Category Archives: Paddling North Florida

Trout Creek, Tate’s Hell SF, a great place to learn to paddle.

A very short tributary of the New River, south of Pope Place (CS 9) on West River Road. The put-in is just south and west of the bridge over Trout Creek which lies at the junction of West River Road and River Road, a little over a mile south of CS 9.

It is narrow enough to be protected from wind and has minimum current. However, the tide does affect the level of the creek. If you should ever have to paddle under a log or a large branch going upstream (limbo), note which way the tide is going. You may not have room on the return trip if you paddled up on an incoming tide.

About 1/4 mile east of the bridge is the New River. Paddlers can paddle from upstream on the New and be picked up here, if they prefer not to take-out at an occupied camp site.

We saw a red cockaded woodpecker in the slash pines here several years ago.

This is a perfect place for kayak polo, for those who have shorter kayaks and a floatable ball and some type of “basket” or bucket.

Campsite 9: Pope Place, Tate’s Hell State Forest

You can reserve CS 9 at Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest New River (section).  When you get to your campsite, find the closest point where you can get cell connection.  If you call 911, your site street address is 1591 River Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest. GPS 29.89629,-84.73390.  First responders cannot find you with only a campsite number.   Reserve America’s confirmation documents will not include this address.

Pope Place Campsite, a very large RV and Tent primitive camp site on the New River.   This site, can easily accommodate up to 8 people and as many small single tents.

Privacy is insured not only by the distance between sites,  but also by the trees and vegetation around each campsite.

Entry is wide and can accommodate several parked cars, but there is more than ample space in the site itself.

This is a good site for paddlers since the landing is sandy.  This photo was taken at low tide.  There is a drop so, when taking out, be sure that your feet are on the exposed sand, if possible.  This site is below Gully Branch Road after which tidal currents can be felt. If one capsizes in a fast outgoing current, one could easily lose one’s craft.

The view from this site is spectacular.

Looking upriver.

And…

downriver.

Campers can put-in from upriver sites on the New River or paddle from this site.  Tidal current may be noticeable.   If the current is too strong for up and back or down and back and a shuttle is not possible, try Trout Creek.   Trout Creek is just south of this campsite on West River Road at the intersection with River Road, a little over a mile of this campsite.

The current is not that noticeable on Trout Creek, except where it meets the New River, but water levels will go up and down.  Paddlers need to consider the level of the water if going under limbos on this creek (if there are any), a higher level of water may narrow the opening on a return to take-out.   This is an excellent creek to paddle with children just learning to paddle or for adults who have reluctantly been urged to try paddling.

If you can shuttle, putting in at Gully Branch Road landing, will give you a nice downriver paddle to the campsite.

Adventurous paddlers, who like wilderness paddling with its uncertain challenges (or not),  put in at FR 22 east of Sumatra, camp over at campsite 17 on the New River (in Tate’s Hell SF Juniper section) and paddle to Pope Place for a next day take-out.  The total paddling mileage is about 23 miles: 9.5 miles the first day and 12.5 the next day.  There is a 9 miles upriver section in which no road access is available to the river, so only those capable of handling uncertain river conditions should attempt the top 9.5 miles.

Paddlers have access to the water through your site. Paddlers should park their cars in the entry driveway and not the campsite.

There is no water or toilet facilities.  The forest is heavily rooted and a trowel isn’t going to give you a deep enough pit.  Bring a portable toilet (with biodegradable, disposable bags).  Everything should be packed out.  There are bears in Tates’s Hell and food should be kept in cars, or hung away from sleeping areas.   A kayak hatch is not a good place to keep food or scented items such as shampoo, soap, etc. overnight.

The photos were taken at low water levels; tides affect the water level on this site. 

If you camp(ed) here please comment in the box provided at the end of this post.

How to find Tate’s Hell SF camp sites on Reserve America

The way the campsites are listed on Reserve America is enough to frustrate even a avid puzzle fan.

Here’s an easier way to find that campsite using the Tate’s Hell State Forest map.  To shorten this, I’m using abbreviations:  CS for campsite, CG for campground, RV/T means both RV’s and tents are allowed on that site; T means tent only.  Womack Creek is under two separate categories:  Tates Hell Womack Creek Campground and Tate’s Hell Womack Creek Primitive Campsites.

