• Happy Birthday, Doc Holliday (1851-1887)!

Trip Report North Carolina October 2012



(Way too long for most anyone who wasn’t actually there to bother reading. Maybe even for some of them. But there are pretty pictures, and even a tidbit or two of useful information)

Bladen County NC, Black and South Rivers

Thursday, 10/11/12

A wee hours departure saw my arrival at the Tortoise Reserve in time for lunch. Bill arrived a few minutes later, lunch became liquid and we set about disgorging gear and boats.

We had parts, tools and materials for working at the Tortoise Reserve, expansive tents and gear for camping there in plush comfort, more compact tents and gear for dry bagging into the Hammocks Beach barrier island and generally a humongous amount of stuff for different purposes in different places.

Bill elected to bring the walk-in tent version of a pop up trailer, a Marmot Limestone 6. It’s the only tent I have seen with an Imelda Marcos style hanging shoe rack by the door.

We set up the Mantis Tarp as a repository for excess gear and readied the van for a paddle on the South the following day. Joel and Kathy soon arrived, having not quite fully shed some plastic heat shields from the undercarriage of the Jetta – the road into the Reserve had recently received a foot of so of loose sand, and I plowed some of it even with the higher clearance E-150 undercarriage.

The shadetree mechanic’s solution was to drive the Jetta up on some 2x6’s propped up on cinder blocks and remove large sections of dangling plastic with tin snips. And we duct taped part of the bumper back in place. HooptyJetta. Don’t park it in the high grass with the engine hot.

There were festivities that evening and night, great cookery and the usual tomfoolery. With a 4am wake up I was away to bed before most of the latter.

Before retiring we debated which section of which river to paddle the next day, settling on Section 10 of the South (13.4 miles, Ennis Rd to Beattys Bridge). Joel wanted a decent length, I wanted something close to the Reserve so we could get back and still have time to do some work, and Bill wanted something with a lot of strainers.

Friday, 10/12/12

Kathy didn’t express any specific desires as to a paddling destination, but deep down I believe she was in fact secretly hoping for a 1[SUP]st[/SUP] canoe bow paddler’s view of a sow bear and 3 younguns dashing up and down trees and into the swamp. Kathy is now 2 for 2 on trips seeing bear at the Reserve. Counting a dead one in the middle of the road a few years ago I am more like 3 for 30.

This was the maiden voyage of the Kathy’s new-used Wenonah Sundowner Ultralight, bought from Bill, who bought it from another mutual friend. Not the ideal canoe for dozens of blackwater strainers. The only things more inappropriate were the decked canoes Bill and I were paddling.

(I need to find a derelict solo canoe and rebuild it to leave at the Tortoise Reserve. And I’m looking forward to having that Sundowner up to the shop for some comfort and performance outfitting. Yay, shop projects)

After a half dozen hearty get-out-and–drag-the-boats-through-the-swamp episodes Bill was finally satisfied. Unfortunately there were another half dozen to come. We did not get back to the reserve in time to do anything more strenuous than multiple sets of 12 oz curls.

There followed another gourmet repast. Bill’s soup was delicious; Dave should have tried it at least once when Bill offered. A late night for all involved, including a strainer-beaten decision to simply work and wander about the Tortoise Reserve the next day.

Saturday 10/13/12

Bill and I tackled the installation of shelving in yet another outbuilding; I believe that one is called “Food Prep and Aquarium Storage”. Much like Joel and I boatworking in the shop Bill and I together make an almost competent carpenter. Or at least we kept each other from making too many mistakes.

I should note there that the only two tape measures available at the Tortoise Reserve were bedevilment tools I had left behind in the past for Dave; one missing an even 10 feet of length, one missing 2 and 13/16 inches, with reattached end tangs.

Jeff and Nancy, a couple of paddling friends of our hosts Dave and Mary Kay arrived in the afternoon with boats on their car, and Bill and I set their shuttle, dropping them off for the easy and open Section 5 of the Black, with boats, gear and paddlers dropped at the put in and their car left at the take out. That effort spawned some discussion of holding spare car keys; I may still have one of Bill’s and Joel may still have one of mine.

