West Point on the Eno Park is full of history and a hidden gem just six minutes from downtown Durham. Though the entrance is near shopping centers, once you enter the park a world of wonder awaits you. The park offers visitors more than 10 miles of hiking trails, a restored grits mill, photo museum, picnic areas, and a swimming hole (Sennett Hole).
If that’s not enough to get you to call in sick and head on over, then maybe knowing they also offer canoe and kayak rentals will.
I live within a five-minute drive to the park and invested in a kayak several years ago. I chose to use the word invest because it has really enhanced my life. It’s a great way to relax, get some exercise and enjoy nature. Once my kayak is on the water, each stroke of the paddle melts away the stresses and worries of the day. I’m able to focus in the moment and appreciate being one with nature.
Go experience it for yourself. In the mean time here is a photo journey of my recent Sunday afternoon on the Eno with my dog Jack.
Right past the mill, as you quickly approach the Eno River, the first sight you’ll see is the only active dam on the river. It has been in existence for more than 200 years. This is near the kayak/canoe boat launch where many visitors gather nearby to swim, rock hunt, fish or dip their toes in the water. At first it’s a little scary launching your boat by the dam, but it’s supposedly safe and people actually sit right on the dam, so you can’t be swept away! But I don’t recommend doing that.
Jack sits on the kayak looking for signs of bubbles because he has learned that is the sign of turtles coming up for air. Jack knows the importance of safety too — check out his life jacket. A popular spot for dogs is the Sennett Hole swimming area. Though dogs are required to be on leashes, some run free on the small rock island and play fetch. It’s a great place to socialize and exercise your dog. At home if I go near my kayak, Jack cries like a baby fearing I will leave him behind. It’s great to have a boating buddy.
This river has an abundance of turtles in all sizes. There are so many turtles that some locals call the swimming area Turtle Hole. The turtles love to sun themselves and let you get fairly close to them. While kayaking one day, my daughter actually caught a baby turtle the size of a silver dollar. She yelled for help because it attempted to bite her. She swears it had teeth and the turtle gets bigger each time the story is told. While turtles may be the most abundant animal on the river, there are lots of other animals to see like fish, deer, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, river otters, and of course, snakes and spiders.
A mile upstream from the dam and mill, the river opens up into a pool of water 15 feet deep. This is where you can take advantage of the rope swing, sun on the rocks or swim. During the weekend summer months this place attracts a unique mix of people from college students to young families to older couples. They all have fun and respect each other. Legend has it that a mill nearby was destroyed by a flood and the owner drowned trying to save a bag of gold. Perhaps one day someone will find that bag of gold.
This little guy fell from the tree and was floating on the water. While taking a closer look, the red alien-like eyes freaked me out. I quickly put it down and paddled away. A search online identified him as a Woolly Bear Caterpillar. According to Google, the wider the middle brown section is, the milder the coming winter will be. They are born in warm months and shed up to six times before being full size. They grow each time they shed and have fewer black bands on their body. Oh, and during the winter months, they don’t eat. Bummer.
In the mornings, you can see herons fishing in the water. Sometimes they fly right over your head and glide straight down the river. I’ve seen four herons together diving for fish. That’s quite a sight.
Throughout the Eno River the large rock exposed is called Carolina Terrane. It was once part of a volcanic island approximately 630 million years old. On each visit I see hints of visitors who have taken smaller rocks and built their own dams or creative structures. Sometimes they even build a rock path across the water.
Find out more about Eno River activities across the Triangle, and how you can help preserve this regional treasure.
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