Swepsonville River Park to Saxapahaw Lake

Swepsonville River Park (Lower Access)

2472 Boywood Road, Swepsonville, NC 27253


Saxapahaw Lake Paddle Access

6096 Jordan Drive, Graham, NC 27253

Downstream from Swepsonville River Park:
Distance: 5.5 miles/3.0 hours
Difficulty: Beginner
Minimum USGS Gauge Level: 1.5 ft at Haw River

Rare is the time you can’t paddle this dammed 5.5-mile stretch between Swepsonville and Saxapahaw. From July of 2009 to July of 2012, the USGS gauge at Haw River never dropped below the minimum of 1.5 feet recommended for running this stretch. It’s as dependable as the rocks you won’t scrape bottom against.

It’s a great stretch for beginners as well. If you like, you can noodle around the two access points. From Swepsonville River Park it’s 0.7 miles downstream to the Puryear dam, or you can paddle upstream about 30 yards and head up Great Alamance Creek. From the Saxapahaw Lake Paddle Access you can paddle five miles upstream before hitting the Puryear dam. In both instances it’s an easy paddle upstream against a mellow, almost imperceptible current. Advantage: You needn’t set up a shuttle (always a hassle if you prefer not to take two cars).

It’s always more fun to paddle downstream, though, and part of the fun of this paddle is the Puryear portage. Until recently, this portage was a dicey scramble. Today, two slides and access via a small creek below the dam make for a satisfying portage.

If it’s a hot summer’s day, take note just after re-entering the Haw from the Puryear portage. See those large rocks just downstream, river right? The water feels noticeably cooler there (speculation is that it’s spring-fed), making it the ideal spot to pull over for a swim.

The take-out is river left in Saxapahaw, just before the dam.