Monthly Archives: March 2014
Paddle this river now — pinxter azaleas and Walter’s viburnum in full bloom!
The river was running high and fast on Friday, March 21 (full moon was 16th). Rather than do the up and back of 8 miles from the Womack Creek Campground landing, we suggest some paddlers may wish to do a 4 mile paddle from Nick’s Road Primitive Camp Site downriver to the Womack Creek Campsite (shuttle necessary). To get to Nick’s Road primitive camp site see directions at bottom of this post.
Two shades of native pinxter azaleas are in full bloom right now and additional bushes in bud — light pink and dark pink.
Walter’s virburnum is right now in its height of blooming in the lower 2/3’s of the river.
Swamp jessamine vines with bright yellow blossoms can be seen creekside.
But whites dominate, with parsley haw trees in full bloom.
White blackberry flowers will be blooming within a week.
Oaks are blooming, last year’s leaves finally cast into the dark waters below.
Within two weeks swamp dogwood flowers, also white clusters, will be in bloom.
These are more scenes of high water on Womack Creek.
Hitchhikers — while going under brush and branches — they won’t bite, just brush them or pick them off.
And a reminder of last year’s bounty caught by this year’s net.
And promise of summer’s bounty.
Right now….enjoy the creek as it prepares for the full spring wakening.
At Womack Creek Campground this week was a father with his 2 sons and 3 other young men from Tallahassee. Their 3 guests left at mid-week, but the father & sons enjoyed the whole week of spring break, camping and fishing from their boats. He takes his sons camping, at their request, to various places in north Florida.
Midweek not more than 50 paddlers from Paddle Florida arrived for a night’s stay at the campground enroute to Ocklockonee State Park and Brill Point. They were on day 4 of their paddle from the Dam to the Gulf on the Ocklockonee.
On Friday night, a new student taking the Master Naturalist course camped there. After dinner we invited him to join us at our fire and the time went by quickly. The next morning, we got up early to get to class at the Apalachicola National Estuarian Reserve in Eastpoint by 8:30 am where we are learning about coastal ecosystems.
A family was also camping at the Loop Landing site, a very nice site about 2 miles from the Ocklockonee River on Crooked River.
Oscar Sanders was a welcoming sight to campers — he was able to give advice and pointers and local history — his family being one of the oldest families in the area. Jeff Sanders Road is named after his father.
Directions to Nick’s Road primitive camp site landing, Tate’s Hell State Forest:
From Hwy 98: To to Carrabelle, FL. Take CR 67 north which is also called “Tallahassee Street” in downtown Carrabelle. There may not be a sign at the hway 98/67 intersection so look for the street name. You will see a CR 67 sign a couple of blocks north of this intersection. Go north on CR 67 for approximately 6 miles and cross the Crooked River bridge (the first bridge). Go approximately one more mile and turn right on Jeff Sanders Road. The road angles a bit NE off CR 67. There is no road to the left. Stay on Jeff Sanders Road for about 5 miles. You will cross Rock Landing Road and then come to Nick’s Road on the left. Nick’s Road is a one lane road with the sign on the corner that says Nick’s Campsite at a fork. Take the road and it will lead you to the campsite on upper Womack creek.
From East or west on SR 20: Go to Hosford, FL on SR 20. Turn South in Hosford on SR 65. Go 3 miles to Telogia. There is a road sign to Carabeele in Telogia. Turn left at the road sign to Carabelle and on CR 67 (there may not be a CR 57 sign at this interesection, but you will see a sign a few blocks down the road.) Go approximately 23 miles south on CR 67 to Rock Landing Road. This road is about 3 miles after you see the first sign that you as in Tate’s Hell State Forest. Turn left on Rock Landing Road and drive 4 about 4 miles to the intersection of Jeff Sanders Road. Turn left on Jeff Sanders Road and proceed to Nick’s Road on the left. Nick’s road is a one lane road. At the fork, take the road which says Nick’s Campsite to campsite on Womack creek.
Go very slowly over large gravel over low spots on Nick’s road, to prevent rocks from damaging the underside of your vehicle.
If someone is camping there, please respect their desire for a wilderness camping experience by loading your boats and leaving your shuttle car out of their space. Do not obscure their view of the river with your car(s). It is one of the nicest camp spots in Tate’s Hell State Forest.
March 18, 2014 — Flowers in Bloom, Womack Creek, Tate’s Hell State Forest
Spring blooms seem later this year — but the spring show on Womack Creek is beginning.
