Only a short drive from Durham and Chapel Hill is a secluded wilderness of 3,900 acres; North Carolina’s Eno River State Park. The Eno River is a quick, shallow stream that begins in Orange County, flows through Durham County where it joins the Flat and Neuse Rivers and eventually flows into Falls Lake. Activities at Eno River State Park include camping, canoeing, hiking and fishing. Individuals, families and groups come from all over for the events and programs offered at this park. There are night classes like astronomy, water activities like fishing, water education which includes water testing, tree identification, programs like the Junior Ranger Program, teacher workshops, stewardship and more.
Festival for the Eno
Eno River is famous for its yearly July festival; Festival for the Eno, which has been an event in this area since 1980. Thousands upon thousands of people show up for the 3-day festival which is held in order to make money for the preservation of the Eno River State Park and its surroundings. There are 4 stages set up for the many performers who perform during this time. Last year, 2010, there were around 90 performers doing their thing; this included country bands, kid and family music, bluegrass, folk music, gospel singers, African American Dance Ensemble, Cloggers, pop groups, solo artists and instrumentals. There were 100 crafters selling their wares (basketry, clothing, leathers, glass, henna, jewelry, painting pottery, photography, wood, metal, musical instruments…) and many food and refreshment booths. Children can have their faces painted, kayaks and canoes can be rented, there are dance workshops, a reptile and amphibian exhibit, craft demonstrations and historical tours. It is one of North Carolina’s biggest festivals of the year.
Outside of the crazy July festival, Eno River State Park is a peaceful place to camp. The wind blowing through the pines, the water rushing by, squirrels scolding each other and the call of birds are generally all the sounds that you will hear. Night-time brings some more sounds like the song of the cicada and the call of the owl. All the sites at this state park require hiking in to them as well as carrying in all of your supplies. This includes water since there is no potable water source at any of the sites. All sites have tent pads (and your tent must fit on this, it cannot hang off), fire rings (which is the only place a fire is allowed to be lit), a lantern hook, a bench and pit toilet. Some of the group sites require a reservation. Reservations for camping can be made online. Walk-ins are also accepted but are on a first-come basis.
Hikers love Eno River State Park because of all the trails that are available. There are trails along the river bank and trails through the woodlands that are pretty easy for most levels of hiking. For a challenging hike, try Cox Mountain which is a scenic hike through a hardwood forest. For one of the prettiest trails, take Bobbitt Hole Trail which takes take you next to rushing water and stone-lined cliffs. Nearby is Occoneechee Mountain, a part of Eno River State Park, which offers even more hiking trails. A park trail map, along with the blazed and signed trails, make hiking safe and easy at this park.
Kayaking or Canoeing
Although the Eno River is shallow making kayaking and canoeing sometimes downright impossible, it becomes an exhilarating sport after a particularly rainy period when the waters rise. During rainy season, the waters of the Eno are classified as Class I, II and III rapids and can actually be dangerous at times. Because of this, it is strongly advised that floatation devices are worn at all times. The best rapids are located between Hillsborough’s 70 Bypass and Durham’s Roxboro Road.
The Eno River is one of the best streams for fishing within the Neuse Basin. It is a popular place for fly-fishing, casting lures and baiting with crickets and worms. Much of the Eno River can be waded and there are also lots of openings for bank fishing. Common game fish include bluegill, Roanoke bass, largemouth bass, chubs, bullheads and redbreast sunfish. Occoneechee Mountain also offers fishing.
Eno River State Park
6101 Cole Mill Road
Durham, NC 27705-9275