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Scouting Report, Scuppernong River and ARNWR

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  • jimmiamcd
    This weekend (April 1-4), five club members scouted the Scuppernong River and Alligator River NWR for a possible club operation. Mia and Jim McDermott led
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2004
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      This weekend (April 1-4), five club members scouted the Scuppernong
      River and Alligator River NWR for a possible club operation. Mia and
      Jim McDermott led Dave Allchin, Frank Dupin and Mary Martha Vaught on
      the expedition. Arriving at Lake Phelps/Pettigrew State Park to set
      up base camp on Thursday, we had our choice of campsites. The park
      is small but right on the cypress ringed lake. It had been much
      damaged by Isabel and was still in a state of recovery with several
      of the sites unusable.

      After setting up camp, Mia, Dave and Jim walked over to the Somerset
      Plantation right beside the park for a quick look around at what was
      the third largest plantation in NC (over 27,000 acres and 300 slaves
      at one time). As we started to take a drive to the Scuppernong to
      check out the access points, Frank drove in, dropped his gear and
      joined us. We checked out the bridges from Creswell to Columbia and
      decided to try a short run on Friday from Spruill's Bridge to Cross
      Landing Bridge as a round trip since there is very little flow on the
      river. The park ranger told us that the river had been cleared of
      downfall, and it was, but only on the main channel -- the scenic
      oxbows mentioned in Paul Ferguson's book were all jammed with
      debris. The run the next day was peaceful if a little cold with lots
      of bird life and gar.The sign at the put-in gave the one-way distance
      to Cross Landing Bridge as 5.1 miles where Ferguson said 4.1, but we
      made it downstream with very easy paddling in a little over two
      hours, and returned in a little over 1 and 1/2 hours, so I'm inclined
      to think it is closer to Paul's calculation.

      We loaded canoes at the put-in/take-out and drove the ten miles to
      Columbia to check out the Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Management
      Headquarters Office and Museum where we picked up some maps and other
      useful information. Whle Frank and Dave returned to the camp, Mia
      and Jim drove down hwy 94 to scout out the put-ins on the Alligator
      River in Hyde County, going as far as the Intracoastal Waterway. On
      the way back, Jim decided to try a "shortcut" through the Pocosin
      Lakes Wildlife Area around New Lake -- BIG MISTAKE! We nearly
      destroyed our van and our marriage on the worst road (and I use the
      word "road" very loosely here) I have ever seen.

      MM arrived in the middle of the night to join us for the exploration
      of ARNWR. We decided to run Milltail Creek from Milltail Road to
      Buffalo City Road, one way distance of about nine miles. Milltail
      Road was being resufaced with gravel and was heavily trafficked with
      gravel trucks. About a mile from the put-in was a sign warning that
      the road was closed which we ignored. With very little parking space
      and gravel trucks rumbling dangerously close, we managed to off load
      canoes and gear and run the shuttle. Returning to the put-in, we
      were stopped by a trucker who told us we could not park by the
      bridge, but he graciously allowed us to park in a wide spot about
      half a mile away. The first part of the creek was narrow and
      beautiful, and we spotted two alligators sunning themselves on the
      bank. At about mile four, we found a place to pull out and eat, but
      right after lunch, we rounded the next bend and found ourselves on a
      broad (est. 1,000 to 1,500 foot wide) river paddling into a very
      strong wind. We stuggled another 3 miles to the entrance to the red
      trail to Sawyer Lake and followed that narrow, sheltered stream for a
      mile to the canal that returns to Buffalo City Landing. We were too
      exhausted to paddle up to Sawyer Lake to see the stands of Atlantic
      white cedar, so we turned down the canal to the take-out.

      We ate a communal potluck supper that night and, afterwards, made a
      moonlight float on Lake Phelps -- very serene and lovely. We had
      planned to do a short float on the Scuppernong in the morning before
      we checked out, but the dismal weather put a damper on our
      enthusiasm. Dave left to return to Plymouth where we had briefly
      stopped on our way in to see the replica of the Confederate
      ram, "Albermarle" docked right on the waterfront. MM left to return
      straight to Wilmington, while Frank and Mia and Jim drove down 94
      over Lake Mattamuskeet (in a howling wind). Frank turned in to the
      Mattamuskeet Lodge while Mia and Jim drove down to New Bern for a
      late lunch at Captain Ratty's (we took the free ferry to Aurora
      across a very windy and choppy Pamlico River with spray flying over
      the bow onto the cars).

      In sum, this is a beautiful if desolate part of the state with plenty
      of things to do and see, especially for outdoor types and canoers.
      There is much more to explore in ARNWR, and we will be going back.
      Because of the distance, this is a good extended weekend trip for the
      club. The ranger at Pettigrew told us the state is taking over the
      Scuppernong and adding it to Pettigrew State Park -- a good idea.
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