Distance: Approximately 4 Miles
Time: Approximately 1-3 Hours
Skill Level: Beginner
Boat Launch Address:
Start: Tuckaseegee Park, 165 Broome St, Mt Holly, NC 28120
End: Kevin Loftin Park, East, 1400 Catawba St, Belmont, NC 28012
Permit Required: No
Trip Idea: Plan a weekend of kayaking in Gaston County, exploring the Catawba and Southfork River Blueways. We recommend staying at the brand new Fairfield Inn and Suites in Mt Holly/Belmont and renting boats at Suns Up Scuba in Cramerton. You can also rent at Tailrace Marina just be sure to check their hours. You can see our guide to the Southfork River Blueway here.
Our Experience: If you’re looking for a relaxed adventure in Gaston County, paddling the Catawba River Blueway from Tuckasegee Park to Kevin Loftin Park is a perfect way to spend your morning or late afternoon. This stretch of the river can get pretty busy, especially on weekends, so be sure to factor that in - early morning or evening is the perfect time depending on which activities you want to add on to the experience.
We set out early, around 8 am, to minimize the summer heat and avoid the crowds and parked our shuttle car at Kevin Loftin Park in Belmont. It’s a public park and is free to use, so you’ll be fine to leave your car. From there, we made an obligatory stop at Catawba Coffee Company in downtown Mt Holly for a little energy boost before heading to Tuckaseegee Park, just a few miles away. When you arrive at Tuckaseegee Park, use the parking lot on the right and look for the river across the athletic field. This is a natural, hand-carry boat launch so there is no dock. Just follow the sidewalk towards the river and you’ll see a small beach where you can put your boats in.
***Quick note, due to Covid 19 the bathrooms in the park are closed so plan accordingly.
After putting on your Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), put the boats in the water and set off to the right towards Tailrace Marina. Be aware of boat traffic. After about the first 15-20 minutes you’ll see access to the US National Whitewater Center across the river on your left, and Tailrace Marina on your right with an island in the middle.
Here you’ll have a few options. You can pop over to the USNWC for an hour or two and explore all the fun activities they have. You can also stop at Tailrace Marina for a quick rest or a bite to eat at JR Cashs and you can also paddle around and explore Felts Island, which separates the two locations. You can also just keep going and head directly for Loftin Park. This area is a nice place to spend some time, it just depends on what type of day you’re looking for. We decided lunch on the deck of JR Cashs was the best fit for our day but you can easily spend an hour or two between the three destinations in this area.
From Tailrace Marina we made our way on to Kevin Loftin Park. This stretch will take about an hour so make sure you have plenty of water and if you’ve been out exploring the area around Tailrace Marina, it might be a good idea to reapply sunscreen. You’ll paddle under both i-85 and highway 74 bridges before arriving at the park, which will be around the bend after you go under highway 74.
***Cheat code...you should have full service here, so if you bring your phone you can pull it up on a map so you don’t miss it.
The brand new kayaking dock at Loftin Park makes it easy to get your boats out of the water. Head up the stairs and you’ll find yourself right back at your shuttle car. We finished the day with a cold smoothie from “I Love Juice Bar” before heading back to Tuckaseegee Park to pick up our other car.
Hope you guys enjoy!
The Go Gaston Team
***Disclaimer: This article is in no way intended to be advice, we are simply sharing our experience. We are not experts. If you choose to paddle it without a guide, please reach out to your local kayak shop or the Catawba Lands Conservancy to speak to someone about what to expect. Below you’ll find additional resources and suggestions to help with your planning.