 0.7 miles of flat water before you hit your whitewater graduation. For a little more than 100 yards beginning at mile 3.7 you’ll encounter a run of Class I’s and riffles. Nothing tricky, just remember to enter this stretch river right; when you see the sizable snag mid-river, switch to river left. Again, nothing difficult but a good opportunity to test your newfound maneuvering skills.

At mile 3.8 you’ll see an orange sign posted river left advising: “Danger Dam Ahead.” It’s only a two-foot drop, but not something an inexperienced paddler would want to take a boat over. The best option is to maneuver through a narrow tunnel in the dam support on river left. The only danger through the tunnel is the rock wall of the mill race that comes upon you quickly after you pass through the tunnel. Alternatively, portage is available just above the dam river right. You can put in just 10 yards below the dam, but you’ll need to quickly paddle to the main channel mid-river. Or, put-in in a pool 50 yards downstream for a more mellow entry into the river.

Take out at mile 4.2 at the Indian Valley Access, river left.