Our reward was yet another night of Reserve delights; Wanda on guitar, Joel on banjo breaking strings, Leo on harmonica, Cyrus the World’s Happiest Dog cavorting with pure joy, steamed crabs, shrimp, baked potatoes and Jasmine the No-Orifice blowup doll making a repeat leaky appearance.

And the racking of boats and packing of gear for a group paddle on Sunday.

The surprise display of tramp stamp turtle tattoos by the wild women of the Tortoise Reserve did little to refute Dave’s fear that he had fallen in with a bad crowd.

Sunday 10/14/12

Mary Kay and Wanda joined us, tandem paddling the Adventure 16 for the easy delights on Section 5 on the Black. As Bill and I dropped off our companions, boats and gear at the put in to set the shuttle we encountered a convoy of a dozen or more cars, racked with all manner of boats from classic canoes to Big Box Pumpkinseeds, heading for the Ivanhoe Wildlife Boating Access.

Other than encountering folks on the Three Sisters section downsteam from Beattys Bridge these were the first other paddlers we have encountered on the Black or South.

With a short shuttle we were back and launched before they had finished readying their boats. They passed us while we were muckling on a sandy beach and we later passed them doing the same. Nice, quiet folk, not even much paddle thumping, especially considering the size and ages of their contingent.

Somewhere along the backstretch we came upon a gregarious landowner couple standing on their riverfront. He, a biologist, pointed out a magnificent fern bank on the opposite shore, fed by freshwater drippage off the steep shore, and offered that the far bank was owned by the Nature Conservancy.

He also told of a freshwater spring tumbling out at the entrance to a dead-end cove or old oxbow just upstream. We paddled up to check out the spring and I somehow ended up all alone at the far end of the cove.

We should stretch out that easy, open 7.6 miles into a day long trip, exploring up every dead end gut and oxbow.

There is a massive cypress stump at the end of that old oxbow, as big around as anything I’ve seen on the Black or South. Long ago sheared off at the top, but still standing solid. That trunk supports a series of very large, very old woodpecker holes, spaced 4 or 5 feet apart in a perfectly vertical line.

I’d like to believe that they could be old Ivory Billed cavities from the 30’s. I need some Ornithologist to have a look. If only I knew a reputable ornithologist. Or even a disreputable one.

Having now paddled 7.6 miles with Mary Kay she has exceeded DSL’s total Duckhead mileage by 38 times.

You have no hope of ever catching up now Dave, but if you sit in the front of the Adventure, feet up and backrest deployed, Joel will paddle you down that section of the Black. You can have one beer per mile marker and give Joel an incomplete on an impromptu flora and fauna quiz.

Photos from the South and Black

http://s1324.photobucket.com/albums/u606/JoelBeckwith/Tortoise Reserve Oct 2012/?albumview=slideshow

Monday 10/15/12

Packed and racked and ready for the couple hour drive to Hammocks Beach Bill, we were away almost on time. Although the rural road school bus stops slowed our progress we arrived at the Ranger Station shortly after it opened.

Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro NC

We timed this visit to take advantage of the tidal flow at Bouge Inlet, looking to catch a high and falling tide for a ride out and a rising tide for the ride back. For coastal venues like Hammocks Beach timing the tides is hugely advantageous, both for water direction and depth.

Hammocks Beach tide predictions (at Bogue Inlet)


One caveat on selecting tides when travelling in, out or through inland marsh zones: Marshes are like giant sponges and take a long time to tidally fill and an equally long time to empty. The high tide at the Hammocks Beach launch, only a couple of miles inland, runs at least an hour (maybe closer to two) behind Bogue Inlet. And a second caveat – the wind direction will help keep the marshes full, or hurry emptying them.

Our paddle in was easy on a falling high tide and low winds, with only a little outflow to paddle against crossing the sandbar into the canoe trail entrance cove. A few hours later would have required a boat tugging wade.

