Paddling the upper New River, Tate’s Hell SF in high water – March 1, 2014

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We camped the night before at Camp Site 7, a good location to put-in for going up-stream on the New River and a good place to take-out if going downstream from the FH 22 put-in east of Sumatra.   March 1, 2014, early morning fire to take the chill out of the air.

 P1060976This is the oak tree visible from Camp Site 7.  Height of water on trunks indicates how high the river is.   The current was swift but high water meant we might be able to paddle over the obstacles we knew were in that river upstream.

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Oak trees are beginning to bloom and leaf out — on the way back, with the western sun hitting the tree-tops, glorious spring colors of light greens, yellows, pinks again the gray trunks.

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Atlantic white cedar, once forested this area, but like cypresses were logged out.  Stands still remain along the New River (and also along the Blackwater River in Blackwater River State Park).

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One of six obstacles blocking free navigability up (and down) the river.  This, at about 2 miles upriver, we scooted over with a little effort.  Coming back downstream with the swift current with us, we were able to plow through easier.   P1060991This one, we had to circumvent through brush and greenbrier — we finished the paddle with scratches on arms and faces.

P1060993This is a future obstacle — a dead tree leaning against another dead tree; neither seem to have budged in the 1 year since we paddled this section.

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This Atlantic White Cedar may be another obstacle; it has been defying gravity, but the heavy spring rains have not helped its cause.

P1070001This is how we found another way upriver when confronted by river-wide fallen trees.  When the water is lower, this may not be an option — not enough water to paddle these side areas.  Lots of shrubs, greenbriers (with thorns) and narrowly placed trees.  We did not cut that oak which is next to the boat — done by another boater using the river.  We try to cut only branches which are directly impeding our way.

P1070003Another tree fall, another search for an alternate route upriver through thicket and vines.

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We were able to circumvent this jam of branches, logs and other debris.

P1070011The pirouetting tree — a favorite landmark.   We usually stop to have lunch upstream when we are able to find quiet water.  This year the current was much swifter and required constant paddling when going upstream.   P1070015Our Waterloo, this year and last.   Two trees, still there.  We portaged this in 2012 when we did the whole river from FH 22 to Pope’s Place Primitive Camp Site near the confluence with the Carrabelle River, but there were high banks to walk on.  This time and last year, we would have had to get out of the boats and slog through water around the trees.  We could find no way to paddling around it.  More adept kayakers may be able to get out and pull their boats over, but the water was cold and we did not want to chance a swim.

That said — this is one of our favorite North Florida Rivers.   Unlike Womack Creek, military jets on Saturday morning engaged in maneuvers and their sounds broke the natural sounds of the forest and river.  This is a  common disengaging sound when paddling in the Apalachicola National Forest.  Without it the wilderness experience would have been pristine.  But as challenging as it may be, paddling this river restores one’s soul.

This section of the New quickly dries up when the deciduous trees lining the river gulp up the waters.   Another 2.7 miles upstream is a small stand of gnarled cypresses which one must maneuver through.  The current may run faster because of a slight drop in elevation; we have never been able to get beyond the two fallen trees so have never experienced trying to go upstream through that cypress slalom course.

We recommend paddling to either Camp Site 7 where we camped the night before or to camp site 6 2.5 miles downstream.  There is a little creek which runs on the north side of camp site 6 and one will have to carry one’s boat up an embankment of about 5-6 feet,  if camped there.  The river here is affected by tide and the creek in camp site 6 may have water when the tide is in and no water when the tide is low.  There are better trees for hammock campers at Camp Site 6.   Primitive camp sites in Tate’s Hell are very well maintained, although primitive (no water, no toilet facilities, but standup grill, fire ring, large picnic table.)

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