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Monday, June 21, 2010

Weeks Bay Non-Paddle -
Nancy Ward scheduled a Weeks Bay Paddle from Pelican Point on Sunday, June 20th.  No one showed.  This report was posted as info on oil in the area (2 months after the Deep Horizon Oil Spill)

No one showed up. Don't know if Father's Day interferred or folks were afraid of possible oil. There was none. As I waited, four paddlers from Mobile Baykeeper returned from their scheduled patrol. Two had gone south into Mobile Bay and inspected (how much of?) the eastern shore. Two had gone north into Weeks Bay and inspected the eastern shore up to the Magnolia River. They said they'd found no traces of oil, sheen, or tar balls. There's quite an encampment of workers at Pelican Point. However, the boat launch is open. We'd have launched from the grass. There are booms which cover most of the mouth of Weeks Bay leading into Mobile Bay with a gap in the center. I'm told that they leave the gap open for boats to go in and out during low tide---when the tide is going out. At high tide---when the tide would be coming in---they fill the gap with barges. I saw lots of pleasure craft on Weeks Bay, including folks pulling kids behind their boats on those inflatable donut things. I wanted to paddle but didn't want to do it alone. I drove to the beach at Fairhope for a brief paddle. Later I swam. There were lots of people in the water and no signs of oil---same conditions I'd found on Saturday when I went to Fairhope Beach to spend the day swimming.

Nancy Ward

Friday, June 18, 2010

Byrnes Lake Saturday, June 12th, 2010...
Went to Byrnes Lake with my wife Judi and our daughter. It has been a few years but much has changed. The road to the ramp is now paved all the way to the water. There is a new ramp and pier, with a sandy area to launch Kayaks. NO FEE required and plenty of parking to accommodate a very large group. Even though there were no bathrooms, the whole area has been kept up very well. The weather was perfect and we had clear water with some locals already swimming. Thanks to some very well placed fallen trees on the lake, we saw no motor boats until we hit the river. We saw quite a few birds, Terns, Pelicans, an Osprey, and several Blue Herons whose flights above us were amazing to watch. Once on the Tensaw we glided with the wind to the beach area just up river on Garvine Island. Heavy Boom gave way to protected water and broke the waves at the beach for all to swim, cool off and enjoy before the trip back. Note: Remember to bring a camera for pics in the future.
Antny Willis
Little River, Escambia Co from Hwy 59 to Dixie Landing
Little River is beautiful, if you are adventurous this is a great paddle. Although it required portages around/over at least 3 log jams that I encountered it was well worth it. I do not believe I could have paddled this alone, I had a buddy of mine in his 14.5' Ultimate and I was in a 12' Manta Ray. The trip was 5 miles and took 5 hours to complete with about 30 minutes of fishing included.

Little River looked like most slightly stained rivers in south Alabama. The flow of the river for the first mile was perfect. I estimate the flow at 150 to 200 cfs and we had enough water that sandbars (and there are plenty) were not an issue. We encountered the first of 3 log jams at 0.4 miles. It was initiated by a large fallen tree that wood and debris had piled up against. The water had wallowed out the sand to ~ 6 ft or better under the jam. My friend was able to pole his way across the debris on the right side of the river and pulled my kayak across once he made it to the other side. I made my way up the right bank and around the debris to the other side. It appears at ~ 1 mile the river has been diverted from its original path and now flows to the left with increased swiftness and is much more narrow (from ~35 ft to 10 ft wide). Immediately after this turn we encountered the second of the log jams. While my paddle buddy pulled his kayak up and over the 4 or 5 ft high jam I found a path on the left side to pull my kayak around the log jam.

The downstream side of this second log jam will test your navigational skills. It is a continuous winding and turning, in and out, of fallen trees and bushes. There are intermittent deep holes and shallow sandy/pebble bottom for the rest of the trip to within 0.5 miles of the confluence with the Alabama River. The sand bars below this second jam are not as common. This section is mostly mud banks with plenty of foliage, little sign of people. For the most part the river is 20 to 30 ft wide and ~ 2 to 4 ft deep. We encountered the last and easiest of the log jams about 1 mile below the second jam. It too is made up of a fallen tree but debris has not piled up. This jam was ~ 2 feet high and only 1 large branch to traverse. We simply pulled our kayaks up and over the jam on the right side and kept going. The water was ~ 2 ft deep on both sides.

All the while we were amazed at the scenery. We saw wood ducks, mallards and many deer. In the deeper pools we saw a number of 18" to 36" gar and scores of minnows and small fish. Using my trusty fly rod I was able to coerce a 2 lb bass out of the shadows. Approximately 300 yards from the confluence with the Alabama River we encountered a swarm of Mayflies and the brim/bass were boiling the water. Again, with my fly rod I had a catch and release party with the extra large brim feeding on the Mayflies. After about 20 minutes we leisurely moved on to pull our kayaks out at Dixie Landing.

This was an incredibly satisfying kayak trip. Even though it was riddled with logjams and navigational tests, to make it through an area obviously not often traveled by humans was gratifying. I would not recommend this trip as a solo or for kayaks longer than 12 to 14 feet, the shorter the better. Bring plenty of water and be ready for a William and Clark type of adventure. BEAUTIFUL!!
Charles Barber