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Black River Paddle/ Sunset Beach

A short and sweet day trip to SE NC involved a busy agenda of paddling the Black River cypress swamps, eating Calabash seafood, and visiting memory lane at Sunset Beach.


My wife and I spent the better part of the morning paddling up the Black River, covering a stretch from the NC 53/11 bridge upstream to the Three Sisters Swamp and back. Perfect weather, massive old-growth baldcypress swamps, hundreds of odonates (mainly Royal River Cruisers, Russet-tipped Clubtails, and Sparkling Jewelwings), and a nice collection of birds (incl. 4 Cattle Egrets passing overhead early in the morning) made for a memorable 8+ mile up-and-back trip.


After our paddle, we headed Southeast to the very corner of the state for some authentic Calabash seafood (in Calabash), about a quarter mile north of the state line. It’s hard to beat fried seafood while overlooking the Little River marsh. While eating, I remarked that this corner of the state was probably the best spot to find Wood Storks and possibly Roseate Spoonbills. Sure enough, the marshes featured a group of storks as I practiced my “naked-eye birding" over shrimp and flounder. The prophesy rang even truer when we stopped by Twin Lakes on the way to Sunset, where at least 65 storks and 5 spoonbills alternated between the golf course and the adjacent saltmarsh, offering some interesting photo ops. A group of Black-crowned Night Herons, some Blue-winged Teal, and a couple of American Alligator made this a great pit stop. Next, we took a quick tour of my old stomping ground—Sunset Beach. If only I had been a birder growing up when my family frequented this spectacular beach! At last, foregoing an overly ambitious plan to paddle Lake Waccamaw, we decided to return home, with a well-spent day under our belts.


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