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Econfina Creek Report
(The Upper Run Section reopens)


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Report By:  tioti    Date: 5/11/2017 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 22 photos     Map & Directions: View


Log jam removal has been completed for the entire three sections of the Econfina Creek

My Report:

An Inportant Update Report:
Last week Eric from Florida Trail - Panhandle Chapter sent out a bulk email to it's members announcing that Patty Bee from the Florida Trail - Western Gate Chapter was organizing a 3 day log jam removal event for the Econfina Creek. Patty set up the Base Camp at Devil's Hole in the (EWMA ). John Green would be coordinating the work crew. I texted Patty and John to let them know I was available and to find out the details. As I have previously reported, at present the Lower Run is free of portage log jams. John Green did a maintenance log removal in the Middle section two years back so this section was not expected to be bad but was in need of maintenance as well. The main goal was to free up the Upper section which has been neglected and most reports include "too many log jams portages for this section to be fun or we had to turn around".

We are very fortunate that we have people that care and will put in the time and personal expense necessary to get this creek as well as others cleared for all to enjoy. John Veasey joined in on the efferts on Wed., along side John Green with their chainsaws cutting out jams. Patty and I assisted with log removal. Forward progression was pretty slow. We encountered jam after jam as we worked our way up creek from Walsingham launch (the pull out location for the Upper Run). After a full day on Wed we knocked out about 3 1/2 miles of the lower end of the Upper section. I remember thinking if it's this bad everywhere we are going to need more than 3 days. After we got off the water John Veasley had to head back home. Thank you John for helping on Wed. That afternoon John Green and I discussed taking a different approach on Thu.  The plan... we would tackle the upper section starting upstream chainsawing our way down the creek from Scott Rd. to where we stopped  on Wed. Patty was in agreement. Thursday morning when we arrived at the bridge on Scott Rd, we saw there was no water on the river gauge, as a matter of fact not even close. (See photos). We estimated that the water level was less than a foot. From gathered information concerming the water level, we were forewarned this could be a nightmare when water is this low. As we stood there looking at the trickle of water passing, Patty asked John if he had changed his mind. We all stood there quietly for a moment and then I said "I'm in". John smiled and said,  "I guess if it's too bad we can walk our way back with water this low".
The night before, John and I discussed that we have to take advantage of the water being low and get this done now, no telling when this opportunity will come again. It's safer and a little easier standing in low water instead of cutting from a kayak. After a quick chat, it was clear that the three of us were comitted to enter unknown terrain that lies before us...how much dragging of our kayaks and tools will be involved, can we even get through, we could get stuck on the creek if the chainsaw breaksdown, is there enough light in the day to make it or are we going to have to rough camp on the creek? With these unknowns at hand, we knew we should probably travel as light as possible, John with a chainsaw and gas, a pre made lunch with Patty and I brought along 3 hammoch nets and an emergency kit. We were about as bare as we could be. Down the creek we go. Wasn't long before we came upon a jam, then another, then another. We were pushing as fast as we could and still being careful. Cutting out logs while in swith water is very dangerous, physically exhausting and having to stay sharp mentally. Lots can go wrong when chainsawing trees jammed up and intertwined, with elusive  pressure points. Most of the time in waist deep water and having to cut above his chest as well as cutting underwater, John cutting out those jams was a work of art, a true master. Patty and I found ourselves constantly holding our breaths as John cut, knowing if John gets hurt, there is no one there to help but us. About a mile down, the jams became further apart. We were able to enjoy sections of fast kayak riding, knowing not many people have seen, the Upper Ecinfina Creek under drought condition's. My thoughts were when the water is at 3.8 (recommended water level for the run) all of THIS is underwater. We saw hundreds of seepage waterfalls coming out of the Limestone walls. Abundant crystal clean brooks and branches entering this creek with their high walls and pebble bottoms. We were able to see the creeks bottom most of the time with the sound of rushing whitewater rapids from two hair pin, the anticipation was thrilling. It was a lot of fun to run the low water rapids with their tight turns (see photos). We were able for a few miles to really enjoy the splendor of what seemed like riding whitewater in a canyon. Some of the rapid runs not much wider than a kayak with angle cutbacks. Patty kept an eye on the time and once an hour I would pull a GPS reading. As we stopped for lunch at 1:15 PM at a picturious spot on a sandbar where a branch entered the creek I did a WayPoint reading and saw we had only covered about 1/6th the distance of the Run. Pretty sure at this point we are sleeping on the creek tonight. With an episode of Naked And Afraid in mind where they get eaten alive and with us only having with us the little bit of wet clothes we have on, my thoughts of being drained of our blood as we set up camp for the night by the Misquitoes, Horse and Yellow Fly's didn't sound like fun to me. I told John we were falling very far behind and it looks like we might not get off this creek before dark and that's if we don't run into trouble. We all decided to push faster and get as far downstream as we can before dark. A little luck came our way. With less jams and easier, faster one log jams, we were making good time, as well as with each mile the creek grew ever faster. We covered 3.5 miles in the hour after lunch, much better than the half mile an hour for the previous hours. The creek became even faster with tighter turns and soon we were in "The Shoot" part of the run. It's a tight canyon style area not much wider than a kayak. This Shoot is one of the highlights of the Upper Run but in low water it's magical. Under low water The Shoot by itself was worth everything we had to do to get to that point and we now have crossed the half way point of the run. About a mile after The Shoot the creek widened and slowed a little for the next few miles and we were soon dealing with multiple log jams again and to make it harder the water level was deeper. Running out of light we quickly hacked a path through about a quarter of a mile section of very jammed up turns. This area is just before we reached the section we did yesterday. We might have left a few limbo trees there. Out of the full Upper Section Run there is only one small area that the kayak path is tight because of downed trees. We arrived  back at  Base Camp right at dark, much relieved and amazed we got it done in two days and was off the water. Because the water level was so low,  we also were able to see two springs flowing up into the creek that none of us saw before. One is across from Sea Shell Camp and the other about a half mile further south on the right side. I left that night, while Patty and John stayed on and with the help of another local kayaker the next day they went through and cleaned all the new jams in the Middle Section. So as of Mid May 2017 the Ecinfina Creek is jam free from beginning to end.
John knows I didn't rank the Middle and Lower very high in my previous report, so  he asked me how was I going to rank the Upper. Without a doubt, the Upper is a whole different waterway, especially when at low water. The Middle is more like the Lower and these two sections both have spring heads entering the creek but I still will keep those two ranked where I had them at, a 3. I thought about if we were not holding our breath's at every turn we made, with not knowing the jams that could be lurking around the corner, this run would have to rank at low water levels about as high as it gets. I don't often rank a run a 5 and the only run in Florida I ranked a 5 previously was Rock Spring Run, that being said I am adding this Upper Run to that exclusive lonely list. The Upper Econfina Creek is a 5 during low water conditions. I found her fun, beautiful and being remote with no homes adds to her splendor. I first thought I would rank it an "easy" run but Patty and John reminded me that us three are whitewater yakers and that unskilled kayakers could have a lot of problems even now that the jams have been removed. When I take in consideration that there are places in the rapids at low water if hit with inexperience could put a hole in your kayak and the fact of its remote isolation would leave the runner up a creek without a kayak, I realized they were right. I would say, certainly no beginners ever and even experienced kayaks need to have a paddle partner and a smart Pro Kayaker would not do it alone either. I plan on hitting it again a few more times over the next few weeks before the water gets high again and maybe this time I'll use a short 8 foot sit in kayak, this could be a hoot. Anyone that wants to do a Ga or Tn type run in Florida should hit this at water level 1 foot to 2 feet.
There was no areas that we HAD to portage or drag our kayaks. There was one short but high rapid we chose to portage only because of risk of dumping the chainsaw and gas. I have also included a photo with Patty working, look above her and you will see the force of water at work, which has left full size trees lodged way up in the trees as a reminder that your kayak is no match for the force of flash water. This is a stay off creek in flood conditions and days just after a heavy rain in Southern Al. or Northwest Florida, so be mindful that the rain north of this creek a few days earlier could just now be beginning to reach the tributaries that fills this creek. If the water is muddy and halfway up the Scott Rd bridge, chances are the water below moving downstream will be stacked up because this upper portion is very twisty-turny and the water will find resistance and have to slow down underneath, which means the different levels of water are traveling at different speeds and the top level is out running the bottom and unstable, not to mention you could end up in the trees.
Special thanks goes out to John Green, Patty Bee and John Veasley. These guys are the behind the scenes kinda people, not looking for recogntion, they just want everyone to be able to enjoy our waterways. Because of your work I can finally rank this run where it belongs, and many blessings from all of us at Club Kayak and The Green Wave Forum

