Cumberland Island, Ga Report
(Cumberland Island, GA)

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Report By:  gbailey    Date: 1/3/2004 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: None     Map & Directions: View

Paddle from Crooked River SP to Brickhill Bluff (and back - same day)

My Report:

by Greg Bailey

I know everyone has heard of Christmas in July, but what we were to experience on this day would have to be referred to as Spring in January. The forecast: high temp near 80, light and variable winds with mostly sunny skies. Paddling in short sleeves on the first Saturday in January doesnít happen very often, so the seven of us were quickly going about our business, getting our kayaks ready for an all-day, round-about venture to
Brickhill Bluff, on Cumberland Island. The only setback we faced on this early morning start was the nagging, biting, local gang of gnats. The anticipated foggy conditions did not materialize, and for that I was thankful. By nine oíclock most of us were in the water and drifting swiftly with the outbound tide, waiting for Franklin to launch and catch up to us. With an expected paddling distance of approximately 24 miles ahead of us, we had a quick pace planned and were soon moving along easily at an average speed near 5.5 mph. The early morning conditions were almost perfect: no wind, no sounds except for a few small fishing boats and it was already time to shed the paddling jacket and catch a few sun-rays. The outgoing tide had exposed some of the shallow bottoms on the east side of the lower portion of the river so we stayed near the channel to watch the pelicans and egrets, as they watched us. We glided effortlessly across the shallow bar at the intersection of the Intracoastal Waterway and if one looked far ahead through the trees, a small portion of Plum Orchard was visible. We hadnít planned to stop and tour the mansion there, so we just slowly drifted by, still being pulled by the currents in Brickhill River. This river has many twists and winding turns, and in fact one turn takes it back within a few yards of reconnecting with the ICW. One narrow, yet deep section of the river attracted a lot of birds and half a dozen fishing boats. From each boat a fisherman was throwing a castnet for baitfish of some kind. Most of the netters were successful, with what looked like 50-60 baits for each throw. The fisherman were looking for a specific sized bait and the by-catch, after being tossed overboard, was quickly picked up by the circling seagulls. The river eventually turns back northeast and passes Mumford creek, which we thought would flow near Table Point. Table Point was an interesting looking peninsula of hardwoods amid the many marshes, but we decided it was more pressing to find a rest stop/pit stop than to check it out at this time. As we neared what we thought was Brickhill Bluff, Dana was setting the pace and was not to be denied. I just hopped there wasnít a crowd waiting to greet us.
I have heard others say that youíll find neither bricks nor a bluff at Brickhill Bluff, but nevertheless, it was indeed a beautiful spot. Elevation appeared to be no more than 3-4 feet at high tide so that might count as a mini-bluff. A particularly magnificent pine was standing away from the bank with no supporting top soil and only a few inches of water encircling itís six or seven tap roots. It was probably five feet in diameter, with many large branches extending skyward. Back on shore stood some fine oaks, several sporting branches that were resting on the sand, marking the place to be to watch the sunset. The low tide water levels meant we had to carefully walk across a slick layer of muck to sit and eat lunch. After paddling 2 hours and 40 minutes to get here, everyone was ready for the break and quickly found sitting places amid the large driftwood pieces buried in the sand. Two dolphins working the river just in front of us, passed by in search of their lunch, as we were doing the same. One of our main objectives was to investigate the camping sites, so after lunch Frank, Dave, Richard, Gus and I headed off into the woods to find them. A gentle sea breeze was building out of the southeast, so Dana and Carl decided to hang back, catch a nap and see how many boats drifted away with the incoming 6.6 foot tide change. It didnít take us long to find the camping area, however, we didnít see many officially marked spots. We did find the lone water source, a well with a long pump handle and sign reminding everyone to ďBoil before drinkingĒ. Overall, a very beautiful place to pitch a tent and overnight. The underbrush, although minimal in height, was now covered with a thick layer of pine straw and leaves, obvious proof that a campfire would not be a good ideal. We didnít see any fire-rings nor any signs of previous campfires either. We saw at least a half dozen old growth pines along with one perfect looking magnolia standing alone among the many oaks. A walk of 1.5 miles would take you to the ocean side of the island, but that wasnít enticing to anyone in our group on this day. The only wildlife we encountered was a single armadillo on the move, however, evidence of the existence of the famed Cumberland Island wild horses was abundant. On our walk back we came upon a brick and concrete structure that Richard quickly identified was a dipping bath for horses or cattle. As he slowly stepped away from the sight, he muttered something about arsenic being in the ground.

Back at the water, it was now time to gather our things, close the hatches and begin our return trip. The two hour break was welcomed, but since the paddling conditions were so pleasant we decided to take the long way home. That meant paddling a short distance north in the Brickhill River, to meet the southbound ICW, just west of Abraham Point. At this junction the waterway is quite open and I suspect that on a windy day one would have to contend with some ugly seas and currents. However, on this day, it was a piece of cake, with only a 5-10 mph breeze from the southeast. Heading south along the ICW brought a few larger waves, since the fetch was possibly 3-4 miles at one point. The one foot chop was kind of exciting in a way, since we had only protected and smooth waters until that time. A few more dolphins were seen feeding along the waterway but very few boaters were on the water. One very large motor yacht came up from behind us but kindly slowed to lessen its wake affects. Even at that, its large swells quickly overcame us from behind, lifting us first up and then forward and down. Fortunately for us, the water was deep enough to avoid being dumped by a breaker into the icy (relatively speaking) waters. Continuing south, we could now see what we thought was again the southern entrance to Brickhill River. As we paused to regroup, sitting atop channel marker 59A was a medium sized bird, possibly an Osprey. It sat there pulling at something near its feet, looking in the opposite direction with its black back to us. We silently drifted by, coming as close as 40 feet before it decided we were too close for its comfort. When it lifted off its white tail and head was evident, and it was then that we realized it was a young bald eagle.

Our plan was to now take a quick look at the mansion and grounds at Plum Orchard before heading back up Crooked River, since many in our group had not visited there before. At four oíclock in the evening the place looked a lot different from past visits, with long shadows being cast by the surrounding majestic oaks and palms and hardly a soul in sight. As we walked across the grounds in front of the mansion, three horses were spotted on the perimeter of the front lawn. Later another one was seen galloping just in front of the mansion, as if it had someplace to go or someone to meet.

At 4:30 we decided it was time to hit the water again and ride the last of the returning tide north and west. A little cloud cover was forming back to the west and it promised to be an interesting sunset, possibly even while we were still on the water. The tide was slowing and we still had a little sea breeze from the SE on our beam for a while, making for a very pleasant final stretch paddle. As we neared the point where the river turns northwest we were able to paddle through the narrow cuts in the reeds, since the incoming tide provided plenty of water. Gus and Carl stayed in the main channel and apparently didnít see us take the shortcut. Upon reentering the main river a moment later, we looked back and spotted them about 200 yards to the southwest of us, looking a little concerned. Now within 15 minutes of our finish, the sky began to turn a pinkish hue, reflecting indirectly on the water to light our paddling path. Great way to finish a perfect day on the water. We eased up to Elliottís Bluff, our takeout point, a minute after 6pm, completing 6.5 hours on the water. Total anticipated mileage for the day was figured to be close to 24 miles, however, Franklinís GPS plotted our actual mileage at 27.8 miles. I suspect the extra 3.8 miles were due to the serpentine course we followed down some of the straight-aways. Regardless, the long day just made the BBQ taste that much better on the way home.

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Location Data:

Distance (miles): 27.8
Fees/Costs $: n/a

Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsBrickhill Bluff

Post Date: 2/28/2009

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