Notice: Holland Mill, Hargett, Webb Creek and The White Oak to Stella planned for on July 28th was canceled due to rain and T storms. We will reschedule it later.
Notice: Elmer had a cataract operation on July 29th. Everything went fine. Doc says no paddling for two weeks! Please schedule trips on your favorite river and send them to me. I will get them out to all. Inland streams have excellent high water right now.
Notice: A group of us are reopening our efforts to have a public access to The White Oak River preserved at the new Stella Bridge construction site. There will be no public access to the White Oak from Gibson Bridge, north of Maysville, to Swansboro in Onslow County with out it! This is not right!
UPPER NEWPORT RIVER TRIP 31 JULY 2004
Last saturday the 31st. Three bold, daring, adventurers set out from Godwin’s landing on the Newport river at 9:15 a.m. to paddle upstream to pick up trash and maybe–just maybe– reach their goal of making it all the way to the Lake rd. bridge (also known as Nine mile rd. bridge).
The three adventurers were Marie Justen, Jim Stevens, and Gary Scruggs.
We were very fortunate and had plenty of water under us as we paddled along picking up trash caught in the many strainers along the way. Every now and then we would see a basketball or soccer ball on the shoreline and pick this up also. (I think I have picked up over a half dozen myself on previous trips). The going was fairly easy as the river flows gently in this area and there are not many obstructions.
I had commented to Elmer Eddy earlier in the week that it seemed like most of the trash was coming from a ditch which borders Richard Garner’s property. From now on we will refer to that ditch as “Garner’s Ditch”…it seems this was all too true. As we passed Garner’s ditch the trash pratically disappeared. Matter of fact, we didn’t see any trash for at least 30 minutes.
About 15 minutes later after we had passed tree-stump creek and made the big bend,I called to Jim , who was in front, to be sure and paddle river left as you go through the bend due to a rather large hornets nest about 3-4 feet off the water. ( This is the one Mark Hibbs mentioned in his article). Jim slid by quietly as I was warning Marie to paddle left. Unfortunately she misinterpreted what I said and paddled right. Fortunately she slid under the nest without getting stung but close enough to upset a few of the residents.
We didn’t encounter very many blow downs (at this water level). The situation would be an entirely different story at a lower water level. As we paddled on up the river we passed a nice clearing on the right side. This property belongs to Dennis Garner and he has given us permission to land there and take a break as long as we leave it clean.. I told him no problem. We would be more than glad to return the favor. We paddled on by Dennis’ place and continued our journey. The river was absolutely beautiful as it meandered along with the trees and flowers in full foliage and thick enough to practically form a perfect canopy over us so that most of our paddle was shaded. Unfortunately it was not thick enough to keep us dry as a sudden rather heavy shower came over. Fortunately there was no no lightning so we paddled along and enjoyed the refreshing cool water splashing off of us. (At least I did anyway).
Like I mentioned before the trash was practically non-existent in this area much to my relief.
We paddled on till we passed a little fishing shack in the next clearing which also happens to be on the right side. A little after that things started getting interesting. The river narrowed so paddling was a little tougher. The grape vines on one side and the maples and Hollies on the other were so thick in places we could barely get through.( This was near the Northwest prong. which goes straight as the main branch takes a sharp left turn). It was a good thing that we had brought loppers and pruning saws with us.
We passed a few blowdowns that some kind soul had cut his way though with a chain saw. We were very thankful for this gentleman, whoever he is.
Somewhere along in here a snake dropped out of a tree and landed in the water missing Marie’s boat by about 2 feet. At least it seemed that close by the pitch of her voice as she screamed. Marie really doesn’t like snakes. Duh!
The river really gets rough at this point. Blowdown after blowdown, snag after snag. Some of them we could get under, others we went around.(as in portage). One of them I actually slid my canoe under the tree and staying in the boat I actually stepped over the tree while walking my boat beneath it.
