CRYSTAL COCKMAN COLUMN: A peaceful paddle at Falls Reservoir

Published 2:07 pm Friday, September 1, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

On Aug. 30, I went for an awesome paddle at Falls Reservoir, also known as the Narrows. This was right before we got the very fringes of Hurricane Idalia to come through North Carolina. The forecast the night before was for rain starting at 9 a.m., but I’d planned to start early, to be ready to paddle at 7:30 a.m. By the morning the chance of rain was pushed to later in the day, to early afternoon, so I headed out from my house around 6:30 a.m.

Crystal Cockman writes a column for The SNAP through the Three Rivers Land Trust.

I’ve never seen the lake there so calm. It was unbelievable, the water was as smooth as glass.

On a normal day at Falls, there’s a choppiness to the water, but that day it was incredibly still.

And the wildlife I saw on this trip was amazing. Starting out from the boat ramp at the end of Falls Road near Badin, a friend and I had barely gotten in the water when a beaver swam out in front of us. He eventually went underwater and we didn’t get to see where he was headed. Then we came out of the cove where the boat ramp is and headed out on the lake.

We had the entire lake to ourselves except for one other motorboat that passed by shortly after we got started. His wake was the only disturbance on this otherwise serene lake that morning. We saw an egret early on from across the lake, and then another one closer up as we got near Moccasin Falls.

But before we got there, we saw a big bird in the sky. It was no hawk, and it chose to land in the top of a pine tree across the lake just close enough I could snap some pictures. It was a beautiful bald eagle. We ended up seeing three bald eagles that morning, but that was the only one I could manage to get pictures of, and it was majestic.

Usually Moccasin Falls is bone dry in summer time, but with the rains we have had recently it was flowing nicely. We snapped several pictures then headed on toward the dam. We saw a great blue heron and some cormorants perched on a rock. Then another egret near the dam, and I was able to get some more great pictures of all these birds.

We decided to turn around and paddle the western shore back to the boat ramp. There were two other small waterfalls on the western shore as we paddled back to the boat ramp, another indication of all the rain we’ve had recently. And how gorgeous and rocky the shoreline of this lake is.

In just the last couple of years, most of this land along the western shore was donated to the state and became a part of Morrow Mountain State Park. A lot of the eastern shore is Uwharrie National Forest. That’s one of the reasons why this lake is so special, it’s basically entirely protected from development. That means the views of the trees and natural areas from your boat will stay that way in perpetuity.

On the way back we saw a small falcon, probably a kestrel. I wasn’t quick enough for a picture of it, but it sure had some smaller songbirds stirred up with its presence. Then as we got back to the cove where the boat ramp is, there was another great blue heron on the shoreline and he posed nicely for me to get some pictures of him.

All in all, it was a phenomenal paddle. Cool, overcast and calm.

It’s always difficult for me to get up and get to a paddle location so early in the morning, but afterwards I am always glad I made the effort.

With the wildlife and the conditions, this trip was nothing short of magical, and we’re so fortunate to have such a special place right here in the central Piedmont.

Crystal Cockman is associate director of Three Rivers Land Trust in Salisbury, of which Stanly County is a member.