About the Hammocks Beach campsites; there are 14 sites on Hammocks Beach, as well as a couple of group sites.


The easiest entrance to the beachfront sites is via the “Canoe Route” gut on the (very inaccurate) map above.

The ocean-front sites (1-11) are more exposed, set just back of the dunes from the Atlantic. If isn’t predicted to be cold and windy some of those would be my preference. Same preference if it was close to the shoulder seasons of bugdoom, where some breeze and easily accessible beachfront be preferable.

The best of those sites would be # 6 or 8. The landing at the back of the canoe route gut is a perfect shallow sand beach with firm footing. Unfortunately that firm footing lasts for only a few yards. Inland, from there to the Atlantic intertidal zone, lies the loosest sand on which you will ever tread foot. Loose sand and steep dunes do not make the hauling gear into camp easy.

Site 6 is small and in a somewhat wind protected hollow. It is close to the landing but still secluded feeling, and views of the Atlantic are as easy as standing up and looking over the front dune.

Site 8 is a large site, set deep within in a ¾ semi-circle bowl of high dunes and perhaps the best wind protected beachfront site, open only towards the entrance gut (north). That bowl is set so low that the sand may seep damp on a very high tide.

Site 7 is more open to both the ocean and back bay, and would be a chilly site in off-season winds. 9 and 10 are open to the bayside but behind at least a bit of oceanside dune, and 11 is open on both sides. Site 5 is very small and wind exposed except for a sizable dune on the ocean side.

Any lower site number that that might put me too close to the State Park bathhouse. Potable water, flush toilets, hot showers – thanks but I’d rather not. I’ve still never seen those amenities.

Hammocks Beach sites are reservable, and we foresightedly took 7 and 8 to accommodate a potential group of 4 (wah – no Kathy), with three tents, a sun tarp and some form of bug shelter. We met some canoeists taking out at the launch who foretold that the noseeums were bad, and chose to bring both a 16x16 parawing for shade and a screened Mantis tarp for possible bug escape. Our third choice was a full screen house, which we wisely opted to leave behind.

Tuesday 10/16/12

Joel slept in the Mantis, which proved not to be an ideal shelter for sand environs. He shared his bed with an inquisitive ghost crab, and whatever blowing sand entered through the front mesh. Another beachfront Mantis discovery – setting up or taking down the floorless Mantis tarp in beach environs means that a significant dusting of sand will end up adhered to the interior underside, there to shake off onto one’s head in the night breezes. Taking it down with some morning condensation still wetting the underside was even worse.

That range of shelter still provided valuable options. Fortunately the temperature dropped and stabilized a bit over the next few days; the late season noseeums were only occasional and largely tolerable, and the flies could be defeated by seeking a more wind exposed repose. Had the breeze died a few knots, the temperature risen a few degrees or any rain fallen that might have been a different story.

Mid-October at Hammocks Beach was pushing our luck. I wouldn’t paddle in to an Assateague bayside site in mid-October, but Hammocks Beach seems to lack the voracious shoulder-season mosquitoes that Chincoteague Bay harbors into mid-November.

Bill and I took a beach wander and sit about in the shade day, while Joel paddled off to look for the hammock trees at the woodsy sites along the canoe route gut.

Joel’s investigative report:

The three sites along the gut on the way in, #’s 12, 13 and 14 offer the shortest carry and perhaps the best wind protection. They are also the only sites on Hammocks Beach that have trees to make them actually hammock-able.

Site 14 is a large open site, decently wind protected with a good landing (but limited hammock trees). There is a low tide sandbar further up the gut towards 12 and 13 that requires an ankle deep pullover at low tide, so 14 is more easily accessible in low water.

Site 13 is a small site with a nice sandy landing and offers great 360 views from the top of the towering dunes at its back.

Site 12 has a sketchy landing at high tide, but has the best shelter and hammock-ability with an open space set back in a closed canopy of surrounding trees. None of those would be my choice in bug season, but in the chill winds of November or December #12 might be ideal.

