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Difficulty I-III
Length 7.9 Miles
Gauge CAPE FEAR RIVER AT LILLINGTON, NC
Flow Range 1.60 - 11.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 34 minutes ago 7.93 [FT] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 02/12/2007 8:03 am

River Description


Put-in:
Wildlife Access Road Boat Ramp downstream from NC-210 in Lillington.

Take-out:
NC-217 bridge near Erwin.
1. River Left under bridge (steep)
2. River Left past Campbell Falls Rapid (short portage)
3. River Right under bridge (overgrown/steep)


Description:

This is a popular section of the Cape Fear due to the many paddling opportunities, reliable flows, and proximity to the Triangle Area. This section begins with several miles of flatwater with some Class I-III rapids mixed in.

This section has had many drownings at high water.

Rapid Descriptions provided by Gil Williams and Michael Carter.

Rapid Descriptions

Shaw's Great Falls

Class - II Mile - 4.5

Canada's Fish Trap

Class - I Mile - 5.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Narrow Gap (Glassy Wave)

Class - I Mile - 5.4

Most of the water is confined to a thirty foot channel through a cleft of bedrock. This is a very popular spot for practicing numerous eddy moves and rolls. Some of us even like to take a swim through this one in the summer (safely). This rapid washes out at high flows, and low flows. 2'-3' seems to be when the Narrow Gap forms a surfable wave. That said, there is something to do at all levels on this rapid. At higher levels (4-6'), if you take the river right channel directly across from this feature, a nice hole forms. The hole is formed from water flowing down a rock slide. At about 4.5-5' the hole is stable enough to practice side surfs and 360 spins. It is sometimes refered to as the "Honey Hole".

Smilie's Falls

Class - II Mile - 6

Little River Confluence

Class - Mile - 6.25
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Confluence of the Little River and Cape Fear. The Little River is usually several degrees cooler than the Cape Fear in the summer. Large waves can form after significant rainfall. Great place to practice rolls and cool off!!!

Killing Falls

Class - III Mile - 6.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Campbell's Falls

Class - II+ Mile - 7.9
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Comments

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Bracken Gentry
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12 years ago

A buddy and i ran it last weekend while it was flooded. the level was around 8.5-9 feet and most of the rapids on the first half of the trip were washed out. its definately more fun at higher levels and new features pop out of no where. the waves that were at smilie's falls where outstanding about 3ft high and glassy. and a 6ft wide hole at Killing Falls made me swim. the last rapid campbells falls could not be run as we would have missed the takeout due to how fast the water was moving and how little the takeout beach becomes during a flood.

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Chase Patenaude
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13 years ago

Myself and a group of first time boaters ran the Lillington-Erwin section, approx 8 miles, the other day. At the red neck camp ground/trailer park (mentioned below) there is some kind of rubber coated ramp (river right) we nick named the redneck slip n slide. We found out its really a great ride in your boat! We spent about an hour at this spot pushing each other off and sliding about 40ft into smooth water. Occasional bumps and stalls over rocks did become a little annoying. We all had a great time though and I would recommend this river for anyone's first time paddle or a family outing. If you want to get right into the rapid section I would recommend putting in at the wilderness access area (noted in a below post) outside Lillington. I was in a 6'6" playboat and did A LOT of flatwater paddling before the whitewater stretches picked up.

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James Lumpkin
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12 years ago

You can cutoff about 2 miles of the Lillington-Erwin run by utilizing the Wilderness boat ramp south of lillington. From the river, head toward burgerking, at the third stoplight (Ross Road) take a left and a few miles down you will see the boatramp sign on the left. You will cutout about 2 miles of flatwater making the run about 7miles.

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Richard Kofler
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15 years ago

I did the section from the Buckhorn dam to Erwin a number of times, with either my big, old family canoe or my OC-1.

At a good water level, it usually takes 6 to 8 hours, depending on how much playing we do.

The Rock Garden, right after the Buckhorn dam put in, can be a little bit of a challenge at high water levels, especially if a canoe is loaded down with camping gear. At high water levels, it easily can become a class 3+ with large, standing waves.