On Reserve America the sites are listed under the following categories:  1) Tate’s Hell State Forest Juniper Creek Primitive Campsites, 2) Tate’s Hell State Forest New River Primitive Campsites, 3) Sumatra Primitive Campsites, Tate’s Hell State Forest, 4) Tate’s Hell State Forest County Line OHV Campground, 5) Tate’s Hell State Forest Pickett’s Bay Primitive Campsites, 6) Tate’s Hell State Forest Rock Landing Campground, 7) Tate’s Hell State Forest Deep Creek Primitive Campsites, Florida, 8) Tate’s Hell State Forest Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, 9)Tate’s  Hell State Forest Womack Creek Campground, 10) Tate’s Hell State Forest High Bluff Primitive Campsites,  11) Tate’s Hell state Forest Crooked River Primitive Campsites, and the most recently opened 12) Tate’s Hell SF  Cash Creek Campground, Florida.

First, get the Tate’s Hell State Forest map from the Tate’s Hell site — this gives you an overview of the whole forest.  The campsites are noted by black triangles.   The reference guide below tells you what the name of the campsites or campground you should find your desired campsite.  Look at the previous paragraph to see how that section is named.

Campsites in bold type has a separate report and photographs of that site.  Sites marked with asterisks * are not reservable walk-in sites where you pay at the site or at the forestry office.

CS 1  Sumatra, RV/T

CS 2  North Road, New River, RV/T

CS 3  New River west of river, New River, RV/T

CS  4  Gully Branch, New River, RV/T

CS  5  Dew Drop, New River, RV/T

CS 6  Borrow Pit, New River, RV/T

CS 7  Borrow Pit, New River, RV/T

CS 8  Parker Place, New River, RV/T

CS 9  Pope Place, New River, RV/T

CS 10 New River East, Pickett’s Bay, RV/T

CS 11 Gully Branch, Pickett’s Bay, T

CS 12  New River east of river, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 13  New River east of river, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 14  New River east of river, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 15  New River east of river, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 16  New River east of river, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 17  New River east of river, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 18  Boundary Road, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 19*  County Line OHV, OHV Campground, RV/T  (not reservable, walk-in site)

CS 20  County Line OHV, OHV Campground, RV/T

CS 21  County Line OHV, OHV Campground, RV/T

CS 22  Bus Stop, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 23 Log Cabin, Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, RV/T

CS 24 Log Cabin, Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, RV/T

CS 25  Log Cabin, Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, RV/T

CS 26  Log Cabin, Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, RV/T

CS 27  Nick’s Road Landing, Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, RV/T

CS 28  Loop Road, Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, RV/T

CS 29  Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 30  Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 31 Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 32  Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 33* Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T (not reservable, walk-in site)

CS 34 Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, RV/T (electric hookup)

CS 35 Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 36* Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, RV/T (electrical hookup) (not reservable, walk-in site)

CS 37 Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 38 Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 39   Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 40  Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 41  Rock Landing, Rock Landing, RV/T

CS 42  Rock Landing, Rock Landing, RV/T

CS 43  Rock landing, Rock landing, RV/T (not reservable, walk-in site*)

CS 44  Crooked River, Crooked River, RV/T

CS 45  Crooked River, Crooked River, RV/T

CS 46  Sunday Rollaway, Pickett’s Bay, RV/T

CS 47  Oxbow, Pickett’s Bay, RV/T

CS 48  Warren Bluff,  Pickett’s Bay, RV/T

CS 49  Pidcock Road, High Bluff, RV/T

CS 50  Rake Creek, High Bluff, RV/T

CS 51  Dry Bridge, High Bluff, RV/T

CS 52  Doyle Creek, Deep Creek, RV/T

CS 53 Deep Creek, Deep Creek, RV/T

CS 54 Whiskey George, Deep Creek, RV/T

CS 55 Cash Creek, Cash Creek Campground, RV/T

CS 56  Cash Creek, Cash Creek Campground, RV/T

CS 57* Cash Creek, not listed on Reserve America, (not reservable, walk-in site)

*The walk-in sites means that it’s on a first come basis.  You  pay at site or at the forestry office and you do not have to pay the additional reservation fee to Reserve America.

