If you suffer from arachnophobia, then Big Swamp (not to be confuse
with Very Large Swamp or Absolutely Enormous Swamp) is not the place
for you. There is frequent treefall across the run, which at today's
level of 10.2 feet at the Tarheel gauge provided us with multiple
branches to pick and prune our way through. On these branches were
multiple little octipodic critters eager to hitchhike to exotic
destinations (such as Fayetteville, Wilmington, or Fuquay-Varina) at
our expense. There were few actual trunks that could not be paddled
over or around given the level of the water. There was only one spot
where we actually had to exit our boats, and Tom Florian found a way
around that one. Ferguson recommends not taking this stretch at less
than 11 feet at Tarheel and given our experience, I would say that is
right on. The current was slow, often barely discernable where the
water was spread out.
We entered the water at the put-in (a wildlife ramp, river right just
below Lennon's Bridge) about 11:30. For the most part, we followed a
winding channel with spoil mounds on either side and swamp or clear
cut marsh visible on either side. The channels reason for being
there is lumbering and the clear cutting noted suggests that this
activity has continued into recent years. When such open areas were
around us, we were aware of the 10-15 knot south wind blowing fairly
steadily today. Otherwise the weather was sunny and warm, ideal
paddling weather. There was not the usual depression of the river
channel relative to the surrounding countryside that normally offers
refuge from the wind and sun. Other times we were surrounded by
cypress swamp although little old growth could be noted.
We stopped for lunch on a sandbar at the exfluence of Brier Creek
which had a strong current cutting away from the channel at about 90
degrees. This was on river left about four miles into the trip.
According to the map, this flows southeast into Cow Branch and Porter
Swamp eventually rejoining the waters of the Lumber down near Fair
Bluff. We kept on the channel eventually joining the Lumber about 6
miles into the trip and taking out at Ivey's Bridge, where 74 crosses
the Lumber, at about 3. My GPS said 7.1 miles but I explored a couple
little canals and in-flowing channels so MM's reading of 6.4 is
probably closer to right.
Wildlife spotted included heron, kingfishers, hawks, various
songbirds, a few jumping fish, and multiple spiders. The marshiness
of this area made for few mammals or takeout opportunities.
Paddlers included Frank and Katie Dupin, Jim and Mia McDermit and
their dogs Schmidt and Mazie, Tom and Mary Florian and their dog
Conan, Marshall Thompson, Mary Martha Vaught, Shelby Cheek, and
myself as trip leader. Afterwards some of us gathered for grub and
gab (or repast and reparte as Jim would put it) at Fuller's Barbeque
Today (Sunday), I took John, my landlubber pooch, for a walk up at
Raven Rock. As the Campbell Creek trail was closed due to the bridge
being washed out I was forced to settle for the Little Creek (not to
be confused with Sorta Small Creek or Itty Bitty Creek) trail. The
juxtapostion of the names travelled in one weekend was not lost on
me, but the closing of the five mile trail because of one lousy
bridge over a readily fordable stretch of stream led me to think.
Based on similar criteria, we would have to eliminate about 90
percent of the trips we take. I'm glad that the people in Raleigh
don't exercise the same control over our waterways that they do over
our hiking trails. It would sure take the fun out of paddling.