On Sunday eight paddlers showed up bright and early on a perfectly perfect day for paddling with the FPCKC (Florida Panhandle Canoe & Kayak Connection) down the Perdido River. The drought had brought water levels down to almost historical levels in much of the Florida panhandle, but despite the low water our band of stalwart adventurers set forth from Muskogee Adventures Unlimited Landing heading for our destination nine miles downriver at Sand Landing in the Perdido River Water Management Area.
After arriving at the launch site we paid our fees ($2 to launch or $5 to park and launch) and shuttled vehicles down to Sand Landing. Both places were easy enough for my front wheel drive Chevy Cavalier to manage without any problems and finding room to park wasn’t a problem. Also, there is a picnic table and port-a-potty available at Sand Landing. We were on the water and off to adventure a little before 10:00 a.m.
The water had a light tannin color to it, like nearby Blackwater, and the current was slow and easy. We took advantage of this while enjoying chatting and taking in the scenery, especially since we didn’t have a single portage to contend with. I saw woodpeckers, hawks, fish, one turtle (it dove before I could get a picture,) a scrub lizard and a snake crossing the river. Our trip leader, Jim Park, pointed out several alligator slides on some of the banks, but we never did see a gator.
The surrounding lands were a mix of hardwood, pine, and wiregrass. The remains of old lumber harvesting operations (mostly Atlantic white cedar) litter the length of the river and in some places you can see where they’ve become a part of the land itself, cutting off passage into neighboring streams and oxbows. The river channel itself has been cleared for small boats. Our group only encountered one motor boat and that was closer to Sand Landing. I happened to be in the wrong/right place at the wrong/right time as it roared around a bend. I took a split second to decide that I was going to dart my kayak up a side channel and timed it just right as the wake pushed me up the channel.
This was my first trip with the FPCKC group and they turned out to be a darn fine bunch of peeps. We stopped a few times on several of the sandbars and shared stories and snacks. On one of those time-outs it started to sprinkle, but only lasted about 10 minutes or so. At least the rain was warmer than the 64 degree water. 😉 The high for the day was only 80, but no one got hot enough to jump into the chilly river.
We arrived at Sand Landing a little bit before 3:00 p.m. Perfect timing for me since I still had an hour and a half drive back to Fort Walton Beach. It was worth the drive though, and I finally got my kayak straps to stop roaring after two more stops. 😉
If you’d like to join the Florida Panhandle Canoe & Kayak Connection head on over to www.fpckc.com. No dues! Lots of Trips!