Middle Middle Cape Fear Page 2

Her mama's favorite fishing spot was called Blue Clay Hill, and she would go there with several of her friends. "Lucky was the child who got to go to the river with her mother. The night before you would ask to go and you would get to stay home from school. You would be so excited, but when six o'clock came around you really didn't want to go."

Mama would have her poles ready to go, along with a pickaxe used for "grubbing" and a burlap bag she called a "croaker sack," filled with extra hooks and lines—not to mention lunch, probably cheese, crackers and a soda.

"She had about five different poles. She had a perch pole and that was a little short one, and then a long one for catfish. These were cane poles, not rod and reel. My mother didn't know how to use a rod and reel."

While the school bus came and left without her, Keaton walked maybe two miles to the river with her mother. "There's always a slope and you got to get down that." The banks were rough and weedy and the women followed a rugged footpath.

Her mother carried the grubber hoe because it was heavy and she carried the poles because she didn't trust the kids. "We were in charge of the sack." The kids couldn't keep pace with the grown-ups and Mama was always turning and calling to them, "Come on. You got to keep up."

The women settled onto a flat surface near the water and the kids had to sit a little distance back where they could stay out of trouble. "Early in the morning we could hear the tugboats coming down the river. And the captains would see us and pull that horn. What a beautiful sound."

She said that river traffic no longer goes down the Cape Fear. "All that is over. My sister and I came of age in the '60s so we were on the tail end of that. And they would open the dam for the boats to come through. It was a real experience, a lasting impression."

Her mother had 12 children and this was her idea of a day off from farm work and house work. "This was my mother's pleasure and it taught us patience. It taught us to appreciate nature and to listen and to obey our parents. Today I really think we were so blessed to live along the Cape Fear River."

"Up there is where Wilmington gets its drinking water," said Kemp Burdick. "There's a pipe in the river and they bring it down here and they treat it and we drink it. They're starting to do some wells now in Porters Neck but the majority of Wilmington gets its drinking water straight out of the Cape Fear River, so that's a good reason to keep it nice and clean."

River resources

We still have a bit of an issue with names. A comprehensive listing of Cape Fear charter boats includes both river and ocean tours because the entire region is known as the Cape Fear, even the portions that we should be calling the Atlantic Ocean. The convention and visitors bureau web site also reflects boating, fishing, camping and bicycling options with little or no regard for whether it's by sea, lake or river.

Wrightsville Beach is technically not on the Cape Fear, but the fellow who runs the Wrightsville Beach Water Taxi calls himself the Cape Fear Naturalist, and he also does some eco-tours of the river by kayak. A serious shortage of boat ramps on the river keeps private boat traffic at a minimum.

Canoers and kayakers may be interested in the monthly excursions of the Cape Fear Paddlers Association or in joining an expedition launching from Carolina Beach with Kayak Carolina or Carolina Coastal Adventures. Much farther upstream, Cape Fear River Adventures is in Lillington.

Campers, start your engines. Carolina Beach State Park has 83 campsites with restrooms and electrical hookups, and it's right on Snow's Cut. Riverside camping also can be found at Jones Lake in Elizabethtown, Raven Rock in Lillington, and Lake Waccamaw.

More Information:

Terms: Cape Fear River: Middle Middle Cape Fear Page 2

Information on Cape Fear River: Middle Middle Cape Fear Page 2

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