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  • Camille Renner

7 Places to Sit, Stroll and Play along the Gaston County Waterways

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The Catawba River flows for over 200 miles in North and South Carolina, starting in the Blue Ridge Mountains and making it's way through Gaston County and even down to Lake Wylie. From Mount Holly to Cramerton, there are plenty of spots to enjoy the riverfront. Whether you want to fish, play with the whole family, kayak or simply just relax in the sun, Gaston County parks have you covered.

This is your guide to parks, playgrounds, docks and greenways on the Gaston County waterfront. Grab your kids, pack a lunch and enjoy the rushing water and sunshine.

Catawba Riverfront Greenway

Evey McFadden, Gaston Outside

231 Broome St., Mount Holly

Last year, the city of Mount Holly expanded the small walking trail along the Catawba River into a full fledged greenway, running for a mile and a half, one way. Starting at Tuckaseegee Park, which is home to a playground and sports fields, the greenway continues north right into Downtown Mount Holly.

After your workout on the greenway, be sure to check out Mount Holly's local businesses for brunch, lunch, cocktails and shopping—both at trendy boutiques, such as Catalyst Mercantile, and antique stores, like Mount Hollywood, that call Mount Holly home.

Goat Island Park and Greenway

Evey McFadden, Gaston Outside

141 8th Ave., Cramerton

In the heart of Downtown Cramerton, right off Main Street, Goat Island Park stretches for 30 acres, surrounded by The South Fork Catawba River. At Goat Island Park, visitors can play on two rustic playgrounds, walk on the half-mile greenway, play disc-golf, have a picnic, fish and get on the water via the park's public kayak ramps.

Due to the parks proximity to Cramerton's downtown, park visitors are just minutes away from a coffee shop and bakery, Floyd & Blackies. The team at Floyd & Blackies have ingeniously added kayak rentals to their business, so you can take advantage of the river after you grab a delicious latte.

Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park

Camille Renner, Gaston Outside

E. 140o Catawba St., Belmont

Located right off the appropriately named Catawba Street just minutes from downtown Belmont, Kevin Loftin Riverfront park is a must-visit destination for couples, families and individuals. Short walking trails paired with bench swings are all you and your partner need for a relaxing (and free!) afternoon date. Or, for more adventurous visitors, there is a public kayak ramp if you're looking to get on the water.

On top of the romantic and picturesque views of the river, Kevin Loftin is also home to an exciting playground with multiple slides, swings and a tall tower looking over the river for your most adventurous kiddos. There are also three covered picnic areas, making this park the perfect spot for the next family birthday party.

Mountain Island Park

Evey McFadden, Gaston Outside

304 Mountain Island Rd., Mount Holly

Home to a 1.6 mile trail, Mountain Island park is a great spot to walk, run or bike. Located north of Downtown Mount Holly, the Mountain Island trail is a more secluded and quiet park, a perfect spot to experience some nature without having to travel far from home. The trail continues up the river until it feeds into Mountain Island Lake.

Rankin Lake Park

Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

1750 Rankin Lake Rd., Gastonia

The 80 acre Rankin Lake provides Gaston County residents with ample opportunities to be near and on the water. Surrounding the lake's perimeter is a mile and a half walking trail which connects to other trailheads and eventually feeds into the Highland Rail Trail greenway system. On top of the walking paths, the park has a playground and disc-golf course.

While there is already plenty to do at Rankin Lake Park, there is also on-site boat rentals offering pedal boats, kayaks and canoes for rent, costing as little as five dollars an hour.

Schiele Museum Trail

Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

1500 E. Garrison Blvd., Gastonia

The Schiele Museum's outdoor exhibits are the ideal place to get your kids outside and (safely) near the water. The museum's nature trail follows a running stream and is surrounded by typical North Carolinian foliage, such as pine and hardwood trees. There is also a wildlife garden specifically designed to include plants that are native to North Carolina.

Besides the nature trail, your kids (and you!) can learn more about our county's history-all while staying out in the fresh air. Honoring the native tribes that once lived in the region, there are reconstructions of the Catawba Tribe's building, including a bark covered house and log cabins. Your child's imagination will run free at the museum's outdoor exhibits.

South Fork River Park

Camille Renner, Gaston Outside

4185 Mountain View St., Gastonia

At the bottom of a peaceful one mile long hiking trail, visitors to South Fork Park will start to hear the rushing water of The South Fork Catawba River. Once through the tree coverage, this wide section of the river comes into sight, and it's a gorgeous sight. Here at the bottom of the hike, there is 800 feet of riverfront perfect for sunbathing and relaxing. There are also picnic tables and benches to relax at or have a picnic. Be sure to save your energy though, the hike back up to the parking lot is steeper than it feels coming down.

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