The night before we had experienced a very high tide from a New Moon coupled with the remnants of a Bermudian Hurricane. The excessive high tide line was at the very edge of the dunes, and the bottom of the dune bowl at site 8 was damp sanded the following morning from high tide seepage.

That excessively high tide left a distinct and plentiful shell line, including sand dollars, whelks and the North Carolina State shell, the Scots Bomblett. Well worth a wander on the beach, especially towards Bogue Inlet, where the north end of Hammocks is low and flat and naturally moving sand south.

Wednesday 10/17/12

A serendipitous early awakening saw Joel and me catching the perfect tides for a circumnavigation of the Huggins Island Maritime Forest. The backside of Huggins makes for a wonderful wilderness feel, coasting along between the marsh and a densely rugged live oak forest.


The north side of the island is far less alluring; same dense forest and marsh grass edge, but the traffic noise and visible buildings of Cedar Point in the not-far enough distance detract from the ambiance. A playful porpoise pod helped distract my attention and alleviate any feeling of onrushing syphilization. I won’t paddle that side again, although I’d like to see how far out into the inlet I feel comfortable.

Back on the more tranquil inside loop Joel thoughtfully picked a long openwater downwind return route, and I was able to sail most of the way back to camp. Joel coulda-shoulda-wouda stuck a sail in front of the cockpit on his Caribou and saved his aching elbow…or taken Bill’s rudder and sail equipped Rambler. Or simply called “Dibs on the Monarch”.

We returned to camp to espy Bill attempting to furtively secret week old week old Salami slices amongst our gear, but to our regret attributed it to post-retirement senility and didn’t investigate further.

Joel wandered off on his own, as is his preferred perspective, and Bill and I took station atop the high dune in front of Site 8, there to watch a pod of 6 or 8 (or maybe 10) Porpoise feed and cavort in the surf, body-surfing the waves in staggered lines, leaping fully out of the ocean to clear the breakers and head back out for another ride.

I’m thinking if the concept of Homo sapiens surfing ocean waves had a genesis, that’s it.

Another less wildernessy oddity about Hammocks Beach – Camp Lejune is the next chunk of land to the south. You will see and hear lots of militaria, including artillery, 50 cals booming in the distance and fly overs by tilt-rotor Osprey and all manner of Marine helicopters.

Thursday, 10/18/12

We frittered away the morning with wanders and dawdlings, opting for an afternoon paddle out, giving us sunshine time to dry out sea breeze damp tents and tarps. Although our paddle out timing was a few hours after high tide, the natural inland tidal marsh delay, coupled with a steady onshore breeze, kept the route will filled and with the breeze at our backs Bill and I sailed most of the way back to the launch.

We sailed passed a quartet of gentlemen in two tandem canoes headed in, both boats massively overloaded with gear, including clam rakes, a guitar or two, a bow dog and more.

Much, much more. One seemed packed almost entirely with rectangular plastic storage boxes, neatly cube stacked 5 feet high, filling the center of the canoe. It looked like Old Town had gone into the container ship business. The stern paddler would have needed a periscope to see where he was going.

Men after my own heart.

Another rearrangement of the gear in the van and Bill departed for his NC home a few hours south, while Joel and I headed off for the New River Gorge. North Carolina is a wide State to cross east to west, and well into the night we found the Holy Grail – a Motel 6 and a Waffle house on the same exit, just north of the WVA line.

Friday, 10/19/12

Beyond our morning Waffle House gorge was another; the New River Gorge. Tomorrow would be Bridge Day:


With an estimated crowd of 40,000-60,000 expected this looked more like Hell Day to me, so I kicked Joel out of the van at the base of the Summersville Lake Lighthouse with minimal gear, figuring he could make his own way home.

Eventually declared homeless by the campground staff, he had made it only as far as Dolly Sods a few days later, but as usual he did eventually find his way back. I’ll have to drop him off further away next time.