Richard

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Donnie Lee Pardue
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17 years ago

This section is best done in two days, with the respite being a campout at the canoe access only Raven Rock State Park campground. It's marked by a buoy on river right.
Most paddlers seem to bypass the upper section and paddle from the Wildlife Access near Lillington and takeout at the Erwin bridge. This makes for about an 8 mile trip about half of which is white water. An alternate partial trip would be to run the Upper Little River from the second bridge above it's confluence with the Fear, then continue on down to Erwin as a regular Fear trip.
The Fear is good to save for when everything else is bone dry.

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Christopher Stevens
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1 year ago

Paddled this with a friend at 2.2 ft. Do your self a favor and avoid this stretch at that level if you are paddling a whitewater boat. The four mile flat water paddle is not worth the riffles below. In a sit on top though, this would be a nice relaxing paddle.

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Jim McNeill
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2 years ago

boated this section yesterday. water level was about 3.25.This is a great section for first time and beginner paddlers. nothing above class II despite what this page says. first 4 miles are flat water and a few class 1s. great to let a new paddler get comfortable before anything happens. many new houses have cropped up in the past few years and Red Neck Campground has more trailers have paddled it as low as 1.75 and as high as 6.5. between 2 and 4 feet is the best. below 2 and it is very boney. above 5 features start to wash out. above 6 and it is just fast moving water and some waves. the scary part of high water is the number of trees and junk in the water.

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10 years ago

Has any one tried this creek for the putin? Google Map: http://tinyurl.com/d5krmd I paddle Cape Fear this past Sunday (1/25/09) and noticed there was a good flow (both cfs and speed) underneath the Titan Roberts Bridge. The length of this creek to Cape Fear is about 2.5. The confluence of this creek with Cape Fear was wide and poured forth water. Using this as a put-in seems to give only 1.5mi of Cape Fear rapids.

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Matt Muir
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10 years ago

The "Take-out" info for # 1 "River Left under bridge (steep) is incorrect. The River Park was opened at this location in April, 2008. It is 16 acres with a take out area for canoes/kayaks. A vehicle (without trailer) can be driven to the waters' edge for easy pick up. The River Park also offers walking trails with overlooks, free parking, restrooms, and picnicking facilities with covered areas. For further information, please contact Harnett County Parks & Recreation or The Town of Erwin Recreation Department. Best regards, Dale Ryals

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7 years ago

Three of us made the run from Lillington to Erwin yesterday. The River is remarkably clean compared to previous years. The addition of the park & river access at Erwin is awesome. We used to dread the drag up the bank and through the poison ivy under the bridge. My compliments to the groups that are behind the new access. We need to see more of this down the river. The Cape Fear is a recreational resource that is being overlooked by too many people.

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10 years ago

As of May 2008, there’s a new Riverside Park on this section of the Cape Fear in Erwin (at the Hwy 217 bridge): canoe/kayak access, walking trails, overlooks, restrooms, a shelter and space for outdoor education. Two groups put in almost $1 million to tame the landscape there: non-profit Harnett (Co.) Forward Together and the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. It’s managed by the town of Erwin, NC, and Harnett Co. Parks/Rec. Getting up the steep riverbank there is almost heavenly now.

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James Lumpkin
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11 years ago

I went to the Harnett Airport to check on that road which runs close to the river just west of the lower rapid section. The road is blocked with a do not enter sign. I asked the airport personnel and they said it was privately owned, and the owner doesnt want anyone on his property.

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9 years ago

Rapids flood out at 6 feet. Ran it today, 2/21/2010, and it was a lot of paddling.

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7 years ago

Alakazaam-information found, porbelm solved, thanks!

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Shaun
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8 years ago

Why does the Rapids section of this page read like "A Guide to the History of Harnett County?" Couldnt we just get some beta?

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James Lumpkin
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13 years ago

You can cutoff about 2 miles of the Lillington-Erwin run by utilizing the Wilderness boat ramp south of lillington. From the river, head toward burgerking, at the last 4-way stoplight (one before the 210-401 split) take a left and a few miles down you will see the boatramp sign on the left. You will cutout about 2 miles of flatwater making the run about 7miles.

Gage Descriptions

Runnable year round (except during extremely dry periods), dam controlled from Jordan Lake Dam.

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Directions Description


We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

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Date Flow Result Factor  
2017-04-30 High Near Miss/Rescue High Water Read More

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Michael Carter