Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Graham and Kennedy Creeks

Back on the water today courtesy of N FL paddler and bos'n, Michael (http://www.solitaireboats.com/). We had big plans to launch from Carrabelle down on the gulf and circumnavigate Dog Island, a smallish barrier island about 3 miles offshore and 6 miles long, but weather wasn't fully cooperative. The fog was thick and the forecast shaky, so we opted for more protected water in the Apalachicola National Forest not too far away. After discussing the options, he suggested that we knock down two interesting paddles that were a short drive away.

First was Graham Creek, which can be accessed right under CR 65 in the forest. It's a small blackwater (quite literally, the darkest water I've ever seen) creek on the edge of Tate's Hell State Forest that snakes through fascinating cypress/tupelo swamp on its way to the East River and then the Apalachicola River further downstream. The banks aren't really visible (though water was pretty high); there's just a tree-line that forms the edge of the creek. Michael said that when the flowers on the tupelo trees are in bloom you can hear the bees from a half mile away. The only wildlife we saw was a gator. He was big enough and moving fast enough that he made a wake. This one will be worth seeing again in the winter when all the leaves are off the trees and again in the spring when the trees bloom and the bees are in. We didn't go far because we wanted to spend the bulk of the day at the next spot, so we were on and off the water again in about an hour.

The second trip was on Kennedy Creek, another blackwater creek a little further up CR 65 and deeper in the forest. The launch is from a place called Cotton's Landing (there's signage) a few miles down dirt forest roads. Somewhere along the way to the Apalachicola River the flora shifts from the cypress/tupelo swamp seen previously on Graham to cypress/tupelo/pine/willow mixed forest more typical of other regional rivers I've seen so far. Near the mouth of the creek there are a few houseboats. We went into the river looking for sandbars to lunch on, but the water was so high (from all the recent rain in GA) that they were all submerged. We managed to find a spot on the opposing bank where we ate and rested for the trip back. Out and back was 12 miles (on Michael's GPS). A few birds: little blue heron, green heron, great egret, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, piliated woodpecker; I'm sure I'm forgetting some. A good trip and worth another look.

Despite being over twice my age and having children older than me, Michael's pace is fairly grueling. He called our pace today, "a little slow." I thought we were moving along pretty well. He's got a crew of like-minded paddlers that I'm hoping to join for a few trips, if I can keep up. We'll see.

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