Southwest Creek, August 18, 2004

Paddle trip August 18, 2004, Southwest Creek

We put in at Route 53 at 10:00 and took out at Rte 17 shortly after 3:00. We picked up scattered litter at the put-in but had to leave the mattress and other stuff under the sign, “Do not litter. This site is monitored)!

The water was still very high due to Bonnie and Charley. Indications were that it was as much as three feet higher earlier. Wish we could have done it then..

These high waters flushed out this creek. We encountered scattered trash along the way, all of which was discarded off the bridges. This trash is floated off the main stream back into the swamps where it will remain forever. Perhaps it will build up in the next 100 yeasrs and fill in all our wetlands.

The high waters also flushed out the fallen trees and old logs in the river. The high water cut across the normal bends in the river and these logs became trapped in the woods where they will remain until a higher flood of waters picks them up again.

We follow the flow of water when canoeing down a stream. At times we were mislead as to where the main stream went and we followed the same course these floating logs took only to be come trapped behind them.

Sometimes we were able to break through these logs jams. At other times we had to turn back and find the original stream bed where we missed the turn. I was interesting to be canoeing through the woods.

Also, there were new blowdowns. The present high water enbled us to work our way around most of them without getiing out of our boats. While Dale and Brian were working on removing one of these (see pictures) Tom and Marie made their way around it.

These new blowdowns will make a portage around each necessary after the water recedes. Blowdowns like these occur regularly on all rivers and need to be removed to maintain an open free flowing Canoe Trail.

Brian and Dale plan to do Cowhorn Creek to Rhodestown Road on our new County Canoe Trail next Wednesday to see and clear whatever is necessary to keep it open. This is a wonderful and most valuable service they are providing. I am sure they will appreciate additonal volunteers.

We encountered a very serious and disappointing situation on Southwest Creek between Route 53 and Haws Run Road bridge.

Alligator weed was so thick it was almost not to possible to get through it. As the water level goes down we expect it will close the river completely.

This is a shame as this is a lovely long river to paddle for all to enjoy. Can anything be done about this alligator weed?

Participants were Dale Weston and Brian Wheat from Jacksonville, Tom Fineco from New Bern and Marie Justen from Spooners Creek and Elmer Eddy from Swansboro. Pictures are courtesy of Marie Justen. Elmer

Elmer, The White Oak River TrashmanStewards of the White Oak River BasinPlease visit: www.whiteoakstewards.org—————————————————————-

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Two Pictures on our New Wilderness Trail to be on Pettiford Creek

Here are two pictures, #s DCP01153 and 52 on a dark rainy day on our new proposed Wilderness Canoe Trail on Pettiford Creek at the original first old dam upstream of the large beaver dam. This is a very historical spot where corn meal was grown for our early settlers.

Apparently it became to small to suply their needs as it was broken through ad a new and larger one was bult downstream. Both are unique and very intersting and picturesque locatons. An old cemetary is nearby in the forest on high ground.

The other destroyed dam is below the beaver dam where we usually eat lunch when paddling upstream as we have to now. With this canoe trail opened up we will be able to paddle downstream with the flow all the way.

Pettiford Creek, A possible Wilderness Canoe Trail

Pettiford Creek

We beat this river!

On Sunday, August 15, 2004, Brian Wheat and Elmer Eddy launched an Old Town 174 into Pettiford Creek in Croatan Forest off Millis Road in Carteret County.

We chose this day to do this as Hurricanes Bonnie and Charley had dropped several days of rain on the water shed. Elmer checked out the water level as being his paddle length, 8 feet, plus one inch Saturday afternoon when the rain stopped. This is the distance from the top edge of the guard rail on the bridge over the creek.

At this level the creek was well out of its bed and into the surrounding woods. We hoped this would enable us to paddle around blown down trees which lay across the river blocking it for canoeing like a barrier blocking a road.

Also, the weather report said “scattered storms”. Brian called me from Jacksonville Sunday morning and said it was raining up a storm. I assured him it wouldn’t last long and would even make the water rise more for us and make our trip easier.

He was already on his way and I told hm to come on. He brought his chain saw and I had my loppers and a bow saw. When we put in, the water level had fallen 4 inches from the afternoon before. It was still very high and looked favorable for our making it down to where the river opens wide into marsh lands and is tidal.

We had clear sailing for a very short while. We then came upon a large tree blocking our passage.

Due to the high water were able to maneuver around it easily without getting out of our canoe.

We soon came to an NCDENR gauge which read 190. Apparently they are monitoring this creek water levels for research purposes.

