The full moon reflects on the still backwater of Roanoke River’s Devil’s Gut – bats hunt insects, barred owls call. On a hot summer’s night, you’ll feel like you’re in the belly of the devil.
Both river camping platforms in Devil’s Gut give you quiet solitude, an ideal place to find wildlife and old growth trees. Kayaking or canoeing to either makes for an easy and scenic day paddle.
If you can bear the heat, go in the summer (late June – August). Otherwise visit during the other three seasons. I haven’t yet found a season I didn’t enjoy.
The Paddle Trail
1.89 to 2.83 miles one way | 1-3 hours
Who Should Paddle This Trail
This trail is for you if you are:
- paddle camping for the first time and don’t want to travel too far from your car;
- seeking wildlife (i.e. you’re a birder) and need a place to stretch your legs;
- looking a romantic kayak adventurous picnic (spring or fall);
- kayak fishing (the rock fish here are world famous) and need a spot to eat.
The Trail Details
As you drive down Astoria Road in Jamesville, NC, you might wonder if boat ramp signs were correct. The the road is bumpy but easily passable in any sedan. The parking lot is overly large, but during rockfish (aka, striped bass) season from March to April, the lot can fill with fisherman. The rockfish generally reach the Jamesville area, just downstream of this ramp, around the beginning of April.
From the boat ramp, you’ll kayak left (west, upstream) towards the Gut, which you can see about a quarter mile off. The Roanoke’s current usually is slow enough to make for easy paddling.
Once you reach the confluence of Devil’s Gut and the Roanoke, head left (or straight, depending on your angle). Keep a careful eye on your right (north) as you enter the Gut; you’ll see directional signs pointing the way thanks to the Roanoke River Partners.
The first stream on your right (north, at just a mile from your start), is Lower Deadwater. The signs here point towards the Barred Owl Roost and Beaver platforms. Hang a right (north) for Barred Owl and paddle till you reach signs pointing the way for the last 30 yards to the platform.
If you desire a longer paddle or wish to camp on a larger platform, you can skip going up Lower Deadwater.Though if you have the time, it is worth a visit.
From the confluence of Lower Deadwater and the Devil’s Gut, keep heading straight (west) for 1.22 miles to reach the Beaver platform. The next and only stream on your right (north) is Upper Deadwater, which leads to the double Beaver Tail and Beaver Lodge platforms. At the confluence of Upper Deadwater, you’ll also find directional signs.
Barred Owl Platform & Devil’s Gut in Google Street View
What You’ll See
During one winter paddle in December, I saw flock of eastern bluebirds, several sightings of great blue herons, vultures, a red tailed hawk, barred owl, nutria, weasel, three species of woodpecker, chickadee and belted king fishers. Warmer season paddles should provide as much, unless you go during the heat of a summer’s day.
This marsh is old and the seasons have weathered the trees into incredible shapes.
Once you enter the gut, you’ll see absolutely no human development, barring the occasional sign and the camping platforms.
The Local Knowledge To Make it Great
For a day paddle, you can go anytime of year, though avoiding the weeks around the first of April will ensure you avoid the heavy fishing traffic. During the summer, the bugs are only bad about an hour before and after sunset or sunrise. Keep in mind you are in a marsh and there is no breeze to drive the heat away.
While most of the birds are visible, you’ll need to keep an eye out for the well camouflaged barred owls. Paddle close to the north shore (on your right as you start the paddle) so you have a better chance of seeing them. Their calls are said to sound like “whoooo-coooks-for-yooouuu. whoooo-coooks-for-yooouuu-all.” Listen to this mp3 recording of their song.
If you’re paddling here for a day trip, you’ll want to use restrooms before arriving at the boat ramp. There are no facilities at the ramp, nor on the platforms.
Visit Roanoke River Partners website for information on the platforms and to make reservations.
Roanoke River Partners charge a per-person camping fee to offset maintenance charges. Visit their website (above) for details. The platforms are free to use for the day.
Where to Stay
There are no lodging options in Jamesville.
For tent or rv camping, Pettigrew State Park, about 40 miles east of Jamesville, offers a nice campground right off Lake Phelps and close to several other beautiful paddles.
For hotels, Williamston (west 10 miles) or Plymouth (east 11 miles) have multiple commercial options.
Big Mill B&B outside Williamston comes highly rated on Trip Advisor.