Hopefully, this will help you to find the right campsite.

We hope eventually, we will be able to report and photograph every campsite to give you additional information.

What is not generally known is that Tate’s Hell is a great location for paddlers of all skills.  It offers a 9 mile wilderness trail from FR 22, Sumatra campsite soon after put-in  to campsite 17 (with no access to the river by road until CS 17). This section of the new is navigable usually only during the spring high water period and requires some stamina since one never knows what conditions the trail will offer (portages, scoot-overs, limbos, climb-over large tree trunks, etc.)  There are good learn-to-paddle areas like Trout Creek and Barrow Pit pond (CS 6-7) and a delightfully short or longer, depending on tide, full-of-wildlife Pine Log Creek right off CR 67.  There are lots of possibilities for overnight camping while paddling.  From Log Cabin campground on the Ochlockonee to Womack Creek Campground and stopping to do Womack Creek to Nick’s Road primitive campsite and back.  Then south to the Crooked River and Loop Landing PCS to Rock Landing Campground with a vault toilet.  One can continue to paddle on the Crooked west and with a possible road portage if the river is too high under the bridge at CR 67 bridge and Crooked River  to Sunday Rollaway campsite and Warren Bluff campsite on the west of CR 67.  Then to Pope Place on the New River and, you wish, upstream as far as your stamina will take you, with all the New River sites (some easily accessible by river).   Tate’s Hell SF is made for paddlers!

Womack Creek – over one month after Michael – November 18, 2018

It was one of the fabulous days:  going upstream with an incoming tide, returning downstream with an outgoing tide, no wind, the river was as still as one rarely sees.  The temperature was cool, but soon warmed up to 60, the sky cloudless, and there were always new things to see and experience on Womack Creek.

The Ochlockonee River is on the right, Womack Creek on the left as seen from put-in, the Womack Creek campground landing.

It was warm enough for the river cooters and the alligators.   The little juvenile who likes to hide in the alligator weed was there again.  The larger juvenile who is probably an adult by now has grown — will this creek be able to support it?  There’s always the Ochlockonee to Crooked River to the tributaries to move to.

At high water, we didn’t have to skirt around the trees which fell into the creek.  The forests in the creek were spared the tornadic destruction we saw in some areas along SR 65, less on SR 67.  But the cyclonic pattern of force was shown in the sweet bay tree below.

There were lots of birds in the area:  a flock of grackles which foraged loudly through the forest on forest floor and in the understory and, later, a flock of robins who chose to stay at understory height, also noisy.   A small flock of ducks have come early, always very skittish.  A pair of great egrets, a great blue heron, two hawks, a number of smaller birds, and the ever present kingfisher.  We were only able to photograph the grackle.

A sulphur butterfly and a skipper found slim sipping — only a few flowers were blooming:  clematis crispa, vining asper, Symmond’s aster and swamp sweetbells being the major blooms throughout the creek.  However, in one area, every year, a pinxster azalea bush puts out its blooms — the petals do not fully open, but it blooms.  And, it seems every month we visit the creek, we see at least one stem of green fly orchids in bloom.

The dahoon, yaupon holly berries are red; the American holly berries will be by Christmas.

It was a paddling day — no wind, the current with us, the right temperature and full sun.

How lucky can we in North Florida be?  To have such great places to paddle and be restored.

Womack Creek – H. Michael’s impact – October 27, 2018

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Checking out the first branch on river right (left as we paddled upstream from Womack Creek Campground landing), two trees blocked further access (except by portage) beyond.  This is a branch of the Ochlockonee which one will pass to get to Womack Creek, but when the tide is in, it’s a good place to explore and wait the rest of the crew if paddling with a group.  Be alert for submerged snags:  it’s shallow and muddy and in early spring has a early blooming patches of golden clubs and later, in the same area, lizard’s tail plants.

Fortunately, this section of Tate’s Hell State Forest was spared from downed trees preventing passage, except for a leaning tree which when it falls will block further upstream through paddling.  Currently none of the downed trees  will block through passage to Nick’s Road campsite, 3.75 miles from put-in at Womack Creek campground.

