Down The Wild Cape Fear by Philip Gerard

Cape FearDown The Wild Cape Fear is an admiring look at the river that has historically defined geography and commerce in the eastern central part of North Carolina.  The book is part canoe/boat lark and part intensive study of the river’s characteristics, which have been modified over the past two centuries by dams, lock systems, channel dredging, and industry.

The author, a professor of creative writing at UNC Wilmington, wanted to travel the entire length of the Cape Fear from its beginning at the confluence of the Haw and the Deep Rivers.  Although he has to do his journey in stages, he manages it well, and not only becomes better acquainted with the Cape Fear River, but meets numerous souls who share his love of this distinctive waterway.

Along the way, Gerard learns a quick respect of the river and its unpredictable strength.  Although the Cape Fear is no rushing mountain stream, it has plenty of dangerous spots, and is no place to be during an onslaught of rain.

His book is also enlightening for the savage and tragic histories that tell the river’s story.  The past two hundred or so years of the Cape Fear’s course read like a microcosm of the South.  We visit again the horrors of slavery, segregation, and greed that still haunt the area, and the strong-arming of big business that today threaten the Cape Fear’s many ecosystems.

On a happier and more latter-day note, you’ll meet a number of individuals who are working to keep the river environmentally sound and viable for a long time to come, whether it is used for commerce or recreation.

The author on more than one occasion goes off on a tangent, but I really didn’t mind this – Gerard writes well and personably.  As with other books about river journeys (two that come to mind are Far Appalachia by Noah Adams and My Paddle to the Sea by John Lane) part of the trek is the meander.

(William Hicks, Information Services)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: