Exploring the Yadkin River
Today, a portion of the Yadkin River will be full of paddlers. They’re part of the Paddle-a-thon fundraiser for Yadkin Riverkeeper. Everyone will launch from Tanglewood Park to Huntsville. The event begins at 9 a.m.Dean Naujoks is the Yadkin Riverkeeper and his says what makes this area special is how it brings people together. "A doctor I met on this water specializes in holistic medicine is helping to cure my brother who has had a disease for 12 years," says Naujoks. "So if I hadn't been paddling on the Yadkin River I would not have met Neal and my brother would still be sick." His entire life has been centered around water. Naujoks grew up along the Upper Delaware (National Scenic) River. His grandfather and father taught him how to hunt, fish, hike and canoe. He moved to North Carolina in 1987 and created his own degree in Environmental Policy and Sustainable Development at North Carolina State University. After graduation, he worked for the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, was the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper for seven years and since 2008, Naujoks has been a vocal advocate for the Yadkin River and the area surrounding it.
The Yadkin is fed by waters from the Blue Ridge Mountains and runs more than 200 miles through the western part of our state…making it one of the longest rivers in North Carolina. It’s also a main drinking water source for the Piedmont and other communities. But according to Naujoks, its increasingly under attack. "Most people don’t realize a lot of the bottles and cans in this river are from storm water drains and discharge pipes that are running off roads," explains Naujoks. "So when people dump trash on the highways or on the streets, it runs down a culvert and ultimately winds up in the Yadkin." Naujoks also says other threats to this waterway include; waste water from plants, chemicals from fertilizers, and animal waste from large farms.
This is a big concern of James Edwards. He’s a chef and part owner of the restaurant, Off the Square, in Albemarle. “I’m really passionate about fish and we can’t eat the fish downstream," says Edwards. "So I'm trying to get social awareness of how bad our rivers are.” This motivates Edwards and many others to volunteer and participate during Tour de Yadkin, a 20-day event that combines day paddles on the river and overnight camping. This annual event draws hundreds to the area. “What constantly amazes me about this part of North Carolina is how much there is to do outdoors," says Joy Cagle. "I’m a single woman living in Elkin and I can just jump in and be a part of a mini family for a day.”Justin Quinlivan agrees. “I think the worse thing in the world is people near Winston-Salem drive over it (Yadkin River) and think the river is just muddy or dirty but we’ve found a lot of fun stuff on it." As a teenager, Justin Quinlivan spent hours on the Yadkin River canoeing and fishing with friends. Now he’s helping with Tour de Yadkin and says the river just surprised him with a special gift. "Shiner slept with us all night and we did feed him. So when we left we thought he was going to go back to the campsite," explains Quinlivan. "But this dog swam and ran through the woods and across train tracks trying to find us. By the time he caught up, he'd gone five or six miles." Shiner is a beautiful cream and black German Shepard puppy that quickly adapted to riding in Quinlivan’s canoe. Quinlivan believes someone dumped the dog at the camp site so he's adopting him.This is the fourth year for the Tour de Yadkin and Naujoks hopes it'll make people appreciate the Yadkin River as a valuable resource. The Tour de Yadkin continues through June 29.