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Drowning Creek - Upper Lumber (revised)

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  • xstaubej
    Friday, 6 August 2004, we put in at Turnpike (SR 1414) and left there at about noon. Gauge readings were: Hoffman, 1.0 foot, Maxton, 8.7 feet. I have to note
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 3, 2004
      Friday, 6 August 2004, we put in at Turnpike (SR 1414) and left there
      at about noon. Gauge readings were: Hoffman, 1.0 foot, Maxton, 8.7
      feet. I have to note that the graphic display at the USGS stream site
      showed heavy fluctuations between 0.0 and 0.7 feet thru the weekend
      for Drowning Creek at Hoffman. As it turns out, these reading are
      very suspect, but the river was the lowest I've ever seen it. We
      could tell the water was low but the current was obviously swift
      enough to carry us along well. Things were looking pretty good that
      first quarter mile, but then we got to our first obstruction. The
      obstructions kept coming and we portaged probably a dozen times. Most
      portages were simply crossing logs that had fallen `cross the river,
      but a couple of them had us out on the bank, dragging the canoe, 20
      yards or so across the land. One portage had us dragging the canoe
      through a downed tree's limbs to a height of about 5 feet off the
      water. We then slid it down through the limbs to return it to the
      river downstream of the tree. That was one of the most adventurous
      portages. That is if you don't count the danger of chain-sawing
      your leg off in the wilderness 5 miles from any road. Throughout the
      weekend we were glad we brought the chainsaw, but the danger was
      always real. I'd say we "fired her up" at least eight
      times on Friday. Friday night we camped at Chalk banks campsite. Nice
      place, and it looks like the park service is doing some work there,
      too. Here are GPS numbers for Chalk Banks: 34 degrees 55.579'
      North x 79 degrees 21.269' West

      Saturday, 7 August, was much like Friday, only more of it. Gauge
      readings were: Hoffman, 0.8 foot, Maxton, 8.2 feet. The way was clear
      from Chalk banks to 401, and even a little below that. However, we
      were chain-sawing before lunchtime that day. At one of these first
      stops we found a message in a bottle. Someone had chucked a plastic
      bottle into the river with a note saying to call if you found it. I
      called and found out that they had released the bottle from the 401
      bridge in 1999. I told them we found it within a mile (river
      distance) of the bridge, ha. There was a nice bank to stop at just
      south of the railroad bridge, so we had a late lunch there. We
      portaged and sawed for hours, mostly portaging. We got it all figured
      out and had a system for moving across the logs to make it quick.
      Nothing like necessity to sharpen your skills. And I have to mention
      the many times that we had to crouch and duck under logs. Sometimes
      the rails of the canoe would scrape, that's how low we had to
      duck and cover. Any lower, and we would just go over it. We camped
      that night at Jasper Memory. It's sort of close to the road and a
      fisherman paid us a visit about dusk. He was a nice enough fellow,
      but it was a bit uncomfortable having a "stranger" come upon
      our campsite like that. The GPS numbers for Jasper Memory: 34 degrees
      50.728 North x 79 degrees 20.733' West.

      Sunday, 8 August, Gauge readings were: Hoffman, 0.6 foot, Maxton,
      7.6 feet. I was greeted by early-morning fishermen while having
      breakfast. This time they were in boats on the water instead of
      walking thru the campsite. There is a put-in spot just about a
      quarter-mile south of the campsite where the river skirts alongside
      the road. A couple of trucks were parked there that had hauled the
      fishermen's boats. Not far below that were more obstacles. Though
      most of the portages were tree crossings , we did have to get out and
      wade at one point, and pull the canoe through the upper, smaller
      limbs of the tree against the bank. We rendezvoused with our
      transport at the take out point (SR1310/1433) just about 20 minutes
      late. Closing thoughts and notes. This was a tough trip, but I loved
      it! I wouldn't recommend it for the weak at heart, or the weak.
      This was only a trip for someone who wanted a challenge, and the
      upper Lumber delivered. We saw some herons, hawks, and vultures, and
      heard many owls at night. Folks say this river is full of snakes.
      Well, I was up under 50% of trees along 15 miles of the river, and I
      didn't see a single serpent. I was somewhat disappointed. If
      you're scared of poison ivy, you might want to reconsider, too.
      You can see photos (in chronological order) from the trip here:
      http://home.earthlink.net/~iceland-trip/canoe . BTW, the gator photo
      is from a trip in June on the lower Lumber. We found him between SR
      2123 and SR 2121. Email me and share your thoughts.
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