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The Haw River flows 110 miles from its headwaters in the north-central Piedmont region of North Carolina down to join the Cape Fear River in south Chatham County. There are almost one million people living in this fast-developing 1700 square mile watershed which includes Greensboro, Burlington, Chapel Hill, and part of Durham, as well as smaller towns and rural areas. It includes Jordan Lake, a 14,000 acre reservoir that provides drinking water for 300,000 residents, and recreation for 1 million visitors per year.  It is one of the fastest growing parts of the state.

Despite this growing population, a paddle trip down the Haw takes you through a river corridor with overhanging trees and many glimpses of wildlife.  The river provides critical habitat for numerous plants and animals including threatened and endangered species of fish, mollusks, and wildflowers.  It is one of only three remaining habitats left for the federally listed endangered fish, the Cape Fear Shiner.  Jordan Lake has become an important nesting site for bald eagles and is a favorite place for birdwatchers, paddlers and fisherfolk of all ages. The Haw River has some of the best white water in the Piedmont, and weekends bring canoe users, and kayakers to run the waters.  The quiet areas behind old 19th century cotton mill dams, and at Jordan Lake, are a favorite for flat-water paddlers.  Hiking trails at Jordan Lake and along the new state and town parks on the river give urban dwellers a place to enjoy nature close by.

The earlier history of the Haw River is a tale of pollution from the river powered textile factories,  poor framing practices that led to massive soil erosion and inadequate treatment of wastes from cities and towns growing up in this part of the Piedmont. The federal Clean Water Act of 1972 and subsequent NC water quality regulations made a huge impact in reducing pollution in the Haw River. The Haw River watershed is very much a part of the new South. The declining textile industry has been supplanted by a surge of new economic development. People have moved here from all over the country. Modern cities live side by side with an older rural way of life. And still the Haw flows on, through farms and forests, past abandoned cotton mills and new suburbs. Read more here