UMO Students Learn Many Lessons While Kayaking Down the Coharie River

UMO Students Learn Many Lessons While Kayaking Down the Coharie River

October 24, 2023

Contact: Rhonda Jessup, Director of Public Relations

MOUNT OLIVE – The fall air was crisp and the grass still moist from an early afternoon shower as seven students, two UMO faculty members, and three guides from the Great Coharie River Initiative cast off their kayaks from the banks of the Coharie River.  Their starting point was a short walk from the parking lot of the former Star Communications corporate office located on US-421.  The group, armed with a paddle, life vest, and a spirit of adventure, set out for a time of exploration, information, and relaxation on their two-hour journey through the woods and waterways of Sampson County.

The group was part of the Fisheries Science class at UMO.  During the trip, participants learned about native plants, wildlife, fish, and the river restoration project.  For some students, it was their first time in a kayak.  For others it was a time to rekindle a passion previously mastered, yet not recently enjoyed.  For all, it was an opportunity to work independently and collectively as they traversed through narrow passages, avoided fallen tree branches, and shimmed their way over sand bars created by the low river levels.

“I have kayaked many times back home in Parker, Colorado,” said senior Jacob Brown, an environmental and ecological science major.  “This was an excellent opportunity to have an out-of-the classroom learning experience where we gained knowledge of a variety of aquatic species and insight into the Coharie people and their love of the river. I really enjoyed relaxing with my friends and fellow classmates.”  Brown is expected to graduate in December.  He initially wants to pursue a career in conservation work and eventually become a game warden.

As both the novice and seasoned paddlers made their way down the river, they came upon a large opening just perfect for racing.  Lined up in groups of threes, the students and the advisors tested their skills of speed and stability as they competed to see who could be the fastest down the river.  Beyond the open stretch, the paddlers saw evidence of beaver activity and had a quick glimpse of a hog rooting wild in the woods.

“It was very interesting to hear about the history of the waterways and to learn how they have changed over the years as a result of hurricanes, beaver activity, and other factors,” said Kaitlyn Ward, a junior environmental and natural resources major. After graduating in 2025, Ward plans to obtain her Basic Law Enforcement Training and become a game warden.

Coharie Tribal Administrator Greg Jacobs said, “We enjoyed spending time and sharing information about our tribe and the Great Coharie River Initiative with faculty and students from UMO. We look forward to collaborating with UMO to positively impact the future sustainability of agriculture and natural resources within our community in other ways.”

Matthew Johnson, a senior environmental and natural resources major from Benson, NC, said, “I enjoyed learning about the Great Coharie River Initiative and seeing the hard work and passion that has gone into cleaning out the river.  I also enjoyed the peacefulness of being in nature. I learned that there is a need for river restoration as a job opportunity.  I will graduate in December and would enjoy a career outdoors where I could possibly help similar river and woodland restoration efforts.  So, this was a valuable experience for me.”

“Our students all seemed to really enjoy this experience,” said Jason Davis, Assistant Dean of the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences.  “We are blessed to live in an area with so many natural resources.  Often, the most valuable resource we overlook is our people and their relationship with the environment.  Today, leaders from the Coharie tribe shared with us where all of these aspects come together.  Through a cultural connection with the water, the natural environment, and mental health, students were able to experience the convergence of the human aspects of the environment.  Students were able to gain first hand experiences with local fish species, predators, and invasive species.”

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University was founded by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.

During the trip, participants learned about native plants, wildlife, fish, and the river restoration project.

Assistant Dean of the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences Dr. Jason Davis of Willow Springs, NC; Director of the Lois G. Agribusiness Center Edward Olive of Newton Grove, NC; Jacob Brown of Denver, Colorado; Sullivan “Sully” Barnes of Sneads Ferry, NC; Alden Cottle of Ahoskie, NC; Matt Johnson of Benson, NC; Kaitlyn Ward of Belvidere, NC; and Wyatt Raynor, Clinton, NC

For some of the UMO students, it was their first time in a kayak. For others it was a time to rekindle a passion previously mastered, yet not recently enjoyed.

Seven UMO students, two faculty members, and three guides from the Great Coharie River Initiative cast off their kayaks from the banks of the Coharie River for a two mile journey.