The Chowan River is part of the second largest estuarine system in the U.S. and is a freshwater tidal river. Rocky Hock campground has a boat ramp leading to a narrow slough (pronounced “slew” supposedly) that leads to the river. However the slough was not real inviting and Bob had some concern about snakes so, we decided to drive to a public boat launch on the river at Cannon’s Ferry; a few miles away. The river is huge here; almost 2 miles across and its “black” tannin colored water is very deep. The river was an important navigable river during the Civil War and there are photos of the herring haul that used to be common. The day was cloudy but warm and humid. Thankfully, the gnats that plagued us on land, did not follow us onto the water.
What an incredible place! I always say that each place we paddle is better or at least equal to the last and this did not disappoint. We paddled about a mile out to the middle of the river to Holladay Island, a tupelo-gum/cypress “swamp”. The Spanish moss was draped on the trees like a ghostly shroud and the cypress “knees” (roots) were sticking up at the base of the trees. The trees were quite tall with huge trunks at the waterline tapering upward. Amazingly, there were flowers blooming profusely at the base of the trees where there must have been decayed debris sufficient to support the vegetation. Otherwise, the name “island” seemed inappropriate as there was no solid land to be found; just winding lanes of black water weaving among the trees. We saw some aster-like pink flowers and some golden ones as well. There was just one white blooming hollyhock (I think) that was like a beacon among the sinister-seeming world of black water and moss. I also saw some pink obedient plant; again a surprise.
The most amazing thing was that for the entire two hour paddle, we did not see or hear any evidence of human habitation; no cars, more amazingly, no boats and no trash floating in the water. It was as if we were in another world. We paddled around Holladay Island, in and out of the narrow openings between the trees listening only to the sounds of the turtles dropping into the water from their sunning perches, many birdsongs and the light “plop” made by the leaves as they drifted and landed on the water. There was no solid land anywhere; just a watery labyrinth inhabited by turtles, birds, little lizards, presumably snakes (although we didn’t see any) and fish. (Query, if there is no solid land, then why is it an island?) We saw two hawks sitting in the trees above us, and a belted kingfisher. The island has camping platforms that can be reserved but frankly, it is not a place I would want to stay overnight. Still, it was a serene, primordial, secretive place. Loved