Cape Fear River in Lillington, NC

River Access Points

River Access Points

Cape Fear River Adventures river trips map

Always check the river's water level before your excursion. If you are unfamiliar with those measurements just give us a call, we will be happy to help.

About Access Points on Cape Fear River

The Cape Fear River offers exceptional water-related outdoor activities. There are plenty of flat water sections mixed in with some Class I, II and II+ rapids at regular water flow. The choice of particular river sections is limited to river access points. Typically, the land around the river is privately or state owned, which restricts the access to the water. We operate on 25 miles of the river that has 4 access points. It allows us to offer trips from 1 hour to 2 days. Folks with personal vessels and means to transport the equipment are welcome to accommodate themselves. Below are the access points available on the Cape Fear.

Upper Cape Fear River
Raleigh, Sanford, Lillington, and Erwin, NC area

Buckhorn Dam is the northernmost access point that we utilize, located near Corinth, NC. Buckhorn Dam and the property around it belongs to Duke Energy. The dam has not been operated in years, but it still covers the entire river. Those who approach the dam from upstream will have to port around it.
Do NOT paddle over the dam. It is a deadly hydraulic system that has claimed several lives over the years.

To access the dam you have to drive through the property that belongs to the power company, but the access is not restricted, although it is private. It is a dirt road and can be a little rough, but you shouldn't need four-wheel drive.

The next access point is in Lillington right before the NC HWY 421/401/210 bridge. It is about a 15 mile paddle from Buckhorn Dam to our office in Lillington. We offer this trip as a two day adventure called Epic overnight. Plenty of paddlers have done this section in just 1 day. In the first half a mile you go through Buckhorn Falls, a set of Class I and II rapids. They can be very rocky at lower levels, but navigable. It's followed by several miles of flat water, until entering Raven Rock State park, signified by Lanier Falls - the biggest rapid of this section. Fish Traps is another popular destination for swimmers and fishermen during summer months less than a mile downstream from Lanier Falls. The remaining 7 miles to Lillington are mainly flat water, with the exception of small Class II rapids about 2.5 miles before the take out and a small Class I rock garden half a mile after that.

* We typically recommend against leaving vehicles at Buckhorn Dam overnight due to prior incidents.

Coordinates: 35.540341, -78.983957

You can copy and paste these coordinates in google, or your gps

This is a private ramp that is owned and operated by Cape Fear River Adventures. Our office is located about 150 yards from this ramp. There is a $5 fee per person. Children under 12 are free. You can pay this fee at the gate (cash only) or at our office (cash or credit). If you using any of our other services (rental or shuttle) the ramp fee is waived.

During summer months the river current is very slow and allows for easy paddles up river and downstream. A lot of folks can put in at this access point and have flexibility of going upstream for as long as they choose to without being committed to the river. You can turn around at any time and take out at the same ramp where you put in. No commitment to the distance and no shuttle to worry about.

Another option is to paddle downstream. There is the Wildlife Rd. access point 2 miles downstream and Erwin is a 10 mile run. Lillington to Wildlife Rd. is an easy and laid back route with 1 Class I rapid and 1 Class I rock garden. We call this trip Easy Paddle and allow up to 2 hours to complete.

If you like longer and more challenging runs, then Lillington to Erwin is the trip to consider. It is a very scenic run with numerous Class I and II rapids. Paddle in remote areas of the river, where the sight of a Bold Eagle or Great Blue Heron is a frequent occurrence. We call this the 10 Mile Challenge.

This is a public river access point that is managed by the Wildlife Commission of North Carolina. It is a popular river spot for fishermen, or if you want to shave off a couple miles from the trip to Erwin, making it an 8 mile run. It offers easy access and plenty of parking. On sunny Saturdays it can get busy. Primitive limited fishing spots get filled up quick.

This is a public river access point located in Erwin, NC. It is a part of the Cape Fear River Trail Park. It offers a decent amount of parking on the upper section of the park, but very limited turn around space by the river. If you are towing a trailer, you might have to unhook the trailer to turn around or carry your boats from the river to the parking lot. In either case check it out before driving down the river access road. It gets busy on summer weekends and frequently there is a wait associated with loading boats.

This challenging access point is located next to the Old Bluff Church built in 1700s. Expect a steep walk through the woods down to the river dropping 110ft. There is no ramp, just a trail leading to the river that's available for public use. If you are accessing it from the river you should use gps. Alternatively, make a distinct marking on the river prior to your trip. Otherwise you are very likely to miss it, there are no signs or any other indicators that would help you find it!
The trail starts past the church building where a sign notes "The Old Spring".

Middle Cape Fear River
Fayetteville and Elizabethtown, NC area

Private ramp in downtown Fayetteville. $5 per boat ramp fee. There is a shop and a restaurant on top of the parking lot. The ramp is easily accessible and can be used for canoes, kayaks, and power boats.

Concrete ramp is available for access the river with canoes, kayaks, or motor boats. Plenty of parking. The lock and the area were torn up after the Hurricane Florance, but the access ramp should be accessible.

Concrete ramp is available for access the river with canoes, kayaks, or motor boats. Plenty of parking. The lock and the area were torn up after the Hurricane Florance, but the access ramp should be accessible.

The river access ramp is located just downstream from the Elwell Ferry Rd. on the South side of the rive. This is a Wildlife boating access area available for canoes, kayaks, and motor boats.

Lower Cape Fear River
Wilmington and Riegelwood, NC area

Lock and Dam #1 has nice fishing area that was improved several years ago for that purpose. Canoe, kayak and motor boat ramp is easily accessible with plenty of parking.

Please let us know if you have any suggestions or adjustments to the information above.

Paddling Eastern North Carolina by Paul Ferguson, 3rd edition.

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