The Sennett Hole

Riverdave’s Journal
This essay appeared in the 2007 Eno River Calendar

There exists a commonly held conception that the Eno’s Sennett Hole at West Point Park is extraordinarily deep, or worse yet, might not even have a bottom!   After a recent Sennett Hole drowning, one city official was quoted as saying “I’m guessing that he probably got caught in that whirlpool that pulled him down.  There is a significant twisting of the water as the water is shallow and basically drops from six to eight feet to probably twenty-eight feet.”

Concerned about the reputation of one of the most beautiful natural spots in my home town of Durham, I went with a plumb line to check for myself the actual depth of this controversial hole.  In my inflatable waft I crisscrossed the hole and took dozens of soundings.  The deepest point I found was ten feet deep.  And as all careful observers of the Sennett Hole can confirm, there is no geological feature at this site that would cause a “whirlpool.” Only when the river is at flood stage could there possibly be any “twisting of the waters.”

A pernicious and bottomless water hole?  Definitely not!  A ten foot deep pool that calls for respect from its dippers?  Yes, most certainly.   One must be a good swimmer to navigate any ten foot depth of water.  But it is interesting how we often fail to take responsibility for our actions in nature.  And oh, how “bottomless” is our imagination and the force of legend when it comes to mysterious dark holes!

Wafting the West Point Mill Pond
Riverdave’s Journal
This essay appeared in the 2008 Eno River Calendar
The stretch of Eno River located above the mill dam at West Point Park is one of the loveliest areas of the entire forty mile river.  There is everything a Piedmont outdoor enthusiast could desire in this half mile, mill pond microcosm - year round deep water for both paddlers and boat fishermen;  inclining sycamore, birch and elm trees along the banks providing shade and respite for the urban weary; rocky bluffs covered with rhododendron and mt. laurel for overlook musers; a feeder tributary with an enclosed canopy that is deep enough to paddle; a large wooded river island to explore; the very best water hole in the Triangle for dippers, and a wide enough open expanse in the middle of the river to accommodate bird, cloud, moon and star gazers.

It is in this quiet millpond setting that we have chosen to lead our public wafting trips in inflatable kayaks since 1990, having introduced the river to forty thousand paddlers.  It is a well suited introduction to the Eno River, providing an opportunity to experience the three key elements of our river wafting experience - relaxation, nature observation and meditation.  Our youngest wafter was six weeks old and our most senior ninety-two.  We have wafted schools, scouts, birthday parties, businesses, family reunions, summer camps, churches, synagogues and clubs of various kinds - all of whom have come to love the Eno River as a vital artery in the life of our community.

“A slight zephyr wafted us almost imperceptibly into the middle of Fair Haven Pond, while we lay watching and listening ...”  Thoreau Journal entry - 1854

Photo #1 by Riverdave: the Sennett Hole at West Point on the Eno Park
Photo #2 by Riverdave: wafters paddle the millpond at West Point on the Eno Park