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Tuesday, November 26, 2002

from Bruce

Matt Darring led this trip into the Forever Wild lands of the Mobile Delta on October 20, 2002. Our goal was to visit a designated campsite that Matt saw printed on a map. For those of you who like maps, this trip is covered by the USGS Stiggins Lake quadrangle topographic map.

We had a good turnout of 14 paddlers, including four tandem kayaks and some beginner paddlers. Matt had us meet at the Stagecoach Restaurant parking lot and we put in at Rice Creek Landing after 10 a.m.

The water level was down at the put in. It still is an excellent put in provided by Baldwin County Parks. At normal water levels, this is a soft
put in. That day we had to cross a hard shelf to put boats in the water. Hunting season was going on; a boat load of hunters came out of
the water as we were going in.

We had a pleasant paddle in mild weather out Rice Creek to Briar Lake. We cut across Briar Lake to a channel on the Bartram Canoe Trail and came out at Larry Island. We turned left, downstream, and paddled across the Tensaw River into Bayou Jessamine. We were fortunate to have very little current though the current slightly increased against us while we were in Bayou Jessamine.

The water level was not very high; we were about 2-3 feet below the land level in Bayou Jessamine. Again we were aware of hunting season from shotgun blasts in the woods and an occasional motor boat tied to a tree on the Forever Wild side of the bayou.

We came out of Bayou Jessamine into Bottle Creek. We turned right, up current and paddled into the Tensaw River on a sweeping turn in the river. This section was all new to me. We looked for Dominic Creek, which is a landmark on the map. If it is still there, it is just a dribble coming out of the woods.

We paddled with Mound Island to port and arrived at a place marked with a printed sign "Designated Campsite". We had to scale a steep mud bank about six feet high to get on to the site. A couple of guys worked at making steps with sticks in the bank to help us all get up. We left the boats rafted together on the water tied to brush.

The campsite is high, dry and relatively level. It has good drainage if rain should dampen your camping trip there. The location on the Stiggins chart is on Mound Island near the junction of Middle River and Tensaw River. My map has "x6T" nearby, but that is not a unique mark. We had snacks and walked around the site. It has some unexpected artifacts: an industrial-strength set of metal stairs (which would be really useful if they could be fastened into the mud bank), several pieces of rectangular ductwork (which we used for seats) and a shooting target (uh oh).

We took a vote for the return route and chose to go by way of Devils Bend. Matt cautioned us that way would add some distance over the Bayou Jessamine route, but we didn't care. We wanted to explore and see something new and different. It was a pretty route, and lived up to the Forever Wild expectation we had. I was surprised to see stands of cane or bamboo growing on the western shoreline of Aiken Island. Another notable feature was a soft, gently sloping shore inside of the Devils Bend. That would be a good resting place if someone wanted to get out of the boat easily.

We were heading downstream all the way back on the Tensaw. Just before we reached Fischer Island, we heard soft distant thunder and then we felt the rain start. We paddled around the north end of Larry Island and all the way back to the take out in rain. The rain coming straight down was quite enjoyable because the drops splash all around you and the drops make pretty sounds on the leaves in the trees, the water, the deck of the boat and the rain slicker. I took my time paddling back on Rice Creek, listening to the rain. By the time I hauled my boat out, the rain had stopped.

Matt had 100% recovery of the paddlers who ventured out on this trip. Some of us retired to dine at the buffet at the Stagecoach Restaurant.
from Gary

Sunday, I put in at Chickasabogue Park. It costs a dollar and there's a nice launch area. I paddled up the creek for a couple of miles, getting into increasing current. The water was very clear and quite cold. When I turned around after paddling a little over an hour, I was able to ride the current back to the landing. The water was running fast enough to keep your attention, but not so fast that a novice like me couldn't stay out of trouble. Lots of scenic views, sand bars, cypress, in many places you could see the bottom several feet down and watch the ripples in the sand as you glided over it. When I got back to the landing I paddled downstream for a little ways. There are several fairly large bayous where you can get off the creek but I didn't find anywhere like a sandbar where you could get out.