Yadkin Riverkeeper

by | Jan 18, 2023 | High Rock Lake

As a High Rock Lake resident, recreational enthusiast among the many other reasons, I care about High Rock Lake, I reached out to Edgar Miller, the Executive Director of Yadkin Riverkeeper (YRK). Edgar has been part of the nonprofit for more than four years and became its Riverkeeper in 2021.

The Riverkeeper’s mission to protect and enhance the Yadkin River is more relevant and important than ever. The Yadkin River is truly the lifeblood of our region, providing drinking water for more than one million North Carolinians and endless recreational opportunities throughout the watershed.

Yadkin Riverkeeper Inc. has been a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, supported by the generosity of individuals, foundations, corporations and organizations that care about clean water, since 2008.

I was introduced to YRK a few years ago through our collective efforts on the annual HRLCleansweep (scheduled for the third Saturday in September every year). Besides the annual High Rock Lake clean up, Miller and his team ensure collaboration among the respective counties for their annual Creek Weeks. The volunteer-led programs have removed more than 13,000 pounds of trash and debris from the watershed with more than 200 volunteers. There is still more to do, however the foundation is set, and awareness of our collaborative effort will certainly grow the program.

I asked Edgar how the Duke Energy Buck Steam Station cleanup is going, and I am pleased to report that the effort is ongoing and moving in the right direction.

2023 looks to be a transformational year for the Yadkin River and the Yadkin Riverkeeper. YRK’s 2023 focus has an historic opportunity to advocate for reductions in sediment and nutrient pollution negatively impacting the River and the Yadkin Pee Dee Lakes. Support is needed to ensure future generations will have abundant and clean sources of water for drinking and recreation. For more information on the development of the High Rock Lake Nutrient Management Strategy click here.

YRK’s 2023 priorities are:

  • Support the strongest possible nutrient management requirements for High Rock Lake to reduce sediment and nutrient pollution causing numerous water quality concerns, including an increase in harmful algal blooms.
  • Advocate for more stringent stormwater and hazardous waste permit requirements for Alcoa Badin Business Park to limit cyanide and fluoride contamination of Badin Lake, Little Mountain Creek, and groundwater resources.
  • Celebrate the NC Year of the Trail in 2023 by releasing new online and printed Yadkin River State Trail (YRST) maps and distributing more than $200,000 in Complete the Trail Funds for access area improvements.
  • Build public awareness about environmental justice issues in the watershed and support communities facing environmental injustices.
  • Oppose efforts to develop critical river and stream buffer areas and support land conservation initiatives throughout the watershed.

These issues will have the greatest impact on the long-term water quality and future of the River as a drinking water supply and recreational resource.

How YRK achieves these goals:

  1. Educates and informs the membership and general public about the importance of the River for the region’s economy and environment.
  2. Organizes River paddles and educational events throughout the year.
  3. Monitors and samples the River and Lakes for pollution and alerts officials and the public about threats to the River and Lakes.
  4. Advocates for policies to protect the River’s water quality and natural resources.
  5. Supports efforts to improve public access to the River and its tributaries and expand public parkland and conserved river buffers along the River.
  6. Promotes sustainable agriculture production in the basin, while working to better regulate large scale animal production facilities that threaten water quality.

Water Quality Priorities

North Carolina’s rapid population growth, particularly in the Triad region, is having a profound impact on the Yadkin River. This unprecedented growth impacts local drinking water supplies driving up treatment costs. YRK current water quality priorities include:

  1. Limiting nutrient and bacterial pollution from wastewater treatment plants and large-scale agricultural operations in the watershed to reduce harmful algae blooms in the River and Lakes.
  2. Minimizing stormwater and agricultural runoff.
  3. Promoting and supporting river-friendly, sustainable farms.
  4. Cleaning up coal ash and inactive hazardous waste sites along the River and Lakes.
  5. Making the River safe and enjoyable for all forms of recreation.

Yadkin Riverkeeper engages citizens in clean water issues through education, advocacy and action and hope you will sign up for their monthly e-news, which will keep you informed about issues impacting the River.

The Riverkeeper Protection Program is licensed by Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest growing environmental movement, with more than 300 Waterkeeper organizations and affiliates protecting rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways on six continents. North Carolina currently has 15 Riverkeepers in different watersheds. Through that program water quality is monitored using a variety of water testing methods and aerial surveys of the watershed.

