Rovers relish river route

Published 4:07 pm Thursday, May 13, 2010

Community Editor

It’s that time again.
The weather’s warming, and the N.C. Estuarium’s River Roving pontoon boat is being put to good use.
From now through the end of October, the boat will cruise the Pamlico-Tar River every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The boat departs from the N.C. Estuarium at 10:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and at 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays. Advance registration is required, as the boat’s seating capacity can fill up quickly. Riders should check in 15 minutes before departure. There is no admission fee, or other related costs, to ride. Children must be at least 6 years old to board the boat, and they must be accompanied by an adult if they are under 16.
Estuarium naturalist Linda Boyer said Riving Roving riders have been hard to come by so far this roving season, but she expects attendance to pick up as the weather warms. Several trips have been canceled because of a lack of riders, but Wednesday afternoon the boat was filled with riders. Two people interested in taking the tour had to be turned away because there was no room for them.
Judy and Don Wiesner were co-captains of Wednesday afternoon’s trip. As N.C. Estuarium volunteers, River Roving captains from the area rotate tour duties.
The trip, which usually follows the same route, starts from the N.C. Estuarium, runs east along the Pamlico River and past the railroad trestle before looping around the trestle. Then the boat travels westward along the Washington waterfront.
On the first leg of the trip, sightseers may spot an osprey nest on the top of the trestle.
According to Judy Wiesner, ospreys mate for life. If a mate dies, the surviving osprey finds another mate, eventually. They are migratory birds, flying south for the winter and returning to the East Coast in the spring. They return to the same nesting areas every year, she said.
As the boat was inching westward toward the Washington waterfront, the Wiesners gave a history lesson on Castle Island, which sits in the middle of the Pamlico River between the railroad trestle and the city’s waterfront.
According to Don Wiesner, Castle Island was formed after the Washington waterfront was dredged. A man bought the island and built a lumber warehouse on it that looked like a castle, according to Wiesner. Therefore, people started calling it “Castle Island.” Another version concerning the naming of the island is that a lime kiln built on the island had a tower that reminded folks of a castle tower.
From there, the trip takes sightseers under the U.S. Highway 17 Business bridge and into the Tar River. The trip continues westward up the river to Bear Creek, where sightseers may spot an abundance of birds, including waterfowl, and reptiles, including turtles and snakes.
The tour loops around Bear Creek and down the river toward the N.C. Estuarium.
Collen Buchholz, one of a dozen or so riders on Wednesday’s trip, said she thought the tour was “fantastic.”
“It was very well done,” she said.
The trip was a first for Buchholz, who is a native of Washington but now lives in Southern Pines with her husband. Buchholz said she missed the natural beauty of the Pamlico River.
“I love the area,” she said. “Southern Pines is not the same. It’s all man-made lakes.”
Buchholz was visiting family in the area, including her mother, Dottie Bunch. Buchholz said she was a “river rat” while growing up and used ride personal watercraft like a Jet Ski on the river.