I believe it was along in here that we encountered a really strong section of water flowing over and through a mess of downed branches. It was a very difficult section to traverse because of the combination of the fast water and the nearness to the top of the water of the branches. If we could have maintained our rhythm it would not have been too difficult. But, this was not the case. It took us several tries to get through as when one of us was halfway through we had to break ryhthm because our paddle blades were hitting the underwater branches and we couldn’t get a bite on anything. Jim finally got through after a few tries. I went through after him (also after a few tries) with the help of the bank as the water pushed me against it. This left Marie below the swift water and after numerous tries she was about ready to give up. As I was looking around trying to figure out a way to get too her I spotted what was left of a tree trunk jutting out from shore. So being the quick thinker that I am I tied my bow line to the trunk and slowly let the current take me back down to where Marie could reach me and Jim and I pulled us both up the through the riffles.
Things start to get rough after this, small trees about 6-12″ in diameter practically littered the river with branches and snags everywwhere! It was slow going as we had to pick our way through the many, many obstacles. Sometimes going 20 feet one way just to have to do a 180 degree turn and go the other way. There were a couple of places where I just about had to bend my canoe to get it through. We did this for what seemed like an eternity, before finally coming to an old washed out beaver dam that Mother Nature had so kindly blocked back up with a large tree trunk that had floated down and lodged itself perfectly across the river. RATS! Says I.
We pulled out one at a time on the left side of the dam facing upriver. ( I put that in there in case anyone might decide to try go there after they read this..Yeah! …right)! Jim went first pulling his boat up and over the dam. I went second and we got my canoe over and out of the way then pulled Marie, Boat and all right up on top of the dam.
It gets rougher after this, but it was like stepping back in time a thousand years. The scenery was absolutely beautiful! No signs of humanity anywhere.
I know it will grow back, but I almost hope this part of the river doesn’t get snagged. It will surely disrupt things for a couple of years.
We made our way around the tree that Marie christened back in January on our downstream version of this trip. We did pick up a little trash in this stretch as we neared the bridge…DANH..TA..DANHHH!!! Yes we had made it to the bridge!!!…It only took us roughly (literally) 5 hours…. But, alas and alack, there was nowhere to get out and stretch so we headed back downstream a hundred yards or so and found a fairly decent bank to pull out on. That is where we had lunch, Finally! After 5 hours of paddling we were more than ready for lunch.
As we were sitting there enjoying our lunch it slowly dawned on us that we had to go through all that crap again to get back to the put-in. ARRRGHHH!!Says I! But as we started downstream it was so sweet to paddling with the current after the lengthy journey up thatwe almost forgot the difficulties that lay ahead. As we neared our first obstruction we were quick to realize that downstream was going to be a pretty tough go also.
One thing that amazed, me being in my 16′ Oldtown, was that there were places (numerous places) that I got through going upstream with little or no difficulty, to find out the same places going downstream were practically impossible to get over, under, or around. There was one place where it took Jim and I approximately 15 minutes to get my boat turned so it would go downstream. (you’d have to see it to believe it)!
To wrap this up, the trip downstream was just a reverse of the trip upstream. But you had to be able to anticipate the current and be ready for any of the many underwater snags that would send you off in a direction that you had absolutely no plans of going.
The downstream trip took us a mere three hours…We got back to the put in at 5:15, wet, muddy, and exhausted with my canoe full of trash. But, we got back safely!!! No injuries, I do have a spot of poison ivy on my right hand, no flips…WHAT A PADDLE!!!!!!!!!!!(UPRIGHT IS ALL-RIGHT)!!!
As for wildlife we saw beaver sign, one Great blue Heron, One egret, numerous small song birds, Heard a hawk, and what sounded like turkeys gobbling in the woods, and three water moccasins.
In my opinion this trip is not for beginners or weak paddlers or any one who is afraid of snakes or spiders, or other creepy-crawly’s that inhabit our pocosin.
Me, myself, and I are planning a return trip to get some pictures of this remote area and see if I can move or remove some of the obstructions. This time I’m taking my wrecking bar with me, along with a come-along.
Any takers??! Date to be set.
Respectfully submitted by
Gary G. Scruggs