YRK successfully advocates for more stringent water quality standards for High Rock and Badin Lakes and new permit requirements for concentrated animal feeding operations planning to install biogas digesters. Both will improve water quality and protect drinking water supplies and recreational uses of the River and lakes.

The 15 Riverkeepers that make up Waterkeepers Carolina collected 3,169 samples at 256 sites across the state this past sampling season. This summer had a pass rate of 82%. You can read the full report on Waterkeepers Carolina’s website to see how the Yadkin compared to other watersheds and learn more about why bacteria pollution matters. YRK sampled nine popular access and swimming areas on the River, Kerr Scott Reservoir and High Rock Lake for e. coli bacteria and published the results weekly from Memorial Day to Labor Day to provide recreational users with safety information.

The report also identifies steps individuals can take to reduce bacteria pollution in our streams and rivers. These actions are outlined in the ‘reducing pollution.’

YRK is working hard to extend our network of river advocates from the Yadkin’s headwaters along the Blue Ridge and Brushy Mountains to its lakes in the Uwharrie National Forest. “Whatever natural or man-made [items] is collected upriver will end up in High Rock Lake. Reducing pollution takes all of us working together, homeowners, N.C. Wildlife Commission, Cube Carolinas, fishing tour directors, Ducks Unlimited and more – all of these entities are watershed stakeholders,” shared Miller.

YADKIN RIVER STATE TRAIL – Kayaking for everyone

The N.C. General Assembly has designated 2023 as the “Year of the Trail.” To celebrate, YRK will be working to improve access areas and safety on the Yadkin River State Trail (YRST) blueway and releasing updated printed and online YRST maps. YRK will be organizing special paddles throughout the year to celebrate the YRST and the “Year of the Trail.”

Last year Yadkin Riverkeeper became the official nonprofit partner with N.C. State Parks for supporting the Yadkin River State Trail (YRST), which means more funding for YRK to make improvements to existing access areas and identify new areas.

As we make improvements to the YRST, we will continue to organize historical paddles for our members and explore some new areas of the watershed. We hope to see you on the YRST this year to celebrate 2023 being “The Year of the Trail.”

Approved accesses will be able to receive money for improvements through the NC Complete the Trail Program. YRK received $210,375 for work on the YRST.

The following public accesses on the YRST have been submitted for State Trail designation:

Tailwater, Smoot Park, and Roaring River in Wilkes County; Crater Park in Surry County; Yadkin Shores, Shoals Road, and Huntsville in Yadkin County; Old US 421 and Tanglewood Park in Forsyth County; and US Hwy 64, Boone’s Cave, and York Hill in Davidson County.

Stay tuned for more information about how YRK will be celebrating the YRST during 2023, the Year of the Trail. More information about statewide Year of the Trail programs can be found at greattrailsnc.com.

Happy paddling!

I believe in putting my money where my mouth or blog lives, and joined the YRK membership, it was easy, and membership offers several levels of support. Something for everyone’s budget. Please go to the link to donate and join me:


The annual YRK Membership meeting is scheduled for January 30th.

I would love to hear from you on what your favorite lake activity is, or someone that you would like me to feature in the coming months. Please email me at highrock@YourRowan.com

#itsaROCOthing #lakeliving #YourRowan #BeAnOriginal #HighRockLake


About The Author

Joyce Caron-Mercier

After three decades of working in the motorsports industry from track and team management to public relations, and overseeing sponsorship and driver contracts within NASCAR, NHRA, IndyCar and World of Outlaws competition, Joyce wanted more. She came to ACS Charlotte in February 2020 as the staff lead for the annual Taste of Hope Charlotte gala. Joyce’s role encompasses event production, sponsorship cultivation and implementation, public awareness, and interaction with the Charlotte gala Board of Ambassadors, and launched the Young Professionals CLT ABOA in 2022. Joyce and her husband Paul of 32 years discovered High Rock Lake, situated between Rowan and Davidson Counties, and quickly became full-time lake residents on North Carolina’s second largest lake with their two Great Danes, Max and Molly. Joyce writes a monthly blog for Your Rowan, a county marketing initiative to share the positive attributes of Rowan County with its residents and visitors. Joyce’s blog and social handles are called ‘Joyce on the Lake’. Being community minded is important and I serve as Secretary on the Board of Directors for the High Rock Lake Association, High Rock Lake Clean Sweep, and assist the Rowan Chamber with their annual Dragon Boat Festival.