The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

January 23, 2014

Adventures and history on a trip down the Cape Fear River

Thursday, January 23, 2014 — What could you learn from a trip down the Cape Fear River?

Starting, say at a few miles below Jordan Lake where Haw River joins Deep River to form the Cape Fear, canoeing downstream and passing by Raven Rock State Park before reaching the bridge at Lillington, getting through three sets of dams and locks, all the way to Fayetteville.

Then, with the rapids behind you, switching to a powerboat to follow the river as it passes by Elizabethtown, on the way to Wilmington and into the ocean beyond Bald Head Island.

What would you learn on such a trip? Perhaps not much, certainly not much from people unless you made your way away from the water. This river can be a lonely place. Sometimes, the only contact with the outside world is passing under one of the few bridges that cross the river.

But if you travel with Philip Gerard on the Cape Fear, you will learn a lot about history, nature, environmental protection and degradation, public policy, human nature and man’s search to find a proper place in the world he did not create.

And with Gerard you can experience the drama, the challenges, the joys and the setbacks that are the seasonings of any journey through unfamiliar parts.

Gerard's new book, “Down the Wild Cape Fear: A River Journey through the Heart of North Carolina,” gives its readers an opportunity to take such a trip, a reading journey that no one who loves North Carolina should pass by.

A journey on the Cape Fear properly begins at Mermaid Point where the Haw and Deep rivers come together. Once the “subject of fanciful folklore,” it is now, Gerard writes, “an overgrown peninsula” that is ‘hidden under a tangle of underbrush and poison ivy” with a view of “the ugly concrete edifice” of a power plant “issuing a steady roaring hum.”

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