"Get rid of your TV." Eno River naturalist Dave Owen, better known as "Riverdave," explains that you have to make yourself accessible to the night to see its ornaments.
Owen, along with his partner, Josie "Riojosie" McNeil Owen, has championed nature observation along the Eno for 18 years, offering day and night tours. Both tours begin in West Point on the Eno, near the reconstructed West Point Mill, which was the longest-running mill on the river with more than 160 years of continuous operation over its waterwheel. The day tours explore the river's natural beauty while the night tours are more of an intuitive experience that ends with meditation at the river's sapient elm.
Over the years, an estimated 30,000 people have enjoyed these "wafting" tours, a term borrowed from the great transcendentalist and naturalist Henry David Thoreau to describe the tranquil, meditative experience that Owen aspires to offer his patrons. The tours highlight the naturally slow movement of the section of the Eno and complement Owen's relaxed descriptions of the noises and sights surrounding guests as they travel in cozy, inflatable kayaks.
On a river that supports more than 200 species, including trees such as the sycamore, amphibians such as the banjo frog, and an exciting array of mammals, including beavers and river otters, tour-goers will sense a variety of life with their eyes and ears. The tour is particularly striking at night, when the flat, black water absorbs the trees and stars like a melting mirror.
Owen, a Durham native, says, "It's satisfying to be able to provide relaxation, meditation and nature observation for my community" and posits also that "your best inspiration will come from the rivers in your hometown."
A not-so-intense hike away from the wafting tours lies Sennett's Hole. This swimming hole is considered by many to be one of the best around, though city signs warn to "swim at your own risk" due the depth and sometimes strong currents. Legend says that Michael Synott, known later as Captain Sennett, kept a pot of Spanish gold in his mill, until the river swallowed his mill and his gold, leaving it to rest at the bottom of the hole to forever tease swimmers.
For more on Riverdave's wafting tours, visit www.wafter.org.