Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Alligator River Canoe Trip Report, April 18, 2003

Expand Messages
  • Andy Kunkle
    ALLIGATOR RIVER The Alligator River drains a large, wild area of northeastern North Carolina before emptying into Roanoke Sound. On the map, it definitely
    Message 1 of 1 , May 19, 2003

      The Alligator River drains a large, wild area of northeastern North
      Carolina before emptying into Roanoke Sound. On the map, it
      definitely looked like a place worth visiting. To add to the
      attraction, Red Wolves were reintroduced in the area a few years
      ago. With the wolves now established, I'm guessing that the
      Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is the only place in the
      world that can claim Alligators, Bears, and Wolves. I could be
      wrong, but if so, I can't think of another place that does.

      We got up early on Friday morning. The previous night's storm had
      mostly passed, leaving only overcast skies and a little drizzle. We
      left Nags Head and began the long drive back to Charlotte. We passed
      Manteo on the new bypass, which consists mainly of a LONG, impressive
      bridge over the sound. Once we reached the mainland, it didn't take
      long to arrive at the turn for Buffalo City Road. We followed it to
      its end at a canoe put-in at Milltail Creek. Our plan was to follow
      a route in Ferguson's guidebook. He suggested a 4 mile paddle to
      Sawyer Lake, which was perfect since we only had a couple of hours.

      We put in at 8 AM and followed red markers up a narrow channel. To
      our right was some high ground with a footpath, while swamp was on
      the left. It didn't take long to reach our first point of
      confusion. We reached a fork in the channel, with a red marker and
      arrow pointing helpfully back the way we had come. There was no
      indication of which we should go to continue on the route. This
      turned out to be a common problem in the refuge. Either markers were
      missing or they were obviously wrong. One marker pointed off into
      the woods. Another pointed up into the sky. It was apparent that we
      were on our own. Unfortunately, the map scale was too small to be
      useful. I guessed left, which turned out to be correct.

      We paddled for a few minutes and reached another unmarked fork. Here
      though we could see that Sawyer Lake was off to the left. We paddled
      that way and entered a beautiful lake. The shores are heavily
      wooded, to the extent that it seemed almost like a mountain lake.
      There was no sign of another person. As we paddled farther into the
      lake, I was overcome with a true sense of wilderness. I've been to a
      lot of remote places, in the Rockies and the canyons of Utah, but I
      don't think that any of those locations seemed any more wild than
      Sawyer Lake.

      We paddled to the far end of the lake enjoying the quiet. Here was
      found a large stand of Atlantic White Cedar. Well, the guidebook
      said we did, anyway. To be honest, I wouldn't know an Atlantic White
      Cedar from a Pine if it fell on me. Let's just say the trees were
      very nice and leave it at that.

      We reached the end of Sawyer Lake and paddled back. We reached the
      area where we first entered the lake. Instead of turning right to
      return by the same route, we paddled ahead, once again without the
      reassurance of route markers. Eventually we found one though, and
      continued on the red route to a low water bridge. Here the foot
      trail from the parking lot crosses Sandy Ridge Gut. The water was
      up, so there was no hope of floating under. We made an easy portage
      by dragging the canoe over the trail. We put back in and paddled
      through perhaps the prettiest part of the route. The swamp was
      beautiful and the channel remained very narrow. Fortunately, the
      route was clear of fallen trees.

      Our side stream eventually spilled out into Milltail Creek. This is
      a huge body of water that really looks more like a lake. I imagine
      it gets some power boat use from time to time, but we saw nobody this
      morning. It was a windy day, so we stayed close to shore. We
      paddled back to a marked side stream on the right. We followed this
      under a bridge and back to the take out.

      As we approached the take out, I heard a loud BANG. I almost jumped
      out of the boat. We hadn't heard anything louder than turtles
      plopping into the water in 2 hours. We reached the parking area, and
      discovered the source of the noise. 2 other paddlers had just
      arrived, and the noise was the door on the porta-potty. We got out
      and wished them a good trip.

      As we drove out, we reflected on how we hadn't seen any exciting
      wildlife. We'd seen the usual birds and turtles, but no bears,
      alligators, or wolves. Then, I spotted something odd in the road
      ahead of us. We approached, and two river otters ran out of the road
      and jumped into the creek next to us. This was the best look that
      I'd ever had of river otters in the wild. It was the perfect
      exclamation point to a great trip.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.