Chowan River: The Quest to Find a House for our Boat

In a cloud of temporary insanity, we decided to purchase a small boat that we found a great deal on Craigslist. Of course, we didn’t think of logistics to owning a boat: where it will live, where are we going to use it, how do we maintain it, etc, but we geekishly bought it anyway. We quickly found out since we live in the DC area, storing a boat (even a small one) is an expensive endeavor. Also, the closest water body to use the boat is the Potomac River (or rivers off the Potomac), and the waters tend to be rough. After looking at all of our options, we chose to look for some affordable property in neighboring states. Basically (as our friends were teasing us), we were looking for a house for our boat.

We stumbled upon the Chowan River area in North Carolina, and found a small house right on a little neighborhood with canals that was actually less expensive (monthly mortgage and basic utilities) than boat storage fees in the DC area. It was an incredible find, and we fell in love with our little house and the river it sat on.

Back deck of house on a canal off of the Chowan River
The back deck of our funny little house

The Chowan River Story

Sunset over the Chowan River
Beautiful Sunset on the Chowan River

For people that live outside of Northeastern North Carolina, this river is not mentioned much even though it is a major contributor to the Ablemarle Sound (sound on one side of the Outer Banks), about two non-traffic hours from the Outer Banks beaches, and has a unique and illustrious history during the American Revolution and Civil Wars.

Early Settlers

The Chowan River area was settled and used by Native Americans called the Weapemeoc, which was a group of different smaller tribes (including the Chowanoac) that lived off the area’s resources and used the Chowan River for fish and transportation.

When English settlers came and claimed the area in the 1600s, they named it Chowan, which was derived from the Chowanoac tribe. The main city was Edenton, which was incorporated in 1722 and named after Sam Eden. Edenton was the seat of the local government of the area and still remains the county seat of Chowan County.

The town of Winton had some famous settlers from Jamestown and Roanoke Island visit the area in the 1500-1600s. It was incorporated as a town in 1768, and the area was favored due to the wide width and depth of the Chowan River. It was made the seat of Hertford County government and still remains the county seat today.

Edenton Tea Party

This area was pretty quiet until 1774 when the revolution acts of protest started in the colonies. Following the Boston Tea Party (in 1773), the women of Edenton staged their own similar protest as knows as the Edenton Tea Party. The most interesting part of this is that it was organized by women, which was unusual for these types of protest. Even though not a lot is known about the Edenton Tea Party, and there was likely no tea or actual party involved, it is thought to have been an agreement signed by a number of women to boycott tea and then the agreement was sent to England.

…was one of the earliest organized women’s political actions in United States history… Together they formed an alliance wholeheartedly supporting the American cause against “taxation without representation.”

Richard Carney

The tea party was mocked in England with a cartoon and satirical article because of the fact it was led by women, but it was lauded by the colonists. Edenton commemorates this event with mounting a teapot on a Revolutionary era cannon in front of the courthouse. Who knew that the ladies from this little town would have such an impact all the way in England?

Burning of Winton

In 1862 during the Civil War, the Union soldiers were using the Chowan River to advance up into Northeastern Carolina. The towns along the river, including the town of Winton, were Confederate supporters. When the Confederate soldiers heard of the Union boats approaching, they hid in the woods around the town. They then sent a slave girl to tell the Union soldiers that the town was safe and no Confederate soldiers were there anymore (yet another way women had a huge impact in the area). Before the Union soldiers could fall into the trap, they saw glints of sun off of the hidden Confederates’ weapons, and in response burned the town of Winton to the ground. It was the first instance of burning a town as part of the war.

Chowan River

In the present day, the cities on the Chowan are located in mostly rural parts of North Carolina and is one of the few parts of the Southeastern Virginia/Northeastern North Carolina areas that you can find affordable waterfront housing.

Waterfront neighborhoods on the Chowan River showing houses and canals
Small neighborhoods on the waterfront

There are several canal style neighborhoods where you can pull your boat right up to your deck.

Tree-lined canals leading out to the Chowan River
Canals leading to the Chowan River

The Chowan River is a quiet and calm blackwater river that is formed from the merging of Virginia’s Blackwater and Nottoway Rivers and has several other small rivers that are tributaries. The river is a highlight for people who love to fish due to the large mouth bass and catfish that are in abundance.

Boat on the Chowan River at sunset with the wake behind and fishing poles in view.
Boating and Fishing on the Chowan River

What we love about this river is the calmness that is ideal for kayaking/paddle boarding and its beautiful natural setting. The water can at times be as smooth as glass, which makes for some beautiful sunsets, stability in small watercraft, and ideal for nature watching. For nature lovers and bird watchers, this river is amazing. When you are kayaking or paddle boarding, you aren’t just looking at riverfront house after house, but nature at its best.

River in the sun with kayak paddles in view
Kayaking on the Chowan River

Edenton, North Carolina

Edenton, a quaint waterfront town at the start of the Ablemarle Sound (where the Chowan, Roanoke and other rivers converge) still thrives today and still even has some buildings from the original settlement. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church built in 1736 is still standing in the city.

The current Roanoke River Lighthouse that sits on the waterfront park and is a welcoming beacon into the city from the water. It was originally located closer to Roanoke River and was used from 1866 to 1941 when it was deactivated. The US Coast Guard sold it for an unbelievable $10, but it also had to be moved. It was damaged during the move to the point that the buyer sold it to someone else for $10. It has been rebuilt and moved several times, and now sits at the edge of the waterfront park, but it still retains the design and charm as the original.

Roanoke River Lighthouse that looks like a little house on stilts.
Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton, NC

The waterfront Colonial Park has a boat slips that you can park your boat, a playground, and it just a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the scenery.

Shelf inside a shop in Edenton showing wooden signs and mugs that have been painted by a local artist
Shops in Edenton, NC selling local artists wares

The shops and restaurants in Edenton are definitely worth visiting. In this cafe for instance local artist display and sell their work. I was able to pick up a few items for our house that I treasure.

This area is full of rural charm and the waterfront activities are plentiful. It is definitely a beautiful part of North Carolina.

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