As we paddled on we hit many more obstructing fallen trees. Some we could go around and some Brian had to attack with his chain saw for us to get through.

We entered swamps where the river channel was hard to follow. Sometimes it made two channels around islands in the swamp. Some times high hard ground with beautiful forests appeared on either shore. The hard wood trees in these swamps were live trees indicating that these waters receded regularly and were not killed by permanent high water.

At noon time we came to the first old dam site. (See pictures). This dam was removed completely for a very wide expanse. So much so we could not see the other end of it. After we got back in our canoe and paddled over there we found it and saw good high ground beyond it.

This explains why Gary Scruggs and I did not see this dam when we came through on our all night run two years ago trying to do what Brian and I are doing today. Had we seen this dam we could have walked out and not spent the night on the river.

This time the dam made an excellent lunch stop for us. Fortunately, the rain stopped for us to have lunch. However, the “scattered storms” became constant rains with scattered periods of lighter rain. One time I said, “Brian the sun is coming out”. It turned out to be an a brief opening in the canopy of trees instead. Fortunately for us it was a warm rain.

I walked down the top of the old dam. Huge pine trees have grown up on it. It was very interesting and attractive sight. Makes one wonder about the history of this old dam.

We cleaned out the canoe of all the branches and twigs and bagged the trash we had picked up, which was deliberately discarded off the bridge and bailed out the water and got under way again.

We had a long stretch of open water and quite wide too. Then we began to see grasses and weeds and palmettos and different types of bushes. I told Brian I thought we were approaching the upper reaches of the lake created by a huge beaver dam .This lake has many channels running through it

These channels are narrow areas of flowing water through the weeds and marsh grasses. Some places we had to push our canoe through the tall reeds.

It was obvious the water was flowing right though the reeds and the water was very deep. (This is the area where Gary and I had to use a floating plastic trash bottle that night to tell which way the water was flowing). This is also the area where we have previously visited two large beaver lodges by paddling upstream. We never saw them on this trip.

When we came to Croatan Forest signs on the trees we knew we were on the main channel of the old river as this is the boundary line of Croatan Forest.

We soon heard the noises of rapids and we knew we were approaching the beaver dam. It took us a long while to get there and when we did it was not where the main stream of the river leaves the dam. We had to paddle east to find it.

The water was flowing over the dam the entire length of it. We do not know how long it is but we estimated it is about 1500 feet long. All large trees above it are dead being killed by the constant high water created by the beaver dam. As this is all in Croatan Forest so nobodies’ timber has been destroyed by the beaver dam.

We hope this beaver dam is never removed as this area is beautified by a variety of wild flowers

and large numbers of lovely white water lilies. The dead trees provide an eerie scene and are the

home of many woodpeckers holes. The broken fallen down trees float in the small channels but can be moved to paddle by.

We paddled fast to shoot over and down the beaver dam but our heavy canoe grounded on the dam .We should have taken the time to open a small gap in the top of the dam and we would have had a thrilling ride through the flume it would create.

Brian grabbed the bushes to pull over. I had just told him to watch out for the wild roses that grow on the dam!

We slid on down into the fast flowing waters of Pettiford creek and had clear sailing from then on as the water was very high and we saw no evidence of several smaller beaver dams we know exist.

We soon came to the second old dam site that has been broken through. This is our lunch stop on our usual upstream paddle trips on Pettiford and is our favorite stop on the river.

We got to our take out on private land above Star Hill and were off the water by 3:00. We had to use this private takeout as the newly acquired public land is gated off. This destroys the use of this land for us as a canoe trail.

This is very unfortunate and doubly so as Croatan has barricaded all roads leading to our other public access to this river on the other side. Theses are the areas we cleaned of all trash on both sides of the river.

The purpose of this trip today was to determine if a canoe trail is feasible on Pettiford Creek. Our findings are that this is an excellent creek to make an open canoe trail from Millis Road down.

With such a trail we can paddle down stream instead of having to paddle up stream against the current. The difference is like night an day!

We desperately need for this stream to be made canoeable. Brian and I have done it by day and opened the door. If we plan a few trips like The New River Foundation has done on Cowhorn and the New River we can have another excellent canoe trail here.

Any volunteers? Elmer

(Brian will write up his version of this trip soon.)

Any of you interested in voluntering to help us open a canoe trail here please let us know. The upper reaches are completely bordered by Croatan Forest land on both sides and the new public land now managed by Wildlife borders the south side all the way down to Star Hill. So this upper portion will make an excellent Wilderness Canoe Trail into perpetuity. Elmer

Upper Newport River Trip, July 31, 2004

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