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The Neuse: All In One mile
One Day On The River
July 2006

I am fortunate to have seen every inch of the Neuse River, from Falls Dam in Wake County to Neuse River Marker #1 where the Neuse joins the Pamlico Sound. It was sometimes overwhelming to see what was all in one river. This weekend, after smoke from the fireworks of the Fourth had drifted away with the trail of tall ships that were leaving Beaufort, I motored out for just a little boat ride on the river.

Just as I had been mesmerized by seeing what was all in one river, it seems I (and my camera) saw every vessel imaginable all in one mile of the Neuse.

Flat-bottom skiffs or sharpies of the late 19th century had sails. Outboard engines propel them today for both recreational and commercial fishing. The distinctive lines of these boats are designed to negotiate shallow waters.

Oriental calls itself the Sailing Capital of North Carolina. My granddaddy on Mama’s side, Ben Johnson, sailed out of Smith Creek to New Bern long before most of the parents of all the sailors there today had even been born. He told me that in the late 19th century, “We never rode a cart to New Bern to trade. That took too long. We sailed.”

Sailing today has another purpose…

Why should sails just be white? Those learning to sail at the camps help paint the surface of the river with color.

There are those who argue that two hulls are better than one.

The Mississippi may have more tug and barge traffic than the Neuse, but watching riverboats captures my imagination as much as it added drama to the lives of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.

They say driving your boat in front of a barge isn’t very smart, so leave that job to this photographer.

All within one mile of the river, a little jon boat with an electric trolling motor can easily glide past a tug pushing a barge in from the ocean.

Some fish in the Neuse are very slow swimmers. Guys in little jon boats with trolling motors chase the slow swimmers. For the faster fish of the Neuse, a few hundred horsepower are added to the chase.

While some chase fish, others trap crabs. It’s a good man who lets his wife drive the boat while he pulls the pots. I have seen it the other way around. A reminder – all these photos are from travel within one mile on the Neuse.

Some people are on the river simply to get from one side to the other. That is at least better than not being on the river at all.

Some people on the river come from far away. Is there any tributary of the Neuse stretching all the way to Nebraska?

Some people on the Neuse get just as close to the water as possible without actually being in the water. Again, all in one mile of the Neuse.

Where have all the shrimp boats gone … long time passing?

The more things change the more they stay the same. As a very young child, before I lived with Granddaddy in Arapahoe, I lived in a row house in an area some people would call ‘the other side of the tracks.’ Mama and the rest of us were so uplifted when we moved in with Granddaddy. We had a yard and the fresh air of the country. Now, look beyond the Baldree brothers (photo below) in their little boat at the row houses on the Neuse River near the mouth of Dawson’s Creek.

And finally, one does not have to be in a boat to be on the Neuse. The photo above reminds me of the quote, “He is richest whose treasures are cheapest.”

As well as directing PR for Pamlico Community College, Ben Casey is a photographer and photo essayist. You can learn more about Ben and his books at www.bencaseyphotos.com.