Low Water on Blackwater For Memorial Day Trip
Baker, Fl--The Fellow Travelers 2011 Memorial Day trip was scheduled for the Blackwater River. The area was suffering from severe drought and the weather was hot, but the trip was a success.
Paul Tolar, Diane Stines, Charlie Stines, and Yorkie Ami boarded the Exhibition about five in the morning and began the journey. They met Sam Brown on the Thomasville bypass. Sam’s coroner car Crown Victoria had experienced a collision with a deer so Sam was in a neat rental Chevrolet HHR. The group picked up I-10 in Thomasville and headed west. There was a rest stop at the Apalachicola River and a Hardee’s break near Cottondale, and thenit was on to meet the gang at the put-in at Cotton Bridge.
Art and Janice Shelfer arrived shortly thereafter and Daniel Butler and Liset Cruz came a little later. The canoes were unloaded and packed with minimal gear, then most of the cars were shuttled to Wilderness Landing, the anticipated campsite. Wilderness Landing is an Okaloosa County Park and is where the travelers camped in April 2010. It was not completed at that time but did have nice shelters and a nice grassy camping area. It is difficult to find by road.
After the shuttle was completed the group of eight and a dog began the journey. Art and Janice used the Escape, Sam and Paul teamed up in the Penobscot 17, Daniel and Liset paddled Daniel’s Discovery 169, and Diane, Charlie, and Ami rode the Canadienne. Paddling began shortly before eleven.
The river was extremely low and there were several places where the canoeists had to get out and float the canoes in about six inches of water. There were also a lot of downed trees and exposed stumps but none posed problems.
The banks of the Blackwater are generally low but there are a few small bluffs. A few small creeks feed the river but they did not add any appreciable depth to the water. The forest is mixed hardwoods intersperced with some cypresses and lots of cedars. A few wildflowers were in bloom
The temperature was hot but the scenery was great. Blue skies and cumulus clouds made for a picturesque day. The exposed sandbars glistened silvery white.
No speed records were attempted and none were set. After about and hour and a half of paddling and wading the group decided to take a long lunch break on a huge sandbar. The usual snacks were consumed.
Everyone reached Wilderness Landing by about two. It could be heard long before it could be seen. The site attracted hundreds of people who were enjoying weekend picnics and splashing in the warm water. It was obvious that there would be no room for camping at the landing itself, so the paddlers elected to set up camp on a large sandbar across the river from the boat landing. It was a pretty good place to camp.
The park at Wilderness Landing has been completed but the bathrooms were not open because a camp host had not been hired.It is a great camping place but will probably be too crowded on many weekends.
Daniel’s sister, Jennifer, was awaiting the arrival. She brought her infant daughter, her adult daughter, and a host of young people to share supper.
There was a lot of goof-off time before supper. Daniel provided steaks and salmon, and Charlie tried his hand at baking a pineapple upside-down cake in the Dutch oven.
After supper everyone enjoyed a small campfire. Jennifer and her group left. After swapping a few stories everyone retreated to the tents for a good night’s sleep.
No one arose before daylight, but Charlie did have the first pot of coffee ready long before breakfast. Art was supposed to cook but he stayed in bed so long that Sam, Paul, and Daniel cooked the eggs and bacon Art had supplied. There were also grits and Dutch oven canned biscuits.
After breakfast the tents were taken down and ferried across the river. A shuttle was run to the take-out at Bryant Bridge and the second day of canoeing began after ten. It was much like the first day. The river was still shallow but pretty.
Upon arrival at Bryant Bridge the canoes and gear were loaded. Daniel and Liset departed but everyone else returned to Wildernes Landing to retrieve Art and Sam’s vehicles. Sam had accidentally locked his keys inside the HHR and needed to contact the rental agency, but there was no cell phone service. Art drove him to a place where he could contact Enterprise and they agreed to send a locksmith. Unfortunately, the locksmith could neither find the landing nor contact anyone by cell phone. Sam finally managed to get the door open and everyone headed home. The locksmith finally did make phone contact and was informed that he was no longer needed. Sam decided to send him a contribution for his troubles. The long drive home was pleasant. It was not the best trip the Fellow Travelers ever made, but it was fun.