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Sunday, April 07, 2002

Paddle Report: Hollingers Creek

Four paddlers Frank, the trip leader, Chuck, Dean and Bruce showed up for this trip Friday April 5th about 11 a.m. We had three kayaks and a solo canoe. We met at Loves fuel stop at I-10 and Highway 59 north of Loxley, Alabama. From Loves we drove a short distance east to a T intersection and turned left (north) onto a two lane road. We drove a little past the Town of Loxley water tower where the road bends a little to the left. As we came out of this turn we took a right onto Truck Road 17 heading generally east. I took a late reading on the odometer after we left Loves so my distance measurement has a little uncertainty to it.

After the pavement ends on Truck Road 17 we were on a wide graded road. In spite of the recent rains the road was dusty, but firm, and we crossed just two places where water was flowing across the road. Passing over these rivulets was not difficult even for my little Saturn. Along the way we passed over 4 one lane bridges, two wooden tracks for the tires and wooden cross ties to support them. One of these bridges crosses the upper Styx River which is narrow deep and fast flowing.

We stopped at the fifth bridge which crosses Hollingers Creek. My rough odometer reading shows about 10 miles from Loves' to this bridge. We offloaded boats onto the upstream side of the bridge where there is a sand bank about 10 feet wide and 30-40 feet long. Soft sand above the bank provides easy footing for the carry down to the water. We were in the water about noon.

The plan was to paddle upstream from here. The current is quite variable in this creek. At the put in the creek is 15-20 feet wide and not quite a paddle blade deep. The flow is slow to moderate. We headed upstream through mixed forest. Trees were blooming, Titi I think. The air temperature was in the high 60's and the water was about the same temperature. The north wind made the tall trees sway quite a bit but we were deep in the forest and sheltered by the high banks of the creek.

We paddled through a few turns in the creek and beached the boats upstream of the first rock outcrop about 20 minutes after putting in. Frank led us on foot up the right (eastern) bank to the bluff 30 feet above the creek. The ground was level up there and we walked upstream a couple hundred feet following the edge of the bluff. The edge of the bluff is undercut so stay back. We passed two gullies with dramatic views below and stopped at the third gully which gave us a view of a pretty rock ledge in the clear, slightly green, water. We could clearly see rocks in the deeper portions of the creek. Frank pointed out the ironstone formations in the area and gave us a natural history talk.

We returned to the boats the way we came and continued our paddle upstream. We encountered low rock ledges along the way that made small waterfalls. The biggest drop was less than two feet and most of the drops were less than a foot high. We paddled over several of these drops, but in some places the creek narrowed which made the currrent too strong to paddle against. At these drops and four logjams we had to get out of the boats and walk it over the obstruction.

About 2:30 we stopped for lunch on the left (west) bank which was a white sand slope from the water's edge to the crest of the bank. At 3 we continued on for another half an hour. The creek becomes noticeably smaller from here. We passed a tributary with not much flow - it may have been manmade drainage. The rocks are behind us and the obstructions now are clay bumps in the bottom which soemtimes make a notch in the creek a little wider than a boat. No one got stuck in these narrows, but there was not room for boat and paddle in one of them. We beached on a gravel bar in shallow low volume flow where two small trees blocked the way. The trees were not a serious obstruction; we could have pulled over them more easily than any of the logjams below us. But the sun was getting near the tree line and the air was cooling. We stopped to look around and skip some rocks across the water. We started downstream looking forward to a fun ride.

The trip upstream took about 3 hours paddling; the trip downstream took 55 minutes. I counted 22 drops and 4 logjams. Nobody tumped over. Running those chutes over the drops was good fun. Remember to accelerate the boat before it gets in the fast current so you can steer for the deeper water in the drop. A short boat is advantageous to thread your way through the rocks, and these rocks will add "character" to a boat's finish.

We were out of the water and driving about 5 p.m.