School Spring Break – Womack Creek, Tate’s Hell State Forest
First we scheduled the primitive camp from Sunday through Tuesday, the beginning of the school spring break.
Then, there was a 100% chance of rain on Sunday. It actually rained 6 inches on Sunday in Carrabelle. We’re glad we postponed the trip — Monday through Wednesday.
Then there was a 90% chance of rain on Monday, especially Monday night. We scheduled the camp for Tuesday to Wednesday. It rained 1 inch in Carrabelle on Monday.
Tuesday, the sun came out and we started out on an overnight primitive camp at Nick’s Road Primitive Camp Site in Tate’s Hell.
But first we went to the confluence of Womack Creek to the Ochlockonee River to see how fast the river was running. It was moving very fast, but we checked with all paddlers and all decided it was a go.
Then we kept our fingers crossed that the road to Nick’s Road Camp site was not flooded. It wasn’t — a bit of water we had to cross, but passable. We were finally going to have a camp/paddle!
We decided to paddle first and let the ground dry out. When we returned we planned to set up camp.
Off we went: 1 canoe, 1 tandem sit on top, 1 stand up paddle board and 2 sit inside kayaks — a motley flotilla down a flooded Womack Creek. Destination: Womack Creek Campground landing.
Then, the young paddlers wanted to switch boats.
But not until canoe paddler transferred to SUP.
Two sit inside kayaks, one sit-on-top kayak, one stand up paddle board, and one canoe — all accounted for.
Enroute, another transfer ensued — lie down paddling.
And what are mothers for, but being there in need….
Day two: the river was already high, but overnight it got higher.
But hey, the paddleboard didn’t go down the river, the water didn’t get up to the tents or the table. Let’s go paddling before breakfast.
And after breakfast, take a break from paddling, and play some cards.
More paddling and exploring upriver. Finding a constrictor, no, a water moccasin, no a water snake stretched out on a limb upriver — lots of waters means more areas to explore.
Then finally packing to leave — .
A photographers report, New River, Tate’s Hell, March 10-11, 2012
A cool, breezy paddle on Womack Creek, March 13, 2014
The eastern US is under another freezing front. Here, it was in the low 50’s, the wind was blowing around 10mph, creating a few whitecaps on the Ochlockonee, but the sky was a cloudless blue. What else to do but go paddling.
Properly attired with layers under our PFDs, we paddled up the creek. The first unusual sight were blobs of white on trees in Womack Creek at the confluence. Getting closer we saw 8 large great egrets, sheltered on the lee side of the wind.
These were the birds which were hunted to near extinction in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Their plumage was much sought after for hats and other personal adornment. A conservation movement to stop the killing of birds for their feathers was started in reaction, the National Audubon Society was formed. Their symbol remains to this day the great egret (also called great white egret, American egret.)
When the wind ruffled their feathers, these birds in early breeding plummage — it was easy to see why their feathers were coveted. We had never seen a colony of these birds on Womack Creek; it made our day.
We were hoping to see more pinxter azaleas in bloom, and there are one or two more bushes in bloom. This year, however, will not rival 2011. The big rains and high waters of the last two years have taken the large stands of pinxter azaleas which were on the riverbanks. There were so many then, that the fragrance of the flowers was perceptible in the air.
Walter’s viburnum, however, are now fully blooming throughout the creek — large stands both creekside and in the interior.
Demure yellow buttercups are still blooming on the forest floor.
The creek side trees are greening. Sweet gum and hornbeam, their young leaves a delicate shade of green, a contrast with the forever dark leaves of the bays.
The turtles will catch any sunshine they can, regardless of ambient temperature. This little one, not more than 4 inches long, reminded us of the Little Engine Who Could.
And, skulking (as that juvenile probably thought he was doing) the egrets was this little alligator, not quite 4 feet long, but totally unafraid of paddlers nearby.
Also taking advantage of the exposed shore was a little green heron, probably the same one we saw last week on Womack Creek. Although not quick to flight as some birds, it was camouflaged so well in the greenery that it was hard to get a good shot of this bird. An osprey was also flying near the confluence of the Ocklockonee. And a robin and the sounds of any number of unidentified birds in the bush.
The river was so low we were able to see barnacles on the trunks which are normally under water.