Saturday, 10/20/12

The drive home from West by God Virginny was fortuitously timed. Son Cooper came home for the weekend to pick up some camping gear, so I was able to help him with select gear and he helped me unload boats.

Random gear thoughts from unpacking gear:

The Mantis Tarp: It should NEVER be used in fine sand. I hung it
over the porch rail and swept it with a broom and it was still sandy.
I tackled it with a leaf blower and it was still sandy. I blasted it
with a hose and when it dried it was still sandy. I ended up dragging
it around the yard across the grass. And it’s still sandy. It might be
far more appropriate for northern forest trips, especially after Joel
tackles some sewing alterations and additions.

The parawing: I had been thinking of cutting that tarp in half and
making two “end caps” for windage on the big Tundra Tarp, but I think
I’ll keep it intact. I added new, permanent lines to the corners. I still need to hose it down; it’s really salt sticky – a typical post-trip hazard for paddling coastal venues.

The Polarbear Cooler: After two scrubbings in a Motel 6 bathtub with Dr
Bronners, a final scrubbing at home with dish soap and a thorough
rinse removed the stench.

Remember that sliced salami? At first I thought the soggy objects I fetched from the cooler bilgewater were fuzzy white bunny tails that had become flattened under the remaining beer cans, but Joel’s gag reflex told me otherwise. I scrubbed off the too-greasy to hold beer cans as well; except for Bill’s leftover Miller 64; I’m saving that for the next trip with him.

Spirit Sails: Yay! I got Bill out sailing. He can cross that off his Bucket List. And add “Buy Spirit Sail”

Hammocks Beach Photos




http://s1324.photobucket.com/albums/u606/JoelBeckwith/Hammocks Beach State Park/?albumview=slideshow

Next spring maybe we kidnap Dave for Section 5 of the Black, hit the Three Sisters section another day and finish up with a multi-day trip down the Lumber.
Oct 5, 2012
Reaction score
Genesee Valley, Western NY
"I’d like to believe that they could be old Ivory Billed cavities from the 30’s. I need some Ornithologist to have a look. If only I knew a reputable ornithologist. Or even a disreputable one."

I don't know about the diagnostic features of the Ivory Billed nest cavity but I do know a disreputable ornithologist. From your description he believes that the holes in question were indeed made by the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. It is unreasonable to think that nest holes could endure 80 years even in cypress. Therefore it is a logical conclusion that you have stumbled upon evidence to the existence of a species long thought to be extinct. There will be hordes of birders flocking to take a look. Perhaps you should consider selling maps to the precise location of the cypress stump. I'd buy one!

Thanks for reporting and no, it was not too long. I always appreciate tidbits of information.
Last edited:


Beta about the Black and South Rivers in eastern NC

Beta about the Black and South Rivers in eastern NC

There are a few “designated” camping spots along the Black and South, managed by the Cape Fear River Watch, and many unposted bluffs and sandbars. The most convenient park for car camping would be Jones Lake State Park.


I am not familiar with any paid shuttle services in the area, having never needed one. The park staff might have information in that regard.

Black and South River paddling information and conditions

Caveat: River levels and conditions, and especially the quantity of strainers, vary from year to year on the same sections. Your obstacles and impediments may (will) vary; the area has endured several tropical storms and at least one tornado-spawning system over the past 10 years.


Black River Section 1: NC903 (over Great Coharie Creek) to NC411, 6.7 miles

Paddled in 2006

Put in and take out: I vaguely recall that access at both ends was less than ideal, but we were impromptu invited by local landowner’s at both ends to use their property. Noted as “Southern Hospitality”.

River conditions:
2006 - The trip report notes it as “Open, easy and suitable for paddlers of any skill level”


Black River Section 2: NC411 to NC41, 6.5 miles

Paddled in 2005

Put in and take out: Unless you get lucky with southern hospitality landowner invitations both ends offer roadside parking and steep banked access through brush and brambles.

