Naked and Afraid Part II Unfinished Business…

Heading towards the Apalachicola River out of Owl Creek.

After having to abort the last day of our Kayak Journey in 2020 due to storms which would not be kind we finally put the last day of the trip together in February 2021 and finished the trip. In 2020 we had started a four day Kayak/camping trip on the Apalachicola River from Chattahoochee, Fl. to Apalachicola, Florida. The final night of the trip put us at Hickory Landing at Owl Creek. We set up camp that night and had planned on getting an early start the next day. Everything was fine until a routine weather app check showed heavy storms approaching. Having paddled this section of the river before I knew that heavy winds would push our kayaks into the sawgrass and trap us before we could get to the landing at 10 mile hole in Apalachicola. As much as we hated to we punted the trip and called a ride to take us home.

We finally rescheduled the trip for February 2021 and drove to Owl Creek. The three paddlers were Rick Ashton, Jay Etheridge and myself. Once we set up camp at Hickory Landing we drove two trucks to Apalachicola and had dinner. We left one truck in Apalachicola and drove one truck back to the campsite. This allowed us to have a vehicle at the end of the trip and to drive the three of us back to the starting point.

Boats are unloaded and camp is set at Hickory Landing for the launch the next morning.
Jay enjoys a hot breakfast prior to launch.

After a good night’s sleep we awakened early and had breakfast. We broke camp and readied our kayaks. We launched from the landing and began heading towards the Apalachicola River on Owl Creek. Owl Creek is a beautiful tributary which empties into the River about two miles downstream.

Paddling down Owl Creek heading towards the Apalachicola River.

This trip being in January was cool but thankfully it wasn’t cold. Being in the river swamp it was a wet with dew in the early morning however the sun soon burned the moisture away and it turned out to be a nice day although overcast.

Rick waits while Jay paddles on.
Several abandoned docks line the lower Apalachicola River a reminder of barge traffic long ago.
Jay enjoys the paddle to Apalachicola.
More abandoned docks.

The part of the river between Owl Creek and Apalachicola goes through Tates Hell Forest and passes a historic area known as Fort Gadsden. During the Civil War hundreds of slaves were hiding at Fort Gadsden when a Union cannon was fired at the Fort. The cannonball hit the powder room at the Fort causing a massive explosion killing hundreds of people.

As the river nears Apalachicola the river widens.
Buoys still mark the channel in the lower Apalachicola River.

Although the Apalachicola River is a wide and fast flowing river there are hundreds of house boats tied up along side it’s banks. Homemade, manufactured, houseboats of all shapes and sizes can be seen here. We did encounter a floating dog kennel complete with a number of deer hounds which could be heard for miles up and down the river as we approached.

A houseboat sits submerged in the river after Hurricane Michael.
What once was someone’s prized houseboat now sits submerged in the river.
Rick is a strong paddler!
This massive structure is a railroad swing bridge which is no longer operable.
This swing bridge facilitated the Apalachicola Northern Railroad.
Shrimp Boats indicated we had finally arrived in Apalachicola! Our welcoming committee sits atop the pilings!

Fortunately the wind was mostly calm and the tides were in our favor so the last few miles of our journey were enjoyable. Approaching Apalachicola we were in big water with boat traffic and tidal influence. An incoming wind or tide could make paddling difficult if not impossible, hence we punted our last trip and made up for it with this one day paddle trip.

We paddled past Scipio Creek and the docks in Apalachicola to the boat landing at 10 Mile Hole (under the Hwy 98 Bridge). Sheriff AJ Smith gave me a ride to my truck and I returned and we loaded the boats and gear. We grabbed a bite to eat and returned (via truck) to Hickory Landing where we split up. It was the ending to a great day.

This was an incredible trip as the paddle trips I’ve made down the Apalachicola River always are. The Apalachicola River is a clean, strong, fast flowing river that sports a lot of history. Currently there is an ongoing court battle for water rights between Georgia and Florida which will probably be ongoing for many years to come. Regardless I have always enjoyed paddling and camping beside the big river. It is a special place to me and I hope to soon return for another kayaking adventure. Hopefully you will too!