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Thursday, September 26, 2002

Paddle Report : D'Olive Creek September 23, 2002

Between weather systems, a cold front had just passed and Tropical Storm Isidore was threatening, Larry Sr. and I went for an afternoon paddle from Daphne Bay Front Park to the end of D'Olive Creek. The put in at the park is looking better each time we go. The construction projects at the park appear to be done for now. The waterfront is clean with a soft sand beach, and the day we went we had plenty of water depth. At lower tide levels, shell banks can slow one down.

Paddling north from the park, we noticed waterfowl over to the west. We passed the Lake Forest Yacht Club on our right. The shoreline northward of the yacht club has an increasing number of trees. A thick stand of cypress with some Spanish moss hugs the water's edge and grows taller than the bluff behind it. Open water closes in due to a wedge of marsh that extends out from shore in front of the Hampton Inn almost all the way up to the Interstate - 10 Bayway.

North of the Bayway we spotted and explored three short waterways into the reeds. The first waterway cuts a little to the north west and ends up at the causeway if you can get that far. The second waterway meanders through the reeds and floating plants and flowering vines. It got shallower and shallower in the marsh. The third waterway was rather open initially and went into an area with some cypress trees growing out of the the water below the bluff at Spanish Fort. This waterway was better hidden and completely unexpected to me. Here we surprised several birds and turtles resting on branches.

We backed out and crossed south of the Bayway to pick up the mouth of D'Olive Creek. The creek comes around the north side of the Hampton Inn and we paddled toward the Highway 98 bridge and the Main Street bridge in Daphne. The water here was rather scummy, but it had no particular odor. As we passed under the Main Street bridge the water improved and we startled the first of four large alligators we encountered in this creek. All the gators were resting singly on or near the north bank. We passed into the trees and held to the right side of the creek as much as we could; my goal was to get to the dam in Lake Forest and I know that we needed to take a right branch of the creek to get there.

The trees hang over the creek and make nice canopy in places. The air is noticeably cooler in there compared with the bay air. We meandered around tree limbs touching the water and tree trunks in the water for perhaps four hundred yards and came out into the open at the dam. The lake behind the dam must be full for the water was trickling over the top in several places as well as rushing out the spillway, aerating the water below the dam. Behind the dam lies a long lake with homes and apartments along the shore and no
public access. Perhaps we could return to the dam later and portage over to the lakeside?

The return to the bay was uneventful. We took our time to explore the marsh in front of the Hampton Inn. At one point we caused a flock of white ibises to take flight; they tried to go straight up! Small gators and big fish splashed as we crossed near them. The section of this paddle I liked best was the cypress trees along the bluff. They are old and wild and many great blue herons roost in the limbs. We can paddle right up to the trees with no problem.

We were back at the park 2 hours after we left. This is a fine short trip for any level of paddler.