River conditions:
2005 - “A gentle float trip with no carryovers or limbo logs and a moderate current”


Black River Section 3: NC41 to Wildcat Rd, 6.0 miles

Paddled in 2004 and 2006

Put in (NC41) - Roadside parking, steep banked access through brush and brambles

Take out (Wildcat Rd) – Same as above.

River conditions:
2004 - “Naught to impede progress but a single limbo log”.

2006 – Done in a hard rain and high water, a few speedbump logs would have been a problem at lower levels.


Black River Section 4: Wildcat Rd to Ivanhoe Rd, 9.0 miles

Paddled in 2005

Put in (Wildcat Rd) - Roadside parking, steep banked access through brush and brambles

Take out – Wildlife Boating Access on Ivanhoe Rd.

River conditions:
2005 - “Another easy trip, with one short sandbar carryover around a river wide strainer”


Black River Section 5: Ivanhoe Rd to Beatty’s Bridge Rd, 7.6 miles

Paddled in 2005, 2011 and 2012

Put in (Ivanhoe Rd) – Wildlife Boating Access

Take out – Sandy beach landing, short steep carry and plenty of wide-shouldered parking

River conditions:
2005 “a couple of limbo logs and a speedbump log or two, but no carryovers”
2011 “One of the most, accessible and pleasant pieces of the Black”. No carries.
2012 (Spring) – “Timed to coincide with the warbler migration and the profusion of Prothonotary and Northern Parula’s did not disappoint”
2012 (Fall) - “We should stretch out that easy, open 7.6 miles into a day long trip, exploring up every dead end gut and oxbow”. No carries.

Section 5 is the most novice friendly section of either the South or Black; now sporting wooden mileage signs “Beatty’s Bridge 6 miles”….Beatty’s Bridge 5 miles” and a sign at the confluence with the South. Enough effort was put into getting these high enough on trees to escape floodwaters that someone must be leading trips on this section.


Black River Section 6: Beatty’s Bridge to Hunts Bluff access off Longview Rd

Paddled in 2004

Put in – Sandy beach landing, short steep carry and plenty of wide-shouldered parking

Take out: Wildlife Boating Access at Hunts Bluff Rd

River conditions 2004 - Open and easy except for the stretch through the Three Sisters narrows, where the river braids out into a shallow and confusing cypress swamp.

I have not been on the two tidal sections below Hunts Bluff.

Black River Section 7: Hunts Bluff to The Borough access. I believe that The Borough Access is no longer available, and I’ve never taken notice of possible access at the Rte 210 bridge over the Black (but hope to rectify that soon).

Ferguson notes the 210 Bridge over Moores Creek as an access point, and it is less than four tidal miles down Moores Creek to the confluence with the Black, and about four tidal miles up the Black to Rte 210. That possibility merits further investigation for a tidally timed trip if the access points work.

Black River Section 8: The Borough access (or etc) to the middle of nowhere. This could be as long as you’d like to make it. It is 11.7 miles down the Black to the confluence with the Cape Fear, and the next take out downstream is 14.4 miles down the Cape Fear in Wilmington. Along that stretch there is reportedly no unposted solid ground on which to camp, and even out of the boat leg stretching is tidal swamp limited.

With some tidal timing, wind consideration and navigation through the Lyon Thorofare it might be easier to paddle between some access on the Black and the Riegel Course Rd access on the Cape Fear upsteam of the confluence.



I have not yet paddled Sections 1 – 4. Ferguson gives the scenery high marks, and also mentions “the river often braids into several channels”, “knees from many cypress trees provide obstacles to avoid”, “newly downed trees are common”, “dense trees….poison ivy vines” “tree limbs are at face level” and other delights. Sounds great. I need to keep working my way up the South.

South River Section 5: Butler Island Bridge Rd to NC242, 4.4 miles

Paddled in 2006

Put in: “Not one of the South’s best, requiring a struggle through the Smilax to reach the water’s edge”

Take out: Easy access and ample parking

River conditions: “The first riverwide strainer appeared even before the put in had disappeared from sight”. Many strainers, two swims and a broken composite boat. ‘Nuff said.