On the way out, on Rock Landing road we stopped to take a photo of a blooming thistle and found several ti-ti bushes in bloom and willows with catkins. Ti-ti is blooming all over Tate’s Hell as are Carolina jessamine. Spring is here.
The first clematis crispa of 2014 – Womack Creek
Primitive Camping in Tate’s Hell State Forest
The Tate’s Hell sites on Reserve America are a mish-mash and entered in several locations. We have created what we hope is a helpful guide to find that campsite. See posting of “How to Find Tate’s Hell SF Campsites on Reserve America”, posted on 12 February 2019. Search by “How to find”. Because Reserve America does not provide sufficient information to allow for good choices, we have also on this blog site, started to photograph and describe each campsite. You should be able to access these posts by searching by “camping” or Tate’s Hell State Forest camping” or by the specific name of the campsite. The individual campsite information also gives you the 911 addresses for each campsite.
In Tate’s Hell there are three types of primitive camping sites:
Womack Creek Campground with bathrooms and showers
- 9 sites for tents only (sand/dirt floor), 3 for RV’s, trailers and tents (gravel floor) with electricity.
- Water not potable at bath house: smells of sulphur but smell can be removed by letting the water stand overnight in a partially open container. It may still have a mineral taste. Bring water filter or drinking and cooking water with you.
- Bath house with hot showers in each bathroom, flush toilets.
- Large covered pavilion (day users must be accommodated) and large porch overlooking the Ochlockonee River in bath house.
- $10 per night per site for tent only sites; $15 for RV site plus reserve america fee.
- Mack Suggs has retired as host. His service was exemplary. The new hosts, a couple, keep the restrooms clean. They have a large dog unleashed, friendly but which jumps on people. If you have a small child or, if you have someone in your party who is unstable on their feet, please let the host know. Also, look out for dog poop, and ask the host to up after their dog while you are there. Please be aware that these are volunteers and they voluneer 20 hours weekly cleaning campsites and at Womack Creek campground, maintaining the cleanliness and supplies at that restroom facility. Do not increase their weekly workload by making unnecessary demands and not cleaning up after yourselves. Tate’s Hell SF asks you to pack it in and pack it out and leave no trace. There may be trash receptables at campgrounds, but not campsites.
- No hunting zone and open for camping all year round
- Because the banks along the Ochlockonee River are rapidly eroding, the restroom at this campground may be closed in the future.
- Access to some campsites in wet periods may be difficult for passenger cars. Roads in Tate’s Hell State Forest are sandy, with low areas filled with gravel with a depth marker for the deeper water pass throughs.
- This is a forest which was acquired for restoration of the watershed for the Apalachicola and Ochlockonee River and is the primary reason for its acquisition by the state of Florida. It is, by law, required to harvest timber in order to financially maintain itself.
Campgrounds with vault toilets and covered picnic tables
- Cash Creek (3, with 2 reservable), OHV and Rock Landing (3, with 2 reservable)
- Gully Branch Tent only site at Gully Branch Day Use area
Campground with no vault toilet
- Log cabin campsites (4 sites)
Single primitive camp sites
- Each site usually contains a standing grill, a fire pit with grill, a picnic table.
- The individual sites are usually much larger than the sites in the multi-site campgrounds and most will accomodate RV’s and trailers (see post for each campsite).
- Certain sites are not available during hunting season which dates change from year to year, consult current hunting season dates.
- Camping here is whatever nature offers, with few amenities (except Womack Creek Campground). Biting flies and mosquitoes can be expected from May through October. Non spraying of area protects the natural ecology — insects are essential to fish, reptiles, amphibians and other creatures in the forest. It therefore offers a better wilderness experience.
- These sites are reservable on Reserve America. Each site is $10 per night plus reserve america fee. Your permit should be posted at the entrance post identifying your campsite.
A FEW POINTERS FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR WITH PRIMITIVE TENT CAMPING
1. PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT
- All of Tate’s Hell Forestry facilities are “Pack it in, pack it out”.
- Plan your food menus, personal use, accordingly and bring sufficient amount of bags/receptables to take everything out.
- Do not use or plan to use firepits to burn your non-burnable trash. (Metals do not burn, garbage does not burn, plastic will leave residue or may not completely burn.) Leave the firepit clean after you leave. There are bears in Tate’s Hell State Forest, food thrash left in fire pits will tend to attract bears to the pits. A wild bear will avoid you, a food habituated bear may not.