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At Nick’s campground, Tate’s Hell forestry staff have cut and cleared off fallen trees, leaving only the debris which the hosts will clean up.  The debris, when dried, should make very good fire-pit starters.

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Noticeably absent this year are masses of vining asters and narrow leaf sunflowers which attract butterflies and other insects to the creek.   Only a few of these were blooming.

A new plant appeared, purple sneeze weed, on a log which like many partially immersed logs when it catches mud and debris from upstream become growing medium for plants.

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A few clematis crispa flowers (and their seed pods) can be seen.   The green fly orchid constantly surprises us by blooming continuously all year round.

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North Florida’s answer to maples and oaks turning color in the fall, sweet gum and Florida maples are beginning to turn.

And setting the holiday stage are three varieties of native hollies:  yaupon, dahoon and American holly.

 

Other seeds, like swamp titi (below), Walter’s viburnum, arrow wood, muscadine, palmetto provide food for birds and other creatures of that creek.

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Two small alligators, the larger juvenile in alligator weed, are too young to be afraid of paddlers.  Alligator weed, an invasive species which appeared earlier this year, will have to be cleared out.  To our knowledge there are no invasives on Womack Creek, or invasives which are not cleared out when sighted.

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A small flock of ducks have returned, a great blue heron, the ubiquitous kingfisher which is impossible to photograph because it won’t sit still.

Womack Creek is open for paddling.

 

Cash Creek – Four Weeks After H. Michael – November 10, 2018

Hurricane Michael hit Franklin and Bay counties on October 10, 2018.  Tidal surges and/or winds extended into other coastal areas, farther inland than had been expected creating tornado-like devastation in Jackson, Liberty, Gadsden and Wakulla counties.

At home, we did not escape the tree downfalls, branches, debris, and damage, though only incidentally to outbuildings.  To get a reprieve from the work of restoration, we paddled   Womack Creek, Lake Talquin’s Joe Budd area near the mouth of the Upper Ochlockonee, Ocheesee Pond in Jackson county and yesterday Cash Creek.

There is a sardonic side to nature:  after a tooth and claw show of what she can do, she can also produce a smiley-faced day as she did yesterday.

The weather had a touch of fall with temperatures in the low 50’s and wind chill even lower because of wind.  It was overcast and cold when we launched the kayaks, but the warmth which comes from paddling soon overcame the chill.  Within half an hour the morning ceiling opened to full sun, with some clouds.  It did not get over mid-60’s yesterday.  We had an outgoing tide going upstream and an incoming tide returning with winds against us, but it was an ideal paddling day.

Over a month after H. Michael,  SR 65 south of Hosford had sections of tree-falls and fractured trunks, not consistent, but in patches, and debris along the road with trees leaning, ready to fall with the next strong wind.

At the Cash Creek Day Use area and launch site, it seems that the surge extended into the area.  Fortunately, the vault toilet was set up on a thick concrete slab which elevated it from the water level created in the surge.  One large pine had to be cut down, the trunks neatly piled for campers and day users to use as firewood.

Paddling tree-less marshes, for us, is a late fall to early spring activity.  It gets too hot for us in open estuaries when temperatures go over the high 70’s, particularly with high humidity.

Of Michael’s impact on the creek,  there is only one small pine tree which has fallen almost completely covering the creek.  Unless  paddling in low tide, that should not impede your progress upstream — you can make your way among the topmost branches.   Some pine trees in that area of sparsely growing pines and cedars may have been damaged or uprooted, but at water level we could not see over the marsh rushes.

Cash Creek, however, has submerged trees and pilings, remnants of swamp road bridges, a reminder that Tate’s Hell was  once a pine plantation.  The dark tannin-colored water obscures these obstructions.

From experience on similar pilings on other North Florida creeks and rivers, if one gets caught on one, gentle back paddling may be more effective than hard forward paddling, depending on the water current.  Hard forward paddling in some situations will fasten the boat even more securely on the pilings.  The tops of these pilings have been unevenly cut by the waters, so one could find oneself in a precarious balance.  Gentle paddling rather than power strokes should first be tried unless one has extraordinary balance control of one’s craft and body.   Sometimes, if one cannot get another paddler to help, one may have to capsize.