South River Section 6: NC242 to Boykin/Melvin Bridge Rd, 6.2 miles

Paddled in 2006

Put in: Easy put in and ample parking.

Take out: Ample roadside parking with a short hill. (Note the take out is Melvin Rd on the west side of the river and Boykin on the east)

River conditions: Two difficult strainer portages. “Narrow, twisty, relentless serpentine and heavily canopied. At low water the few speedbump logs would have been difficult to get over, at high water the few limbo logs wouldn’t have had room to squeeze under”. I think we got lucky with the level.


South River Section 7: Melvin/Boykin Bridge Rd to NC 701, 10.4 miles

Paddled in 2006

Put in: Ample roadside parking with a short hill. (Note the take out is Melvin Rd on the west side of the river and Boykin on the east)

Take out: Wildlife Boating Access at NC 701

River Conditions
2006: “Small, twisty rivercourse with occasional strainers and limbo logs”. Two intermediate bridges along the way (Green Sea Rd and Helltown Rd) are not recommended access.


South River Section 8: NC 701 to NC 41, 8.6 miles

Paddled in 2003 and 2007

Put in: Wildlife Boating Access at NC 701

Take out: Longish roadside carry around guardrail

River conditions:
2003 – Run at flood stage with the Rte 701 access submerged. “Today’s run required significant maneuvering, boat control and route selection”. One memorable yard sale capsize and swim at mile 8.5.

2007 - “Seventeen major riverwide strainers in total over the 8 mile length, including some complex over and under combinations”. Not for the faint of heart.


South River Section 9: NC 41 to Ennis Bridge Rd.

Paddled in 2003 and 2012

Put in: Longish roadside carry around guardrail

Take out: Wildlife Boating Access

River conditions
2003 - Run at flood stage. Ferguson notes “At low water many sandbars are available and the river is confined to one channel with banks up to 12 feet high”. The 2003 trip report notes “At high water there are no sandbars. And no banks. The main flow of current often cuts across the continuous oxbows through the forest and, trust me, you don’t want to go there”. We were able to discern the river course only by keeping between the closed canopy of inward leaning trees from the submerged banks. ///__\

2012 – “10.4 GPS miles (Ferguson makes it 9.4) took us a solid 7 hours”. Many difficult strainers along the second half, at which point they have become far less entertaining.


South River Section 10: Ennis Bridge Rd to Beatty’s Bridge Rd on the Black.

Paddled in 2008, 2011 and 2012

Put in: Wildlife Boating access

Take out: Sandy beach landing, short steep carry and plenty of wide-shouldered parking

River conditions:
2008 - “clear of strainers and relatively undeveloped”. The widest, least strainered and easiest section of the South”

Or not. 2011 - Many strainers, which I somehow didn’t remember a 6 months later.

2012 - “After a half dozen hearty get-out-and–drag-the-boats-through-the-swamp episodes Bill was finally satisfied. Unfortunately there were another half dozen to come.”


The next trip on the South or Black will be my 10th year of paddling there, and my 20th trip on the Black or South. It should be something memorable.


Mike did you post pictures of the woodpecker holes?

We have tons of pileated woodpeckers here and they drill enormous holes like this

We have Pileated nesting on our property, and plenty of old Pileated holes in snags and trunks – there is a series on a tree 50 feet from where I now sit - so I am familiar with their appearance.

The ones in that ancient cypress somehow looked odd to me. They were more perfectly circular and very evenly spaced along the trunk in a straight line. They had the appearance of being very old, with the outer bark having healed up around them.

In all likelihood they were old Pileated holes, and I don’t know if it is possible to differentiate Pileated from Ivory Billed nest cavities, but with 1700 – 2000 year old cypress in the vicinity the possibility remains.

I didn’t think to take a photo. Next time I will, and I hope to have an ornithologist friend along.