Located about 3.5 miles west of the town of Freeport, Fl., is Alaqua Creek. This dark-water creek begins on the Eglin Reservation (recreation permit required for most of the upper section) and flows into Alaqua Bayou on Choctawhatchee Bay. As such, the creek is tidally influenced, particularly on the lower sections. For this trip we chose to put in at the Portland Park Rd boat launch and paddle upstream. There is a put-in on Range Road 205, but reports are it is steep, deep and difficult to launch from.
Before heading upstream take a chance to study the creek via Google maps. There are several side creeks that connect to Alaqua and it’s possible to get side-tracked. As a rule, once past Alaqua park and boat launch keep to the right until the power lines and then keep left (straight.) A good distance past the power lines is another stream coming in from the left, but it is smaller and clearly not part of the main creek. The creek also gets narrower and the current picks up as paddlers near RR 205.
The team explored this creek on Memorial Day weekend thinking it would be a good way to avoid the holiday crowds. There were several vehicles and boat trailers at the put-in, but any boats had all headed out toward the bayou or bay for the day. The weather was clear and comfortable upon launch and promised to stay that way for the duration. We encountered a couple of fishermen on the way upstream who remarked that they weren’t having any luck.
We made a short side foray into the Alaqua slough and past the Hwy 20 bridge which had scores of swallows nesting beneath it. A short distance further on was evidence of an alligator basking spot, but no gator to be seen. Having reached the end of this short side-trip we turned back to the main channel and continued on. About a mile from the put-in we passed Hwy 20 again and the Alaqua Park & boat launch. It wasn’t as crowded as expected; one boat was being launched and a couple of people were sitting under the shade of the pavilion, but it was only about 10 a.m.
Paddling onward, the sky reflected beautifully against the dark water. On the down-side, if the heat really kicked up we wouldn’t be enjoying a quick swim to cool off because I never ever swim in dark water. A long ago close-call with a submerged alligator quickly cured me of that notion. As the creek narrowed, though, we were able to enjoy the shade of the tree canopy so it stayed cool for most of the trip.
It was a mostly pleasant trip upstream and there were plenty of turtles, songbirds and fish to observe. We had to negotiate a few tight turns and maneuver around dead-fall, but it wasn’t anything too technical. Low water levels also made us exit our kayaks once to drag across a sandy section. We picked up a serious swarm of deer flies shortly after Alaqua Park and they stayed with us for the entire length of the trip. We’d paddled about two hours upstream before finally turning around at a fallen log that stretched the width of the creek. We could’ve portaged over it, but weren’t that ambitious and by now we were sick of our deer fly escorts.
Heading downstream a large Brown water snake entered the water and passed close to the kayak. These non-venomous reptiles are docile and usually eager to get away from humans. This one was getting ready to shed and couldn’t see where he was going very well and almost bumped into my kayak. I slipped past him and continued on.
As we neared the lower section of the creek again the sun returned in force as did a moderate breeze. Fortunately our take-out at Portland Park was only a mile past Alaqua Park. Things were still quiet upon our return and we were able to load up quickly and be on our way. Total trip time was about 4 hours. I’ll definitely have to return with a fishing pole and see how the fishing is.