Sunday, April 02, 2006

Blackwater River

This weekend I paddled and camped on the Blackwater River, about 180 miles west in Santa Rosa County. This river is known for its dark tannic waters (hence Blackwater or Oka-loosa, Creek for...water-black) and white sand beaches. I didn't put in until about 1 p.m. (my time, but that's another story) because of shuttle doings. Here's my boat at Kennedy Bridge, about 28.6 miles from the take-out at Blackwater River State Park.
I wanted to paddle at least half the total distance Saturday so that I could get home at a reasonable time on Sunday. Time, however, became an issue that I simply had to dimiss because it's confusing enough for me to cross time zones (Santa Rosa is on Central Time), but then with the time change, lose an hour, spring forward -- it was all too much for me and I still don't have a firm grasp of what time it really is.

It was a pretty easy paddle, with a few obstructions -- I had to get out and pull my boat around a downed tree once -- and a lot of very shallow places where I got beached. But other than that, and a bit of wind, it was not very challenging. Here are some high bluffs. You can see that in some places the soil is red clay, rather than white sand.
The owner of the outfitter/shuttle service was a very nice fellow who referred to me as a "young lady" (as in, "you're the second young lady this year who was camping by herself"). He told me that the white sand came down from the Appalachians during the Ice Age, pushed by glaciers through the red clay to the Gulf. He also told me that he hated cold weather, noting that "Me, I'm ready for global warming when it will be like Miami here all the time and I can grow orange trees in my back yard." He was, all in all, a very forward-thinking young man.

Along the way I saw, in bloom, titi...
and wild azaleas...
as well as their showier cousins, the citified domestic azalea.
I saw and heard a lot of birds, too, including a couple of kingfishers, ducks of some sort, a hawk, and a pileated woodpecker.

The first 10 miles turned out to be kind of a drag because just about every other white sand beach between Kennedy Bridge and Cotton Bridge was a hangout for, as my shuttle driver termed them, "drunks." After Cotton Bridge, though, it got better, which was a good thing, because I was ready to find a place to camp.

I saw one likely spot, but I was just getting out of the boat when I heard voices across the river and promptly lost my balance and fell in the water, along with my camera. (Very amusing to my potential neighbors.) This is why there aren't any pictures of my campsite (a bit farther down the river, away from people, and really quite nice) but here are a few that I took before my impromptu swim.

Cypress trees are so lovely and graceful to me.
A white sand beach -- not where I camped, but very like it.
A typical scene along the way. Sunday I woke up early -- I have no idea at what time because my watch, mobile phone, and gps all said something different, but the sun was just starting to come up -- fixed breakfast, packed up camp, and paddled the remaining 13 or so miles to the take-out. Along the way I saw scarlet morning glory and yellow jessamine; too bad I couldn't take pictures. It was all very nice except the last two miles where there were just too many people for me. I don't know if I would paddle this river again, but if I did, I would either do it on a weekday or put in at Cotton Bridge and forget about the first 10 miles.


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