Update: Repairs at the damaged trestle have been completed and Turkey Creek has reopened to paddlers. 5/27/15
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve written about Turkey Creek. It’s one of the creeks that we frequent the most if we’re not wanting to stray too far from home. One of the most versatile things about Turkey Creek is the number of put-in locations allowing you to customize your trip length. For the technical details (put-in/take-out locations) I’ll refer you to this article which also gives you the specifics about obtaining a range pass that will allow you to access the upper put-in locations.
Today’s trip began with warm temperatures and an overcast sky. The water was lower than usual, but clear and navigable. We dropped in at the “Hippie Hole” and after a brief chase to retrieve an over-eager kayak, got underway. The first animal that I managed to spot was a pair of threatened Okaloosa Darters. These small fish are only found in six clear creek areas within Eglin property and the military has gone to great lengths to ensure their survival.
The next animals spotted were a turtle, heron and a juvenile banded water snake. As we progressed, I also noticed a lot of damage that had been done by wild hog rooting up vegetation near the water’s edge. Having accidentally encountered feral hogs several times during the course of my adventures, I’d be completely happy if they were all eliminated. Next to man, I think they are one of the most destructive creatures I’ve ever seen.
For the most part, Turkey Creek is narrow and twisting, and considered to be somewhat technical for beginners. Today was no exception. This was the first time we’d been down it this year and the winter storms did quite a job of adding new downfall to the creek. Many of the tight turns create deep pools with a strong current that will spin your kayak unless you remain vigilant. I consider myself to be quite proficient at kayaking and I still managed to get shoved into a log or raked through the tree branches.
Pushing onward we entered a section where the creek narrows even more and the Titi trees (pronounced Tie-Tie) seem to create a green tunnel. On sunlit days the green tunnel is vibrant and inviting, albeit narrow. On overcast days such as this one, the tunnel turns gray and takes on a somewhat ominous feel. We pressed on, passing a second put-in location, the Hwy 123 bridge and a small island. We passed several kayakers (some paddling upstream) and then, oddly enough, we encountered a lost hiker wading in the middle of the stream.
The highlight for us on Turkey Creek has always been the tubes beneath what was once the old Eglin Railroad. There are no rails remaining, but the culverts are still in place and are quite fun to float through. Some days we’ll paddle back up through them and run them two or three times. There is a pullover just past the tubes that most paddlers will stop at to enjoy a swim or have lunch. Luckily we had the place all to ourselves today.
After a brief rest we climbed back in our kayaks and headed to our take-out at the North Turkey Creek extension on College Blvd. Paddlers can choose to skip this and paddle down about a mile through the south Turkey Creek boardwalk and into Boggy Bayou where there is a take-out a short distance away at Twin Cities Park on John Sims Parkway. We chose to take out at the North Turkey Creek extension, however, because on weekends and during the summer the creek past this point can be crowded with swimmers and tubers. Today’s trip was completed in just under 4 hours.