One caveat:  there are huge alligators on that creek.  They, do not seem to be as habituated to humans as in other creeks where fishermen throw their live bait and unwanted fish into the waters before leaving the water.  In the summer, children play and swim at the Cash Creek landing.

The creek branches over a mile upstream from the put-in at the Cash Creek Day use area.  The one on the right will extend the marsh paddling with occasional pine and cypress trees on dry land.  An older fallen tree over the bank can be limboed under, but further upstream additional smaller barriers, some crossable in high water, will be present as the creek narrows into swampland (with more trees).

The above photo was taken in an outgoing tide (shallow), so at higher water levels one would have to flatten out more or do what I call the turtle scrunch, which is more suitable for those of us with short legs: get as much of your body into the kayak with only the top of your head and hands visible (you’ve got to be able to see and you’ve got to hold on to your paddle).  Canoers can more easily go under narrow openings.

Barriers such as this probably are good turn around places:  it’s not like you don’t have other options for paddling on the other branches or branches of branches on that creek.  And, unless you have a gift of getting lost no matter where you are, it’s almost impossible to get lost upstream from the landing.   If water levels and barriers can be overcome and if you paddle all the options and back to the landing, it will probably be about a 12.5 mile paddle.

Going upstream, at the first choice of turns, the branch on the left will lead you to Pidcock Road campsite, which, at low tide is more easily accessed by boat than at high tide.  It is a beautiful, very large, secluded primitive campsite accessible from Pidcock Road.  This branch will take you into swamps with shrubs and small trees (shade) with two additional branches to explore.

When entering narrowing creeks, check to see if you will be able to turn around in your boat or you may be paddling backwards all the way until you can.

Downstream, turning left at the landing, is  a different paddling situation.  You will need a GPS so you don’t keep paddling in circles and loops, one patch of rushes looks like any other patch of rushes and you can’t see above them.  Turning left at the landing will get you, if you manage to get out of the labyrinth of marsh , into East Bayou to East Bay and then the Gulf.  There were two boat trailers and two additional boats on trailers getting ready to go downstream when we arrived at the landing.

More convenient to the highway and to the landing, three new primitive camp sites, more typical of state park sites (just enough to accommodate an RV or one or two tents, picnic table, firepit and grill), have been opened right at the Cash Creek Day Use area and landing.  What it gives in convenience, it lacks in privacy, however.  Witnessed by the thrash of glass beer bottles, six pack holders and other thrash, day users in that area consistently don’t pick up.  A newly built vault toilet on concrete slab already is less than clean, not the problem of the staff at Tate’s Hell SF, but day users.  If camping there, bring sanitizer spray to clean the toilet seats.   There is a sanitizer dispenser, but I don’t expect the dispenser will last long or will have anything to dispense.  Bring your own hand sanitizer.

Primitive camping means: no water, no electricity, and generally no toilet facilities.  (Interestingly Rock Landing campground on Crooked River (connecting the Ochlockonee and New Rivers) has three (much larger) campsites and a vault toilet, day use facility with pavilion and tables  and a boat launch.  The toilet there is usually very clean and well maintained by users.)

Reservations for campsites in Tate’s Hell can be made through Reserve America.  Call the Carrabelle Tate’s Hell State Forest office (850 697-0010) if you can’t make sense of the way Tate’s Hell Campsites are posted on that site and for confirmation that the site you have selected is what you want.

Not many birds sighted this time, but we saw two species of woodpeckers, one of which may have been a red cockaded.  The area we saw it has mainly slash pines, but David Morse, retired (summer 2018) chief forester told us that he has seen red cockaded woodpeckers nesting in slash pine cavities.  Also a small flock of small sparrow like birds, which we could not identify.  And the ubiquitous buzzards.  And one lone coot which lay low and tried to conceal itself in the marsh grass.  Usually there are lots of birds in the late fall and winter.  This is the first coot (which usually travel in flocks) we have seen on this creek.

