We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Down the Wild Cape Fear

A River Journey through the Heart of North Carolina

Philip Gerard

Publication Year: 2013

In Down the Wild Cape Fear, novelist and nonfiction writer Philip Gerard invites readers onto the fabled waters of the Cape Fear River and guides them on the 200-mile voyage from the confluence of the Deep and Haw Rivers at Mermaid Point all the way to the Cape of Fear on Bald Head Island. Accompanying the author by canoe and powerboat are a cadre of people passionate about the river: among them a river guide, a photographer, a biologist, a river keeper, and a boat captain. Historical voices also lend their wisdom to our understanding of this river, which has been a main artery of commerce, culture, settlement, and war for the entire region since it was first discovered by Verrazzano in 1524.
Gerard explores the myriad environmental and political issues being played out along the waters of the Cape Fear. Issues include commerce and environmental stewardship, wilderness and development, suburban sprawl and the decline and renaissance of inner cities, and private rights versus the public good.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (71.4 KB)
p. 1-1

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (772.3 KB)
pp. i-vi


pdf iconDownload PDF (126.7 KB)
pp. vii-xii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (26.3 KB)
pp. 1-4

...I have lived beside the Cape Fear River for more than twenty years. I have run its length, 200-odd miles of foaming rapids, placid eddies, tannin-dark water hiding snakes and snapping turtles, in canoe, kayak, sailboat, runabout, fishing boat, and ship—and I’ve run parts if it many times. On a soft autumn evening, with the clear October...

Part 1. The Upper Reaches

read more

Chapter 1

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.1 MB)
pp. 7-23

...Nearly  miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, at the con- uence where the Deep and Haw Rivers come together in the North Carolina Piedmont—literally, the foot of the mountains— lies a small wedge of beach called Mermaid Point. For more than a hundred years now it’s been submerged by...

read more

Chapter 2

pdf iconDownload PDF (906.6 KB)
pp. 24-36

...We let the current take us. This becomes a theme of the trip. John Steinbeck, who roamed America in a camper truck called Rocinante searching for the soul of his own troubled nation to write Travels with Charley, put it nicely: “We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” So it is with our little expedition. Even when we pick...

read more

Chapter 3

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 37-44

...We also stop for a long time—an hour and a half perhaps—to play at Lanier Falls, just above Raven Rock. We pull in above the falls and run the chute over and over and surf the hydraulic in Ethan’s unloaded canoe. Lanier is formed by a ledge that crosses the whole channel, with white-water chutes on either...

Part 2. The Middle Reaches

read more

Chapter 4

pdf iconDownload PDF (947.9 KB)
pp. 47-67

...We get a later-than-planned start from Raven Rock—: or so. We’re slugabeds. The kayak campers are just getting roused out of their tents when we shove o from the muddy bank into a lovely morning. Proceeding downriver, we tend to stay in the shade of the trees on the east bank in the morning...

read more

Chapter 5

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 68-82

...I wake the way you awaken in nature, for no apparent reason, without the blast of an alarm or even the morning voices on the radio. Despite the storm and fatigue, or maybe because of both, my sleep was deep. My body feels sore in that wonderful...

Part 3. The Lower Reaches

read more

Chapter 6

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.5 MB)
pp. 85-107

...David Webster and I launch our johnboat at the Wildlife ramp at Old Route , just to make sure we will have a continuous trip and cover all of the river. I don’t know why this is so important to me, but there is a kind of implicit integrity in covering every yard of the downstream flow...

read more

Chapter 7

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.0 MB)
pp. 108-135

...About eighteen miles above Wilmington, on a tributary of the Black (and therefore of the Cape Fear), a replica wooden bridge across Widow Elizabeth Moore’s Creek commemorates an important battle of the American Revolution, fought at daybreak on February , . It was not a battle that ever...

read more

Chapter 8

pdf iconDownload PDF (663.9 KB)
pp. 136-146

...Near the southern end of the Wilmington waterfront, just below the shops and restaurants of Chandler’s Wharf, visible atop a long, sloping hill, David and I in our little Sea Whip pass a stately white riverfront mansion. The great house was built on the site of the first colonial...

read more

Chapter 9

pdf iconDownload PDF (861.2 KB)
pp. 147-158

...So David and I pass slowly along the riverfront of Wilmington, cruising through its history and toward its future in our feisty little Sea Whip. We are caught in its current, in more ways than one, and also in its past, the ooding tide shoving against the downriver ow, stalling it, till it turns at last...

Part 4. The Estuary

read more

Chapter 10

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 161-179

...I’ve taken the journey downriver in stages, and the later stages include layovers, chances to explore the landscape and history surrounding the river and to reect on what it’s all adding up to. For me, the river presents a kind of palimpsest: All the events of history are overlaid onto the present...

read more

Chapter 11

pdf iconDownload PDF (612.7 KB)
pp. 180-196

...I want to visit one of the plantations from the river, navigating the watery avenues that served as thoroughfares of trade back in their heyday. So on an overcast day in early July, with thunder rattling tfully to the north but no rain in the offing, we put out from Wilmington Marine Center just south...

read more

Chapter 12

pdf iconDownload PDF (756.1 KB)
pp. 197-212

...Now Kemp tells me that there’s a new twist to this old pollution source. “Poultry CAFOs are making a push into North Carolina because they’ve been basically regulated out of other states.” Up on the Chesapeake Bay, for example, regulators have...

read more

Chapter 13

pdf iconDownload PDF (946.8 KB)
pp. 213-222

...Now the rice canals, Island Creek, and the Titan controversy are all behind us, as Frank Chapman and I speed downriver from Snow’s Cut toward the sea, resuming the journey in his fast Carolina Ski. The day turns out not to be as rough as we anticipated—the wind stays steady from the west at thirteen...

read more

Chapter 14

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 223-240

...Frank slows the big powerboat as we approach Southport. Onshore, a line of stately homes faces the estuary. Just offshore, the UNCW R/V Sturgeon is anchored, three scientists busy sampling the water column. The estuary is a rich environment...

read more

Chapter 15

pdf iconDownload PDF (885.5 KB)
pp. 241-250

...The route to the actual Cape of Fear on Bald Head Island is circuitous and expensive. The cape, of course, is a shifty piece of real estate. In this part of the world, sand migrates south and west, as a rule, according to currents and tides, but storms tend to plough...

Part 5. Finishing at the Starting Point

read more

Chapter 16

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 253-268

...don’t know exactly why it has seemed so important to travel the whole river, start to finish. Maybe it has to do with wholeness, with completion. And so I have made it almost all the way—from Buckhorn Dam to the Cape of Fear—and all the...

Selected Sources

pdf iconDownload PDF (49.2 KB)
pp. 269-274

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (18.0 KB)
pp. 275-276

...No project of this scope can succeed without the generous help and cooperation of scores of people. Most prominent among them are my paddling and motorboating companion: Dr. W. David Webster, UNCW Department of Biology and Marine Biology; Ethan Williamson, river guide and paddling companion; Amy Williamson,...

E-ISBN-13: 9781469608136
E-ISBN-10: 1469608138
Print-ISBN-13: 9781469602073
Print-ISBN-10: 1469602075

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2013