- Dish washing should be minimized. (Use biodegradable detergent, throw waste water 200 feet away from rivers and away from sleeping areas. Do not clean dishes and cooking utensils in river. Do not leave residues from washing near sleeping area.)
- Use a sanitizer instead of water to “wash” your hands.
2. FOOD AND GARBAGE STORAGE
- Tate’s Hell is fortunate to have lots of wild animals, including black bears, which may be attracted to food or garbage.
- Store ALL food and garbage in car or in hanging caches at least 10 feet high if no one will be at campsite during the day or at night.
- Even latched coolers may not be as animal-proof as you think. Kayak hatches used as food storage have been known to be destroyed by bears.
- Do not keep any food or any fragrant items in tents.
- Let any food residue on the grill burn off, if possible.
- Do not throw any vegetable wastes in the woods (yes, they are biodegradable, but think about the next camper, and certain items such as peels take a long time to degrade, and they attract animals near the campsite.)
- If you are planning to camp for more than a few days, consider going to Carrabelle or Eastpoint to deposit your garbage.
- DO NOT FEED ANY ANIMALS OR BIRDS
3. PERSONAL WASTE
- Dig your personal waste holes 200 feet away from the water, 6-8 inches deep. A trowel will not penetrate that deep because of tree roots; bring a collapsible (military issue) shovel or other shovel.
- If you prefer, bring your own camp toilet. Biodegradable and treated bags allow you to deposit your toilet waste in regular garbage cans.
- Use biodegradable toilet tissue, or, if unavailable, bring plastic zip bags to deposit your used toilet tissues and pack it out to dispose of properly.
- The rule of thumb for water while camp-paddling or backpacking is 1 gallon per person a day. Bring your own drinking and cooking water.
- If engaged in rigorous activity in hot weather, add electrolyte tabs (preferable, sugarless option available) or Gatorade or similar sports drink (which has a lot of extra sugar). Drink before one gets thirsty to prevent dehydration (this is particularly advisable during cool days when one may not think to drink as much water as one’s body needs.)
- It it rains, consider it a gift. Catch any rain from canopies or tarps and use for washing or, if short of drinking water, filter it and/or boil for 5 minutes before using it for drink or cooking.
- Water from the rivers or pond, even if filtered, may not be safe to drink.
- If river water is clean enough to swim, this may be sufficient to make you feel clean. Soaps should not be used in any of the rivers or pond.
- Specially treated wash clothes may be adequate, unless the day is humid and sticky.
- You can bring your own camp shower, or give yourself a hospital bath. Any wash water should be strewn 200 feet away from the rivers or pond.
- If you really need to bath, the showers at the Womack Creek Campground are available for $2 per person (day use fee), pay at the iron ranger.
- LED camp lights, some solar powered, some with crank operation, are good to have in food preparation and clean-up areas.
- Each camper should have a head lamp or tiny flashlight (headlamps are preferable because it’s not as easy to lose in the dark; let them dangle around your neck when ot in use.)
- If you have night waker-uppers, illuminate the area around the tent chords. We use LED tea-candles which casts a sufficient glow to ID the chords, but not that much to disturb our sleep. Reflective tent chords are available through most camping supply sources.
- You should not bring your own wood. The IGA in Carrabelle or service stations may have fire wood.
- You may be able to scavenge fallen wood, bring a small saw.
- Douse your fires completely when you leave the area for the day or after breaking camp. Sudden gusts of wind can easily take live embers into pine straw around the camp site.
8. TENTS AND SLEEPING BAGS
- Tent mesh should be small enough to keep out no-see-ums which are prevalent in most all wilderness and beach areas in Florida. We have been more than satisfied with our REI half-dome plus which has seen over 5 years of heavy use through gully washers, heavy winds (used all tent loops to anchor the tent), heavy frost and north Florida no-see-ums. We also have a kingdom four and a quarter dome which allow more space for sitting and higher headspace.
- If car camping, tent size can be determined by what your car can carry and what you need. If kayak-camping consider back packing standards — 40 pounds of gear may be all your hatches can carry, particularly if you’re carrying 8 pounds of water (1 gallon) per person per day.
- A properly fitted footprint (under the tent) will keep your tent dry in a deluge and will not require you to ditch around your tent. One which is larger than your tent will catch the rain and only compound the dampness. One well known published outdoors expert suggests also placing a footprint inside the tent as an extra precaution.
