Checking off the List: Elk River Leg 3

You know how there are those people who just can’t seem to function without some sort of sound filling up every waking minute? You know the type – they keep a radio or TV on at all times – at work, in the car, at home.  I, on the other hand,  am happy with a bit of silence – especially when I’m out in nature someplace. When Chet and I are out on the trail with nobody else around, we don’t feel compelled to talk the whole time. However, we do sometimes spend that time talking about adventures we’d like to take. Maybe we want to hike this same trail in a different season. Or maybe we passed a sign for a state park we’ve not explored. I’ve learned, though, that unless I write it down when I get home, I’ll forget all those brilliant ideas for weekend fun and then draw a blank the next time it’s my turn to pick. So now we have a list.

One of the things on the list was a note that we needed to do a kayak trip “in April or May.”  Kayaking and springtime just seem to go together for me. Spring rains mean that the rivers are high enough that we won’t spend our time dragging ourselves over rocky shallows, and the weather is usually that perfect “not too hot, not too cold.”  So when my turn to come up with our weekend adventure last rolled around, I picked the kayak trip off the list and decided on leg 3 of the Limestone County Canoe and Kayak Trail down the Elk River. In the last couple of years we’ve done leg 1 from Veto, Alabama down to Highway 127, and then leg 2 from Highway 127 to Easter Ferry Road. The third leg goes from Easter Ferry Road down to Hatchery Road, for a 5.6 mile float trip.

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With just the two of us on this adventure, it was easy enough to drive two cars and shuttle ourselves, though Fort Hampton Outfitters would be another choice for those who want someone else to do the shuttling. We drove a vehicle to the Hatchery Road parking lot, which turned out to be a wonderful large level paved lot with a concrete boat ramp. We walked down to the ramp to give things the once-over in case there was anything tricky about how we’d need to get out. It was pretty straightforward, though we did notice that the water was very high.

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We hopped back in the pickup truck and drove back up to the put-in spot at Easter Ferry Road. This lot is not as nice as most of the other ones on we’ve been in on the Trail. The access road down to the lot is steep and deeply rutted and it’s not as roomy as the lot at Veto or Hatchery Road. There is enough space for several cars though and some space to turn around as well. It’s not as nice, but it’s certainly good enough. It has a concrete boat ramp as well. I always like that better than having to scramble over rocks and roots to get in and out of the river, so points for that.

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We quickly got our boats unloaded and were ready to go. Once we got out on the water, we discovered that it was very windy.  It was almost a standoff between the current pushing us downstream and the wind pushing us upstream! We didn’t have to work too hard, though, so I’m guessing the current won out.

 

 

The float itself was pretty uneventful. We passed a big Athens Utilities building of some sort. We had our usual blue heron sighting as one flew ahead of us down the river for a while. We also had another water bird of some sort keep us company for a long time. At first I thought it was a duck of some kind because it did that thing where it sort of ran over the water – flapping its wings so that the water was splashing and making a lot of noise – but never actually took off. We never got close enough to get good pictures, but from a distance it looked to me like the head and beak were thin more like a heron or an egret or something. I wish I knew what it was! We saw no fishing ospreys or swimming raccoons like we had on our last trips, and much to my dismay we only spotted one turtle!

 

 

We also spotted no good places to pull over and beach for lunch. I don’t know if the high water level had anything to do with it; I wondered if maybe there were normally places available but they were just flooded. In any case, this meant no lunch for us since we were both too chicken to attempt to unstrap the cooler mid-river. Knowing my luck, our lunch would have ended up feeding the fishes if I’d tried that. We had checked out this stretch of the river on Google  Maps before the float and noticed that there weren’t even supposed to be little islands along the way until almost to the takeout spot. We had estimated that the trip would take us around 3 to 3.5 hours, just based on our time on the upper stretches. When we came across an island only a couple of hours in, we thought Google Maps had just been wrong. We do joke that Google doesn’t really do that well with bodies of water. Rivers and creeks are often unlabeled, as are other bigger bodies of water. It’s almost as if the thinking is “if a car can’t drive there why bother marking it?” Much to our surprise though, Google got it right this time since the island we came to did end up being the one just before the take out. I guess the current helped us more than we’d thought because it only took us 2 hours to go the 5.6 river miles!

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We beached on the boat ramp and pulled the kayaks out of the river, then Chet hung out in the parking lot while I did the run up to Easter Ferry to switch over to the kayak-carrying pickup truck. When I got back he told me that there must be a farm nearby because he was serenaded with lots of roosters crowing almost the whole time I was gone. Soon we had the kayaks loaded up, and started on the short trek home. Despite the lack of turtles and lunch spots, I really enjoyed my time out on the Elk again. We have one more leg to go to complete the entire trail. Maybe that would make a good fall trip. I’ll have to add it to the list.

 

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