ELKIN — Laughter occasionally rang above the sounds of birds and muted conversations as more than 150 individuals canoed and kayaked down the Yadkin River for the Family Flotilla hosted by Explore Elkin Saturday.
From seasoned pros to first-time adventurers on the river, participants praised the event, expressing their hope for another.
“The event was a great joint effort,” said Amanda Stanley, who is owner of one of the five kayak rental companies which participated. “Explore Elkin did a fantastic job, and Hometown River Company is eager to participate in the second annual Family Flotilla.”
Although a second flotilla is not yet planned, many people anticipate traveling the Yadkin River again. “It was my first kayak trip on the Yadkin and I can’t wait to go again,” said Cynthia Cothren. “It was glorious to have a different perspective on the water.”
“This is the first time I have paddled this part of the Yadkin and I am already planning to do it again,” agreed Brittany Russell, who has helped with several Explore Elkin events through her company Cavu Marketing which printed the event T-shirts. “The water was smooth and the river was wider than other parts that I have been on so I felt more relaxed.”
Elkin Mayor Sam Bishop was also extremely relaxed. He planned ahead by packing a picnic to tide him over on the nearly seven-mile journey down the Yadkin between the Bojangles’ biscuit at the launch point in Ronda and the hot-dog lunch provided by Speedy Chef at the dismemberment point in Elkin.
Bishop was spotted enjoying the shade by travelers at the front of the group as well as stragglers. Bishop seemed to time his adventure perfectly, reaching Crater Park just as Old Country Store began to play.
“That was the first time I had done that and I really had a good time,” said Bishop. “One thing that amazed me was the lack of trash along the river. The river is clean.”
It is also shallow with a few of the obstacles being shoals where riders can get hung up, however even those who are distracted and knocked over by a tree limb can feel safe in the gently flowing water.
“Everyone we came in contact with on the river was in a wonderful mood and enjoying themselves,” said Russell, who also had a good time on the river. “I absolutely loved it.”
Part of what made the event so pleasurable was the efforts of potential competitors working in tandem. Although the highly organized event gave participants direction to help coordinate boats with individuals partnering them with a specific outfitter, the camaraderie between companies was as obvious as the smiles.
While folks at one end of the park at the launch in Ronda were disembarking with the aid of Rocky Forest River Run, at the other first-time paddlers were taking instruction from Yadkin River Adventure. Meanwhile the folks at Roaring River were attempting to help one floater find means to repair a flapping shoe as Jonesville Kayak and Tube Rentals helped carry canoes and kayaks to the water.
Even one local outfitter who was unable to officially join the event welcomed the flotilla as it passed by. “I talked to [Tim Main from NC River Riders] who was giving away free water,” said Bishop. “I think [the flotilla] will really help all the kayak and canoe businesses. It was a wonderful event.”
Theresa Knops and George Crater said they were impressed with the outstanding customer service exhibited by all the outfitters as well as the overall coordination of the event.
“We truly enjoyed being a part of the flotilla,” said Stanley. “It was awesome to meet all of the kayakers today. It was also nice to speak with the other outfitters.”
“I thought it was awesome,” added Randy Mays. “[Everyone] loved just being on the river, the weather, the people.”
“We really had a lot of great people,” said Bishop. “I’m looking forward to doing it again.”
Beanie Taylor writes for The Elkin Tribune and can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.