 

New River paddle and camp – March 2017

 

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These photos were submitted by David Brashears, one of the paddlers who enjoyed a 2 day, 21 mile paddle on the New River from FR 22 to Pope’s Place Campsite on the river.

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Stopping for lunch along the upper river.

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The group camped at campsite 17 on the east side of the river the first night.

 

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The second day’s paddle, stopping for lunch at Gully Branch landing and campground.

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The group then paddled another 6 miles to the take-out on the west side of the river, Pope’s Place campsite.

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The weather was great, the river 18 inches lower than a week ago when a scouting and clearing party prepared for this trip.

When the deciduous trees begin to leaf on the New River, the water is drawn quickly.  In a dry spring, there will only be pockets of water in the upper section, waiting for summer rains to replenish the river.   Early spring brings the best chances of paddling, rather than walking, this stretch.

2018 Florida Paddler’s Rendezvous to be held at Blackwater River State Forest

Florida Paddler’s Rendezvous, an annual meet-up of paddlers in Florida (and open to all) is scheduled for Blackwater River State Forest on October 26-28, 2018.

Blackwater River State Forest has some of the most beautiful, clear waters and sandy banks in north Florida.   You will have your choice of lazy, wider creeks and rivers and a few technical and faster moving waters.

More details with contact information will be posted as they become available.

 

 

Cash Creek – Beautiful November Paddle

 

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Cash Creek on the west side of Tate’s Hell empties into the Apalachicola River.  The road to the day use area is off the east side of State Road 65, just south of the Apalachicola National Forest and on the northern edge of Tate’s Hell State Forest.  There is a covered picnic shelter with picnic tables, fishing dock and boat launch, with sand on one side for easier canoe and kayak access.   For paddlers, this creek offers your-choice-of-length paddling.  One can go left from the landing to the Apalachicola River through an estuary dominated by reeds or turn right upriver through a reedy estuary then woody swampland.  The current is more marked by tides and wind than down or up-river flow.  All of the paddling to the Apalachicola  has no shade.  Upriver, one paddles anywhere from one mile to one and one half mile, depending on which branch one takes, in estuary before reaching deciduous and slash pine shade.   Beyond that one can go as far as the water level and creek depth and blockages allow.  Normally, that would be around 9.5 miles if one took all the options.  The kiosk at the landing has a large map of the creek and forest area. 

The nearly half mile sandy road to Cash Creek Day Use Area is lined with slash pines and an occasional long leaf pine and opens into the parking area and boat launch and day use pavilion.  We had not paddled there for a year and were anticipating a good paddle with clear sky, 72F temperature and a slight breeze.  The tide was going out.

Big surprise — a new vault toilet structure had been built in our absence.  Very clean, not smelly and a tremendous improvement over the portable toilets which were never maintained by the septic service.   And in the fenced in day use area, bear proof trash containers, firmly imbedded in concrete.   Another improvement over the easy to tip over by animals and kicked over by humans garbage cans.   Thanks to Marti Miller, Talquin District Recreation Coordinator, for having these constructed and installed — the previous accommodations were gross because of negligence by the contractor.

The tide was against us and the slight breeze was from the north, north-east, against us as well.  On a Wednesday, we were the only users of that facility.  The mullet were jumping and other fish (bream?) surfaced — the fishermen would have had a field day today.  Randy, the former host at Womack Creek Campground in Tate’s Hell, assured us that one could catch mullet with a hook. Netting is the usual way they are caught.  The splash in the photo below is of a mullet landing in the water after a magnificent jump.

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There are two major branches and usually we take both.  Today we decided to try the one on the left first and were surprised that a section which was always too low or too debris-filled for us to continue was open and we paddled another .8 mile beyond where we usually were stopped.  There are two option on the left branch — we try to paddle both.  One can’t get lost, these branches dead-end and require retracing one’s way back.

The fall flowers are gone —  last aster flowers peek out from the reeds.   Leaves and red berries are what add color to the landscape.  Florida maples are turning and are the dominant red-orange combinations on the creek.   Unlike Womack Creek on the east side of Tate’s Hell, and which empties into the Ochlockonee River, the tupelo trees on Cash creek are not yet turning and if they are do not have the red-yellows of Womack’s ogechee tupelos.   A single stem of swamp lily was seen in an opening in the reeds.13-P1060298.JPG

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The ferns, also, add to color.

