This weekend, area residents and visitors had the chance to enjoy nature during the annual Tour de Yadkin hosted by the Yadkin Riverkeeper. The Yadkin River sparkled brilliantly in the Saturday morning sunshine as folks gathered and prepared for a 5.7- mile trip down the river from Crater Park to the Mitchell River. The morning’s events kicked off with a hike along Big Elkin Creek to the new bridge built by the Elkin Valley Trails Association (EVTA).
“The goal was to get people on to the water and to enjoy our recreational areas including water and the EVTA trail,” said Susan Rose, a volunteer with the EVTA. “We’re just very excited that the Yadkin Riverkeeper keeps coming back to Elkin and bringing new people in to town, not only for recreation, but to enjoy the local restaurants, music and more.”
Rose said the success of the Elkin area Tour de Yadkin was due to the fantastic team work between the Yadkin Riverkeeper, the town of Elkin and support from area restaurants and wineries.
“Everybody has just worked together to pull this off,” she said.
Paddlers began the Elkin leg of the tour on Friday afternoon, paddling from Ronda to Crater Park. Some participants also camped overnight at the park.
John Ray, a native of Winston-Salem, and some friends took advantage of the camping opportunity.
“We set up a little hammock village in the grove,” he said. “We slept great. It was very peaceful.”
Ray said that the Tour de Yadkin was an overall great experience.
“This is my first time doing the whole thing,” he said. “I’m paddling from start to finish this year. I just like the experience, I like being outdoors and following a river from beginning to end.”
Dean Naujoks, executive director of the Yadkin Riverkeeper, said that the 22-day tour aims to promote tourism and recreation and conservation efforts to protect the area’s primary water source, the Yadkin River.
“We just really try to celebrate this river,” Naujoks said. “It’s the lifeblood of the region. It provides drinking water for 734,000 people so it really is the lifeblood of this region and I think we kind of take it for granted. We do a lot to protect it. This is just a great opportunity to celebrate and get people on the water and really promote recreation and tourism, also.”
Naujoks also praised the town of Elkin for the work that has been done in the last few years to improve the park near the river and encourage those who enjoy the river.
“Elkin is doing a great job of embracing their connection to the river,” he said.
At the end of Saturday morning’s paddle run, paddlers enjoyed a wine tasting at Carolina Heritage Vineyard and Winery and live bluegrass music by the Oak Creek Boys. Saturday evening, paddlers gathered at 222 Public House for the launch of a new beer in honor of the Yadkin Riverkeeper, produced by Winston-Salem’s Foothills Brewery.
Sunday wrapped up the Elkin area leg of the tour with a Father’s Day paddle from the Mitchell River to Yadkin Shores. Naujoks encouraged paddlers, and even newcomers, to visit www.yadkinriverkeeper.org and participate in the remaining tour events which ends on June 28.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.