Ness Creek


This is an interesting tidal creek in New Hanover County, west of the Wrightsboro area, which flows into the Northeast Cape Fear River. The creek also has a north branch worth checking out, but the main branch is longer. This creek has two distinct environments. The lower section is dominated by abandoned rice paddies that are now completely wild and is partially bordered by tall reeds. Stick to the main channel, as the area is criss-crossed by abandoned ditches and canals that are deep but very narrow.

There are literally miles of these ditches, and it is easy to become lost.

The Ness Creek area (along with the smaller Pony Creek to the south and lower SMITH CREEK)is known to harbor large ALLIGATORS, which like all alligators in the area are quite shy of humans and will quickly retreat into the water if approached. However, they don't like being surprised, and paddling in ditches about 5-10 feet wide when alligators can leap 5 feet from water's edge is asking for trouble, especially in the warmer months in the evening when they are on the prowl, and during nesting season which is roughly May through August. If you want to explore these ditches, do it when temperatures fall below 70 degrees, when alligators basically become inactive. Incidentally, these old networks of canals and ditches are also found in the lower reaches of SMITH CREEK. The upper reaches of the creek's main branch abruptly turn into marsh forest, with dense vegetation along its banks and some high bluffs. There are a few houses in this area, but they are away from the creek and difficult to see. Eventually, the creek becomes very narrow and impassable due to low tree branches. The shorter north branch stays grassy and reedy with very few trees.

DIRECTIONS: Park at SMITH CREEK, paddle west to the Northeast Cape Fear, then paddle north along the east bank. Ignore the many ditches and false creek mouths; the mouth of Ness Creek is the first opening past the power lines that cross the river.

Difficulty Easy to moderate depending on the winds over the river
Hazards See above text about gators, and be sure you know how to get back!
Time 3 - 5 hours round-trip, including exploring both branches of the creek
Serenity The river is quite pretty, but has some boat traffic and industrial facilities along the west bank. Ness Creek is completely wild except for a few houses along the main branch.
Map Map To Ness Creek Via Castle Hayne Road Launch