Birds, migratory and resident, were present.  Buzzards, crows, hawks, a single wood duck which we surprised into flight, and flocks of small birds which we have not yet identified. Kingfishers, usually seen in Tate’s Hell’s creeks and rivers, were noticeably absent.   Only a single Gulf frittilary butterfly, two sulphur butterflies and a few dragonflies were seen.  We did see flies alighting on the Silvering blossoms — the first time we have seen flies on these blooms.

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Silvering is a late fall bloomer, after the asters.  On Womack Creek they were still in bud about 2 weeks ago.   There were only a few of these plants on Cash Creek.  For those who suffer from hay fever, this is a plant you want to avoid.

The estuary creek turns narrower and narrower and increasingly tree and shrub-lined.

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Then, the trip ends:  one’s way is blocked, either by too shallow water or tree-falls or debris dams.  The trick is to be able to turn around in the narrow spaces when this usually occurs, particularly when paddling 14′ and 15′ kayaks.

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Along one branch is a beautifully gnarled cypress tree.

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Late fall, when the leaves are gone, is a good time to see bird nests.  The one below was nestled in laurel greenbrier vines, its berries gave the nest a festive look; the other was securely constructed in a small shrub.

Off Pidcock Road is a very large campsite.  This tipi looking tent with 2 chairs at the picnic table was a colorful addition to the landscape. Downriver from the campsite, a row of pilings which once supported a bridge is still in the water.  At very high water,  these pilings obscured by the tannin tinged water.  One can easily find oneself caught on one of these logs.  Today all but a few were visible, but one submerged piling held one of our kayaks in place until it was dislodged (without capsizing).

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One doesn’t see many large deciduous trees along the creek, but this is an ogeechee tupelo tree with Florida maple growing between its trunks.

One of the paddling options is a straight canal, either a former road bed or a drainage canal dug to drain water from what used to be a pine plantation before the state acquired the land for restoration and conservation.   The forests (Apalachicola and Tate’s Hell) are part of the Apalachicola river watershed.  The North Florida Water Management District has been given the task to restore Tate’s Hell’s forest back to what is used to be before it was developed for tree farming.   Roads  no longer needed are being left to return to nature and gravel has replaced culverts, creating natural drainage systems even on roads which are still used.   After heavy rains, some of these roads may not be passable. It as it should be, to allow for natural passage of water through the land, the reason for restoration of  an important river watershed.

The canal above is where we saw a mother bear and her cub (on a tree) several years ago.  When the mother bear saw us, she made a sound.  The cub climbed further up the tree; the mother bear quickly gave another sound, the cub went sliding down the tree and quickly was hidden in the shrubbery below.  I thought about that cub when the Florida Wildlife Conservation Council allowed for the first bear hunting in Florida.  The subsequent year, bear hunting was not resumed.

We rarely make it past the bridge on Pidcock Rd., but today, we were able to paddle under the bridge.  To the right the creek was blocked by a small tree which had fallen over the creek.  We could have scooted over it had we needed to, but immediately beyond that was a debris dam.  We decided to turn back, but the creek looked navigable beyond that.

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We chose not to explore the last branch and headed back to the put-in.

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Driving to the creek in the morning, we could smell and see the smoke of a managed burn in the Apalachicola National Forest to our east.

Returning to the put-in, the easterly winds had driven the smoke to the west.  In the waning light of the end of the day, the sun caught the clouds and the smoke to create a delicate palate of pastels, which unfortunately was not adequately captured in the photo below.

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Cash Creek rarely disappoints us.  This was a glorious day and the temperature only got to 76F, perfect for paddling an open estuary.   Our paddle today was 10.8 miles.

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We were told that a campground with a few sites is planned near the put-in.  This would enable paddlers to camp there and paddle several other creeks:  Whiskey George and Doyle Creek in Tate’s Hell State Forest and Graham Creek and Fort Gadsden Creek in the Apalachicola National Forest.  We look forward to having those campsites.