- Florida is wetter than many state; consider the rain fly extensions if you do not have a waterproof canopy in the event of rain.
- Forty degree sleeping bags is sufficient for Florida, however this means it is comfortable when temperatures fall no less than 50 degrees. In the winter, north Florida night temperatures can fall to below 40 degrees. Rather than purchase a 20 degree sleeping bag (twice as heavy and not as usable during most of the year), get merino wool under clothes (top and bottom) which will also help with keeping you warm during the colder days and can be a foundation sleeping outfit. A compact thermal ground cloth (some with reflective coating which presumably reflects heat back, some with flannel on one side) may also be a good layer over the sleeping bag. Down filling, while considerably lighter for the warmth, is not recommended for kayakers — if wet it takes longer to dry than synthetic materials.
- An insulated air mattress will protect you from cold ground in winter months and tree roots which are more common than gravel or rocks in Tate’s Hell. You have more mattress choices if you are car camping. Do not scrimp on a comfortable mattress. This, above all of your equipment, will make a difference in your camping enjoyment. Try it out before purchasing — put rock-like or root-like items under the inflated mattresses while trying it out.
- For car camping, a regular fold up canopy to place over the picnic table and cooking area is standard equipment — it protects non-food items from rain and saves us from having to put everything into the car when we are paddling all day and rain is forecast. We have side flaps so one of our canopies is totally enclosable from driving rains.
- For kayak/canoe camping where space & weight is a consideration, lightweight nylon tarp, around 1 pound and which folds very tightly is good to have. For kayak paddling/camping we use a 10 x 10 feet tarp with a collapsible middle pole — total weight a little over 2 pounds and with loops sewn all around the edges, allows for any number of shelter configurations. Available from Piragis (Boundary Waters) Catalog (at the end of the season, rental tarps which are still in excellent shape are sold at discount.) This has protected us and gear from being soaked while kayak camping, our tent being a small 2 person backpacker’s tent with storage rain fly.
9. BITING INSECTS
- There are biting flies, mosquitoes, no-see-ums in Tate’s Hell. Along the New River, as soon as the weather warms, mosquitoes are prevalent. Bring appropriate repellents.
- We have found that smoke from a pit fire will discourage mosquitoes at dusk and early morning in the cooler months of the year.
10. ACCESS TO BOATERS FOR PUT-IN OR TAKE-OUT
- Boaters can put-in and take-out at your camp site. Hopefully, you can arrange a reasonable accommodation for their parking spaces. Individual sites are large enough to accommodate additional cars and the multi-site campgrounds have other parking areas.
- If you have an emergency and require an emergency vehicle to go to your site, the address of the site is given on the back of your copy of the permit. Emergency vehicles will not know how to get to your site without a specific address. If you cannot find your permit, it is also on the back of the permit you posted at the campsite entrance.
12. WHEN YOU LEAVE OR LEAVE FOR A DAY
- Make sure all fires are completely doused.
- Walk the campsite and make sure you have not left a single trace (candy wrappers, torn off tops of drinks, tissue, tent stakes) of your presence.
- If you find the campsite looking better than when you arrived and with no sign that you’ve been there, you’ll feel better that you’ve left it in a good condition for the next camper.
13. THOUGHTS ON PRIMITIVE CAMPING AND LEAVING NO TRACE
- Think minimalist and leave no trace.
- You can provide yourself a well balanced meal without heavy packaging and with few cooking utensils. (Packaged meals have lots of salt, justified because it’s made for backpackers. Some brands are coming up less salt.)
- Since you will not have electricity, plan accordingly. A cooked at home frozen meal can be used for the first meal, but depending on temperature, probably not recommended for the second day. Ice is available in Carrabelle (hway 67) or Eastpoint (hway 65), if needed.
- A single dish providing all your nutritional needs is preferable to several courses (and cooking utensils).
- Select foods which can be eaten without leaving any bones or inedible residues.
- Minimize items which must be washed. Wash ahead of time and pack in clean (burnable or easily packed out) sacks or containers.
- Prepackage any condiments you feel absolutely necessary and bring only as much as you need.
- Do not bring any more food than can be eaten; waste translates into excess garbage which must be packed out.
- The process and preparation will get easier the more you primitive camp.
