July 19, 2011 12:32:00 PM
About six years ago there were lots of kayaking outfitters within a few hours'' drive, but nowadays it looks like most of those watering holes have dried up.
If you have a kayak or can borrow one, the Buttahatchee River is an enjoyable kayak trip. Putting in at the bridge north of Caledonia is easy enough. Head upstream then relax a little on the return. The water is clear, with a rock bottom, a few small rapids and some deep water holes for a cool swim.
The Luxapalila is a good float, though we''ve had to portage a few times. You can put in at a public access on Gunshoot Road just south of Steens, or near the bridge alongside Highway 50 and head north. The climb down was a bit steep but, again, you can paddle upstream and come back with little difficulty. Sam and I spotted a couple of little snakes, they were quick little rascals that raced us along the edge of the water; they kept to their side and us to ours.
I''m told the Catalpa is kayak-able, but I haven''t tried it myself. There''s access along Old West Point Road.
Some Swoope family members kayak Tibbee Creek, but from what I''d seen there are snakes and alligators.
"They are more afraid of you than you are of them," they said. Still, I didn''t feel secure enough to climb in the water with snakes and alligators. That is, until one Saturday when we had been cooped up for another 100-degree weekend.
Sam loaded the kayaks, and we headed to a boat ramp near an abandoned bridge off of Old Tibbee Road. We decided to kayak west toward Highway 45 Alternate. It was a nice float, and float was about all it was.
There was almost no flow, but the scenery was lush. The water was the color of a good latte. The good news was that we encountered no snakes and no alligators. After seeing that section of the creek, I figured the likelihood of a gator was slim. The sides of the creek were steep and offered crocodilians no sunning opportunities. It''s a good three-hour meandering float. A deer swimming in the creek provided the only excitement of the day.
The day after, we put the "big boat" in at Charles Younger Landing and headed to the abandoned bridge, where we had put in with the kayaks. Turns out going that direction, with serpentine turns, adds up to about 10 miles one way, a hefty kayak ride.
On the way we spotted what looked like a pig floating at the shoreline just below a tall cliff, somewhat reminiscent of the story about the demonic pigs running off the cliffs. We turned around to get a closer look only to discover the floating carcass was an alligator missing its head and tail.
I''d say somebody''s been watching a little too much "Swamp People."
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.
5. Works in Wood exhibit opens today in West Point ENTERTAINMENT