Omussee Creek Report

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Report By:  tom    Date: 7/21/2013 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 4 photos     Map & Directions: View

In 18 years of occasionally paddling Omussee Creek, I haven't seen it running this powerfully. And the water got higher after we left.

My Report:

When Charlotte Hand suddenly asked who would like to paddle the Omussee Creek, how could I refuse? After the rain we've had it had to be as lively as it was last March.

Seven of us showed up for the trip: Charlotte and John Lorenz had touring kayaks. Kerrie Barloga, Don Kelly and Jim Owens had short whitewater kayaks. Linda Blake had a Pungo `yak and I decided to take the Mohawk canoe. When we got to the put-in on County Road 63, Kerrie walked down from the parked cars for a look at the creek. "Holy cr@p the river's up!" she yelled, waving her arms like a semaphore for emphasis. The water was 2 feet higher than our trip in March, with muddy and roiling water up to the "5" painted on the height gauge that somebody painted on the bridge pier. That wasn't all bad, though. It made putting boats in a bit easier, and there was a lee in the current behind the bridge pier.

We got in and set out downstream. Hardly any paddling was needed, just steering. Sometimes I even had to back paddle to keep from closing on somebody. It wasn't much work, but you did have to pay attention every second to what the creek was doing. Our only worry was what downed trees we might find in the creek or at the railroad trestle. Unlike spring, the wildflowers were gone, but the banks were covered in lush ferns.

It was raining steadily in Tallahassee on this day, but here we only had light sprinkles, and distant rumbles of thunder, somewhere north of us.

We came to the railroad trestle incredibly fast, and it was open. The water was high enough that, for once, nobody touched bottom on the old concrete rubble. Kerrie stayed for a moment to play in the surf, and said "That was a good Class 1!" Hurricane Creek entered on the right, and made a huge patch of dancing water. I'd worried if the canoe was the right choice for this day, but its large displacement and light weight made it step lightly across the standing waves.

We passed the old mill on the right, and again, had no worry about touching the old wooden-grate dam that lies flat in the river. In fact, I would occasionally probe with my paddle and hadn't touched bottom yet.

Below the old mill we hit our first problem, a tangle of tree branches in midstream from a freshly fallen tree. One kayak, Linda's Pungo, slid up on the trunk of the fallen tree, and the Pungo's flat bottom made it incredibly stable on the tree. So stable that Kerrie Barloga had to come back, get out of her kayak onto the tree branches, set up a rope from the Pungo to the shore and push the boat while Don hauled on the rope. The Pungo slid loose and swung toward shore on the rope, while Linda borrowed Kerrie's kayak to rejoin the group. Kerrie, in turn, swam for the group. Don drained the boat, and we got the three elements of paddle, paddler and boat back together.

It was the best demonstration I'd seen of trying to free a stubborn boat since the Wilderness Way had a kayak get stuck on the Upper Withlacoochee during a charter trip (and that one took two weeks).

We approached the old hydroelectric dam, and the water was so high that it was hard to recognize the approach. We all immediately took off downstream, either to the cutoff channel near the dam, or the long way around the little island. I decided to try the long way, thinking "Gee, this is the first time I've been able to do this since the 20th Century!" The canoe shot around the U-turn, through another patch of standing waves, and into the pool below the dam. I pulled up short, not realizing Linda was behind me, she turned quickly and got caught by an eddy line that swamped her kayak.

Things got fast-paced at that point - it's hard to remember who did what. One of us helped Linda, another got her paddle, and Don and I were trying to refloat her kayak. I thought about the rescues I'd seen Tom Clark do, so I grabbed the kayak and tried to haul it up out of the water across my canoe. Each time I'd get more than halfway, and then be unable to lever the boat up against the remaining water in it. Don tried pushing it ashore with the nose of his kayak, like a tugboat. Then on the third try the Pungo pushed back, and Don's kayak rolled. Don dealt with that by swimming the Pungo across the creek to the bank and finding a spot of bank for footing. I had his paddle, Jim Owens secured Don's boat, and I tied up near Don and jumped out of the canoe onto the underwater footing with Don. What the heck, enough other people were wet, and maybe I'd caused Linda's mishap, so maybe I should get wet too.

With two of us, we quickly drained the kayak and refloated it, reunited it and the paddle with Linda, and then Don rejoined his kayak by floating down to it in a sitting position in the river. He looked so relaxed doing that (he had a very good PFD) that I said he reminded me of a sea otter.

We got to the old boat ramp at the trailer park (marked by a large white stump) and hauled out, and started changing clothes. We had refreshments, and headed back to get Linda's car, which had been the shuttle vehicle. When we got to the put-in, Jim walked down to look again at the level of the creek, and did a double-take. When we put in it had been at 5 feet. Now it was 5 and a half feet, and rapidly rising to 6 feet.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I hadn't brought. I'd left the double-bladed paddle in the car because I figured I'd be maneuvering, not paddling. But that was a bad move because it takes a double-blader to get upstream in that current if you have to. Several of us said a swing-blade weed whacker would have been very good at the put-in. And liquid soap was very handy for cleaning up after wading through the poison ivy at the put-in.

Kerrie noted that we had been on the water 2 hours and 45 minutes. It was definitely a great ride.

Get Map & Directions for this trip

Location Data:

Distance (miles): 5
Fees/Costs $: n/a

Photos from Omussee Creek:    (Click image to view full size)

Intrepid paddlers No Comm
Intrepid paddlers

We prepared our boats beneath the CR 63 bridge. There was poison ivy here, so it was a good thing to wear long pants and carry some soap.

Downstream No Comm

Very little forward paddling was needed to make good speed.

Looking Upstream No Comm
Looking Upstream

John got this pic looking upstream at the put-in, showing the normally modest creek in a pre-flood surge.

Takeout No Comm

The old boat ramp at the mobile-home park is handy, but it takes some delicate one-at-a-time maneuvering.

Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsThe online USGS gauges for the Choctawhatchee River at Newton showed 10 feet this day, and 4.3 feet for the Pea River at Ariton. They went up over the next two days.

Post Date: 7/24/2013

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