I don’t want to tell about my little secret here in the hometown. If I tell, I might spoil the secret and crowds will come and things will not be the same.
But I don’t want to be selfish. So in the interest of public spirit and community goodwill, I’ll tell.
I like to begin my bicycle rides early in the morning at the Yadkin River access in Elkin. I use the bike lane to trek up to Elkin park and onto the Rail Trail.
By the end of the round trip I’ve covered three or so miles, and my leg muscles tell me I’ve gotten in my workout for the day.
So I reward myself with a few moments of rest and reflection on the handy metal bench that they installed next to the pier and overlooking the Yadkin River.
There in the quiet of the sunrise I study that old muddy river that’s focused on its run, and I thank its maker and maybe map out the rest of my day. I love watching the Yadkin flow in the gentle, early-morning quiet.
At this time of the year the river sends early mists up from its waters, and my eye is drawn to little whirlwinds of white plumes that twist and swirl from the water’s surface, spawned by the eddys in the water. The river speaks in gentle whispers of trickling water, chatting to me lively, perhaps in anticipation of its coming adventures en route to the sea at Georgetown, South Carolina.
We take our Yadkin for granted. It’s too rocky and most times too shallow to have played a big hand in our heritage. More often the river proved an annoying obstacle rather than a promising passage upstream. Elkin doesn’t even use it for water, using Big Elkin Creek instead.
My ancestors did not use the river route to arrive here, coming instead via the Great Wagon Road from Virginia or Pennsylvania.
But some others did trek upriver to reach here, most notably pioneer Daniel Boone.
A traveler named Abraham Wood is credited with naming the river. He wrote of an Indian village he called Yattken, which means peace.
During those times the river resisted progress, as efforts to build canals to make it more navigable fizzled out by 1825. Railroads soon made the need for river traffic obsolete.
“It is no longer important for transportation,” stated a “Tribune” special edition on the Yadkin in 1982. “It plays no crucial role as a resource for industry; its value for recreational use is limited.”
But the Yadkin, the river of peace, still made its presence known from time to time. It was not always peaceful.
Major floods in 1898, 1916 and 1940 devastated Elkin and other communities. A dam upstream of Wilkesboro in 1962 finally tamed the Yadkin.
So as I study the now docile river and listen quietly for its messages, I try to comfort it in our disregard.
“It is simply there,” “The Tribune” said in ‘82, “timeless as it flows ever onward to the sea.
“It is a common thread running through, dividing yet binding together local geography, linking past and present. In it there is promise for a future.”
The Yadkin’s promise still holds. We only need to renew the friendship from time to time.
I’m glad the Yadkin is here and is a friend.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.