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Location Data:

Difficulty: Moderate
Location Type: River
Boat Type: Kayak
Distance (miles): 11
Fees/Costs $: 0


Photos from The Upper Run Section reopens:    (Click image to view full size)

The Shoot No Comm
The Shoot
Sandbar Beach No Comm
Sandbar Beach
Patty cutting limbs No Comm
Patty cutting limbs

Look Above Patty at the high water mark

Waterfall No Comm
Waterfall
Patty rapid run No Comm
Patty rapid run
John No Comm
John

In tight wall run

Beautiful No Comm
Beautiful

In tight wall run

Patty No Comm
Patty

Great example of an experienced kayaker

Patty No Comm
Patty

Great example of an experienced kayaker

Patty No Comm
Patty

Great example of an experienced kayaker

Patty No Comm
Patty

Great example of an experienced kayaker

Waterfall No Comm
Waterfall
Water Gauge No Comm
Water Gauge

At Scott rd bridge

Cteek Level No Comm
Cteek Level

At Scott rd bridge

The Run No Comm
The Run
More Of Run No Comm
More Of Run
Waterfall No Comm
Waterfall
Waterfall No Comm
Waterfall
Bear Cub Stump No Comm
Bear Cub Stump

This stump looks like a bear existing a cave

John No Comm
John

John cutting out a single log jam

Sea Shell Camp No Comm
Sea Shell Camp
John and John No Comm
John and John


Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsThe Shoot is a one of a kind and a must do



Post Date: 5/16/2017

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