- Bring large plastic bags to dispose of your food and other wastes and carry them out with you. Don’t do as some campers did in April 2018. The camp host at Womack (a volunteer post) has all the campsites to clean and having to pick up trash littered around and in the fire-pit does does not make his/her job any easier.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND APPRECIATION
We recently paddle/camped for 6 days in Central Florida on the Withlacoochee River and were dismayed by the encroachment of large homes with manicured and landscaped lawns on the waterways, large docks jutting out into the waterways and motorized sounds throughout our trip. Tate’s Hell State Forest still provides wilderness experiences free from houses, barking dogs and noises, including the sounds of air traffic.*
The residents of Franklin County in 1994 were asked whether they would accept the idea of the state purchasing over 50% of the county’s land to be used to restore the watershed for East Bay, the nursery of Apalachicola Bay. They approved this purchase, which effectively meant that 50% of the total lands in the county were not going to be taxed. This acquisition is Tate’s Hell, 210,000 acres of wilderness, with streams and creeks throughout the forest for everyone’s enjoyment.
This acquisition is part of the Florida Forever lands which the voters of Florida have supported as a way of restoring, conserving and maintaining our natural areas. The forest is an essential watershed for both the Apalachicola and the Ochlockonee rivers. Some of the old lumber roads in the forest are being restored back to natural drainage and concrete culverts have been replaced with gravel in lower areas to allow for more natural drainage. Some roads will have high water (markers indicate how high) and before you have to detour and complain, consider that this is one way we can keep our wild Florida lands and allow all of us to enjoy the remaining parcels of old Florida.
Because this land is not taxed, you can show your appreciation to the citizens of Franklin county by eating out at least once in Carrabelle, Eastpoint, or Apalachicola — seafood their specialty — and/or buying your camping supplies, grocery and gas from the stores in these towns.
* Lately we experienced while on one of the creeks on the west side of Tate’s Hell, jet planes in battle simulations over the Apalachicola National Forest. The sounds intruded into that section of Tate’s Hell.
Paddling Womack Creek on a lovely spring Saturday
March 8, 2014 — Sky: blue — Temperature: 70’s –Wind: Still
Pinxter azaleas — 5 bushes in bloom, more to follow in two weeks.
Walters Viburnum, now blooming throughout the 3.75 miles from Womack Creek Campground to Nick’s Road Primitive Camp Site.
Swamp jessamine – the first bloom of the season on the creek.
Shades of green, throughout the creek
Buttercups blooming demurely throughout the creek.
A variety of great trees: cypresses, pines, oaks, sweet gums, bays, tupelos, Florida maples, ash, a diversity of native trees, shrubs and plants.
Not just paddlers enjoying a beautiful Saturday.
Rock Landing Road in Tate’s Hell and Hway 67, a bouquet of thistle leaves (Cirsium horridulum) with a thistle bloom stem in the middle. This is a native species common to roadsides and a popular nectar and pollen site for insects. Rock Landing Road east of 67 is a good place to photograph the young and blooming thistles now — dramatic photo opportunities with their sculptured form.
St. Johns Worth and vining and climbing Carolina Jessamine (different species than the swamp Jessamine shown above) are patches of gold on the ground and tree branches (respectively) right now. Ti ti bushes are blooming and defying the control burns in both Tate’s Hell and the Apalachicola National Forest.
The roads on the west side of 67 may not be easy to drive through without 4 wheel drive after spring rains. To attempt to restore the normal water flow patterns of the watershed, low areas are filled with gravel and water is allowed to course over the roads. In some areas not filled with gravel, sections of the road may have been opened up by the natural water flow and a non-4 wheeled drive vehicle may find itself mired in the sand or muck.
The New River at camp site 7 is down about 2 feet from a week ago and the white sand bank opposite the camp site is visible. The water seems to be flowing as fast as the previous week, however. East River Road between campsite 6 and 7 have areas of deep, rutted mud after rains. If you must go to campsite 7 go via County Line Road and turn south to East River Road (not marked, but County Line Road ends soon after the missed turn).
Paddling the upper New River, Tate’s Hell SF in high water – March 1, 2014
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.
This 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.
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.
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).
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. This one, we had to circumvent through brush and greenbrier — we finished the paddle with scratches on arms and faces.
This 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.
This Atlantic White Cedar may be another obstacle; it has been defying gravity, but the heavy spring rains have not helped its cause.
This 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.
Another tree fall, another search for an alternate route upriver through thicket and vines.
We were able to circumvent this jam of branches, logs and other debris.
The 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. Our 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.)