400 Mile Yadkin River Journey

-- Last Updated: Jun-26-15 10:13 PM EST --

I have this trip planned for spring of 2016 as a celebration of sorts for hitting 3 years post cancer diagnosis.

I have been on the yadkin for years but never anything this grand. I know I want to travel light, hammock camp and take only food that does not require cooking so gear will be minimal.

I have at most, a 2 week window to finish and had a few questions about kayak types one would suggest, and what would be a reasonable daily distance goal.

Even at 5mph flow+paddle speed, it would take 8 hour days getting 40 miles a day to get there in 10 days. Portage and stopping aside. This also doesnt account for lakes which there would be about 50 miles of. I could do longer days obviously to compensate if 5mph sustained average is unrealistic.

Just not sure on what type of kayak to buy. I have only ever owned "sit on" walmart specials.

Ps. The yadkin is mostly lazy and rarely narrow enough that fast turning would be required. There are depending on level of water, shoals here and there. For clarity, I plan to leave from Wilkesboro Nc and finish at Winyah Bay which is BEFORE the water gets what I would call "open".

A few thoughts.
I don’t know about the upper sections, but I have paddled some of the sections in Salisbury and some of the lakes, and unless you are in great shape I don’t think you will be averaging 5 MPH.

When you throw in the portages around dams, and wind in your face on the lakes, that is just about a race pace.

If you are going to attempt it, I would go with a long, 17 or 18’ kayak as light weight as you can afford.

Water line length translates to speed.

I would strongly suggest that you try one 40 mile day before attempting it. Your butt won’t be happy!

Good luck,

Jack L

you know better than I do
the sections you are paddling, but I’m pretty sure I scouted a falls section of the Yadkins on a hiking trip. AW has got 4 or 5 sections listed- while the “falls” section I scouted didn’t look all that impressive, it did look bony- which could problematic, especially running loaded at low flows. Not sure if this stuff is on your route but worth checking out the aw site to be sure.

more info

– Last Updated: Jun-27-15 8:04 PM EST –

Thanks for the advice on what kayaks to look at. I have up to 15 days to get done. If I made the days longer @ 9 hours I could be as slow as 3mph average and still get in under 15 days.

Of course I could throw in a few extended days to lower the overall speed required even more. I just dont really know what is a realistic expectation.

I can also go ahead and calculate out the first 40 miles or so since I live on the yadkin about 40 miles from where ill be starting so I can do that part as a warm up before the actual trip. I just want to be able to say I did the whole thing.

I have no idea
about your river, but I have some experience with longer days river camping.

First thought, get the boat. You need to have hands on the actual craft you are going to take long before you try to pack it. I feel safe in saying that the min you will get will be a 14.5’ touring with skeg or rudder. You will need the room and the help. At this point, you dont even know how many and what type of dry bags you need.

You need to get in the water and TRY your gear. Saying you are going to paddle 400, and doing it, are two different things. I think you need to go for a long weekend and see how much ground you cover, and what kind of shape you are in Sunday afternoon.

36 miles is a real full day even with 5mph flow, and a river described as lazy and slow is not running 5mph. If you are doing bumps at 5mph water flow and portaging, you are needing some skills. Just getting off the river for lunch or restroom break at that kind or water speed takes thought. If there are 50mi of lakes on that river, I will bet you wont average 2.5mph flow, and lakes kill all headway. You are a lot better man than I if you can pump 5mph for 10 miles after 3-4 days floating and camping, and you are planning on doing it 5x that with more time on the river. I have done 70 in 5 days on slow water and I went to Texas Roadhouse the night for I came off for meat and beer and slept most of the next day.

I would trash the idea of not cooking. To do 400, you will need fuel, and a lot of it. Water weighs a lot. Prepackaged food has water in it. You need to practice backpacking skills. I dont know if you can resupply, but you are not going to carry enough with you for the whole trip.

Quite honestly. I would say, get a decent touring boat you like, and take a few weekend trips before you commit in your mind to run 400 in 3 weeks. I think you will find that 20-24 miles is enough, and thats with no headwind, bad weather, sleep in days, stops for resupply, ect ect ect

Is this an enduance challenge trip?
If so - more power to you. Otherwise, that seem like an awful lot of miles in a very short time. Not my idea of fun.

Seems feasable
I would plan on your average moving speed being 3.5 miles per hour and 10 hours of paddling a day minimum. Portages will be extra time but 8 hours of rest a day will be important too.

No cooking makes things easier for me but you should try the diet for a couple weeks at home before you try it on a big trip.

Jack is right about the butt time. After being in a kayak for 10 hours for even two days, I want a day off. Day after day long days in a kayak take a phisical toughness that makes it no fun for me. But many have done 50 miles a day for more than a month.

I’d want to break it up into a lot of 50 mile weekends. Seem like a good way to spend the fall paddling season.