Tag Archives: paddling

RiverTrek Day 2: Alum Bluff to Estiffanulga

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

After breakfast and tearing down camp, Riverkeeper Dan ferried us across the river from the sandbar where we camped to Alum Bluff.  The day before we looked at the 150 foot tall bluff and tried to figure out how we would be approaching it from lower ground. When we got across, we were surprised that the plan was to go more or less right up the front, zigging and zagging on some steep and sometimes slippery terrain. Once we were up there, Annie Schmidt of The Nature Conservancy started us on our tour. Where we went up on the bluff is not part of the nearby Garden of Eden trail, so we bush whacked our way through. It was a great morning workout.

This is the curviest part of the river, the is the most east and west paddling we’ll do on the trip, and the least progress southward.  Still, we paddled 21 miles (Mile marker 84- 63).  Alum Bluff was the first of much taller bluffs we passed today, made of a combination of limestone, sand, and red clay.

We took a detour up Sutton Creek, near Blountstown.  That’s where some of the oldest Cypress trees on the river can be found, with ten foot knees.  This river keeps so many unique places like this tucked away like pennies under a couch cushion.  Like those pennies, of course, some of the places are kind of hard to reach.  If we had had more time, we would have hiked into the cypress.

Josh got out of his kayak and gave us a little perspective:

Tonight we camp at Estiffanulga.  Estiffanulga Bluff once served as a base for William Augustus Bowles’ pirate flotilla.  Some of the paddlers affectionately call it “stiff and ugly.”  I’m not as stiff as I thought I would be, and I would definitely not call this place ugly.  Here is where I part ways with videographer Dan Peeri.  Dawn and Rick Peffer, who brought us dinner, are shuttling him back to Tallahassee. Dawn made us some fantastic pies (apple and cherry), muffins, and foil wrapped apple fritters for us to eat for breakfast tomorrow. They also brought food from Uptown Cafe. Thanks to the Peffers and Uptown Cafe! And thanks Dan for your hard work.

We ended the night with campfire stories and levity, which I’ve been told not to share on the blog.  So I’m being nice…

image

Dan Peeri was on the boat for several hours of Dan Tonsmeire’s conference calls with legislative members.  Here he is hard at work.

For more information on Rivertrek, visit the official page.  This page is on the Riverkeeper web site, and you can further explore what they do for the river.  (They’re also on Facebook).

The Franklin County Promise Coalition is coordinating aide efforts for families that are being affected in Franklin County through their Bay Aid program.   As Dan told us in his original interview, over half of the residents of Franklin County depend on the river for their livelihoods.  Learn more about volunteering and other Bay Aid opportunities here.

RiverTrek Day 2: Sutton Lake

Georgia Ackerman RiverTrek 2012 co-Coordinator

20121012-113614.jpg

We had no signal in Estiffinulga, so we’re catching up today. Hopefully Rob can post his day 2 summary later. This is our trip to Sutton Lake, which has the oldest cypress trees along the river. Some of the knees were ten feet tall.

We’ve re-edited the post date so that events show up in order.  We have also added additional photos and posts to flesh out the experience.

RiverTrek Day 2: Waking Up

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

20121011-060026.jpg

Good morning from Rob on Georgia’s phone! It’s easier for me to post from here. Last night, I had dreams about uploading blog posts. When I woke up, a barred owl was calling near the camp. After a few calls, I heard a response from aways off, I think across the river. They called back and forth a while. Much better than dreaming about blogs. Everyone is up and getting ready to hike Alum Bluff.

RiverTrek Day 1: Woodruff Dam to Alum Bluff

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

First day’s paddle is done!

It was an incredibly foggy day. It made for an interesting paddle when anyone that got ahead of you started to disappear.

We paddled twenty one miles, from the ramp, just near the Woodruff Dam (mile marker 105) to a sandbar across from Alum Bluff (mile marker 84), where we’ll be spending the night.  Yes, there are mile markers along the river, a remnant of the days when barges rode this watery highway to the Gulf.  The dam lies about 1000 feet downstream of the original confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers, just north of the Florida/ Georgia border.  The confluence is now below the lake created by the dam, Lake Seminole.

I admit that I had only really seen this part of the river as I crossed over it on I-10 (that’s when I like to take my cell phone out and watch the time change). What did the motorists passing over us make of our brightly colored kayak flotilla?

The cage around this young torreya is meant to prevent deer from eating it. They grow slowly, leaving them vulnerable to plant consumers.

A couple of hours into our trip, we stopped at Means Creek in Torreya State Park.  The creek is named for biologist Bruce Means.  There, park biologist Mark Ludlow showed us a young torreya tree. He told us how less than 1000 of the trees exist, all along this river. One hundred million years ago, they were common in the southeast and across the adjacent landmasses that were part of Pangea. Torreya species exist in California and China.

So far the technology side of this seems to be working, if a little slowly.  Georgia’s been snapping away on her iPhone, while WFSU videographer Dan Peeri travels with the tablet in the Riverkeeper boat.  He also has a “real” camera and a wireless mic on Dan Tonsmeire.  I’ve been in a kayak with four little waterproof still/ video cameras positioned around me.  This is not at all what I thought TV would be like when I started over ten years ago.  It allows us to tell this story a little differently, and all the footage is HD so we can make a more traditional video when we get back.

