top of page
Climb Crowders Mountain.jpg





How to Paddle the South Fork River on the 11 Mills Blueway

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

11 Mills Blueway Map of South Fork River

What is the 11 Mills Blueway

The 11 Mills Blueway is Gaston County’s premier blueway initiative, encompassing both the Catawba River and its South Fork. Along the way paddlers will find places to launch their boats, equipment rental as well as eateries and breweries to stop and relax.


A long paddle that will take you almost 9 miles down the South Fork River where you will witness both a beautifully protected shoreline and signs of Gaston's past in the textile industry with plenty of places to stop at parks, restaurants, and breweries along the way.

1 Spencer Mountain Boat Launch

STARTING POINT 261 Stanley Spencer Mtn. Rd., Spencer Mountain, NC 28056

Depending on water levels, the most challenging sections of whitewater between your launch at Spencer Mountain. Make your first stop 3.5 miles downriver at South Fork Blueway Boat Launch.

A pass is required to use the Spencer Mountain River Access

Call 704-342-3330 x 209

Allow 3 days for processing

2 South Fork Catawba River Boat Launch

5.5 Miles | 2 Hours

199 Willow Rd., McAdenville, NC 280563

Pull ashore on river at the South Fork Blueway Boat Launch. Grab a picnic table or bench and watch other paddlers float by. There’s a one-mile loop trail through the forest that you can hike before getting back on the river.

It’s another 2.5 miles to the R.Y. McAden Access on river right, just after you paddle under a soaring train trestle and busy highway bridge, the most visible signs of civilization you’ll come across during your trip. The launch is also the trailhead for the South Fork Trail that follows the South Fork for two miles to connect downtown McAdenville with the Town of Lowell. Along the trail, you’ll find remains of two textile mills that operated along the river in the mid-1800s.

Adam Springs Portage Trail

450 feet Portage around the McAdenville Dam

Returning to your boat, you’ll immediately paddle river left to take out at the Adam Springs Portage Trail just 450 feet downriver. It’s a short portage around the McAdenville Dam on a well-marked trail to continue past downtown McAdenville to South Fork Village.

3 South Fork Village Boat Launch

1.5 Miles | 30 Minutes 2000 Rivers Edge Dr., Belmont, NC 28012

Just over a mile from your last take-out, you’ll come to the South Fork Village launch on river left. Secure your boat at the launch and hike up the hill to Distr