Helen Light talked to us as we ate dinner. She works for the US Geological Survey, and she talked to us about the damage being done to the Apalachicola flood plain. Obviously, we’ve talked about the damage done to the bay by the drought. But between 1976 and 2004, They are 44% fewer Ogeechee Tupelo Trees. That affects tupelo honey production. The drought has choked off sloughs and kept the river from flooding to where fish can’t eat many of the invertebrates they had normally eaten. We’ll have more on her talk when we get back.

Join us tomorrow as we get up bright and early to hike up this bluff:

image

For more information on Rivertrek, visit the official page.  This page is on the Riverkeeper web site, and you can further explore what they do for the river.  (They’re also on Facebook).

The Franklin County Promise Coalition is coordinating aide efforts for families that are being affected in Franklin County through their Bay Aid program.   As Dan told us in his original interview, over half of the residents of Franklin County depend on the river for their livelihoods.  Learn more about volunteering and other Bay Aid opportunities here.

RiverTrek Day 1: Snakes

Georgia Ackerman RiverTrek 2012 co-Coordinator

Spotted two snakes on our 21 mile paddling trip today. Snake number one was a non-venomous brown water snake basking in a crevice of a limestone outcropping. Shortly after, admiring him, Rob saw a pigmy rattlesnake a pit viper,
swimming across the river. All snakes swim!

Rob reported on our spectacular morning fog. It lifted and clear skies prevailed. Spectacular North Florida weather!

20121010-200739.jpg

20121010-210823.jpg

20121010-210755.jpg

RiverTrek Day 1: Means Creek

Georgia Ackerman RiverTrek 2012 co-Coordinator

20121010-114228.jpg

20121010-114311.jpg

Explored Means Creek, named after Dr. Bruce Means in Torreya State Park. Thank you Mark Ludlow, biologist. He led on us on a hike through the dense woods and showed us an endangered Torreya tree. This region has the highest concentration of this once common conifer. Less than 1000 trees remain in Florida.

107 Miles to Go*

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

Over the last month-and-a-half, Dr. Randall Hughes and Dr. David Kimbro have been introducing us to the ecosystems of the North Florida coast, with a focus on what each ecosystem does for people. With some services, like carbon sequestration or oyster’s filtration of water, it can be difficult to grasp how individual people are affected. The recent fishery crisis in Apalachicola more concretely shows what’s at stake when an ecosystem service fails. Join us this week as we paddle the length of the Apalachicola River, the source of fresh water for the Bay and a major determiner of the success or failure of the fishery.

The Rivertrek gathering shown in the video happened, possibly by coincidence, on National Oyster Day.  Afterwards, Riverkeeper Chair Dan Tonsmiere took us on a boat tour of the Apalachicola River Delta and I interviewed him.  You don’t see any of that in the video, as recent events called for our updating the interview.  It was more convenient for him to come to our studio than to have us meet him in Apalachicola for that second interview.  He has understandably been busy lately.   “We’re in a non-stop crisis mode,” he said as I guided him downstairs to our studio.

Mostly, people rely on the river to support the nursery habitats in Apalachicola Bay, and its world famous oyster reefs.  That’s where a lot of the human pain of this drought is felt.  Along the 105 miles* of the river, however, there’s an incredible diversity of life.  I’ve never seen the bluffs of the northern river, the only place on earth where one can see a torreya tree.  In my reading for this trip, I’ve read about frogs as big as dinner plates and alligator snapping turtles; endangered salamanders and freshwater mussels.  One of this year’s paddlers, Doug Alderson, has done Rivertrek before and wrote about it in his book, “Wild Florida Waters.”  He describes a night filled with the sounds of howling coyotes and barred owl calls.  Because of our impact on this world, we kind of have to re-calibrate what the word “wild” means.  But on this trip, there should be plenty of “wild.”

So here is what we’re going to try.  We will post periodic photos and videos as we move down the river, as connectivity allows (fingers crossed).  Coverage maps show a dead zone towards the south of the river, in the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area (which we covered in this video).  Fellow paddler Georgia Ackerman will chip in updates.  Every day will end with a wrap-up post.  That’s my goal.

I’m nervous and excited about this trip.  I can’t wait to go out and experience the river and to share that experience with you.

For more information on Rivertrek, visit the official page.  This page is on the Riverkeeper web site, and you can further explore what they do for the river.  (They’re also on Facebook).

The Franklin County Promise Coalition is coordinating aide efforts for families that are being affected in Franklin County through their Bay Aid program.   As Dan told us in his original interview, over half of the residents of Franklin County depend on the river for their livelihoods.  Learn more about volunteering and other Bay Aid opportunities here.

*I know a lot of you out there are pretty sharp and noticed the discrepancy between the number of miles in the title and how long I say the river is.  Some of our camp sites are up creeks and off of the river; 107 miles is the number calculated by expert map-man Rick Zelznak for the total number of miles we will paddle.