On this adventure, I met up with the FPCKC (Florida Panhandle Canoe & Kayak Connection) group that I’m a part of, in order to join them on a trip down Big Escambia Creek (aka Conecuh River), which as luck would have it, I’ve never been on before. We met the group at the Flomaton Landing boat launch underneath the Hwy 29/31 bridge in Flomaton, Alabama a little before 9:30 a.m. to unload boats and shuttle drivers down to the take-out at Fischer’s Landing on Hwy 4, east of the town of Century back in Florida.
The weather and water levels were perfect for today’s trip. Our trip leader, Doug Waggle, couldn’t have picked a better day if he’d tried. There was a good turn-out of about 18 people, but despite the size of the group, everyone launched fairly quickly and without any incidents. Then it was a pleasant mellow drift down a shallow, gravel-bottom creek. As we chatted, I could hear the mournful wail of a train in the distance and secretly hoped that I would get to see it as we neared the railroad trestle further along the creek.
The creek meandered past forested banks, occasionally giving way to large gravel sandbars. Small fish could be seen darting across the creek bottom and one ambitious turtle tried his luck at disguising himself as a shadow on the bottom. The sounds of the train grew louder and as we rounded a bend I was able to see a train slowly crossing the trestle. This was a treat for me because I really like trains. I dearly miss the days when the conductor would wave from the caboose.
After a few miles of drifting we rallied up at our lunch stop right before the entrance to the cypress forest where the recognizable creek path disappears into a maze of choices before re-emerging a half-mile away into a creek once again. Doug gave an inspiring pep-talk informing us that survivors would split the gear of those that didn’t make it, but that any left-over kayaks belonged to the trip leader. Perfectly reasonable.
We finished up lunch and clambered back into our canoes and kayaks. Somehow or other I wound up third in the starting line-up which then evolved into me winding up in the starting position after another paddler had to back-track his initial path into the swamp. Doug posted himself at the first choose-your-own-adventure station and pointed me deeper into the swamp. This is how most horror stories begin… straying from the main trail. Here, there is no main trail.
Ten feet in and it quickly became apparent that all roads lead downstream, and at a reasonable clip. In paddling terms, it was a technical paddle. Once we entered the watery forest, it was easy to get separated from the rest of the group, and I was paddling alone for many a stretch, often wondering if I would ever make it out to the main channel. The trick was to keep following the current and look for the widest waterways possible.
Finally I crossed paths with fellow paddler and great conversationalist, Larry Burner. Time flies when you’re shooting the breeze and the current, so it wasn’t long before we made it out of the maze and into the main channel. The scenery was even more amazing than in the first half of the paddle. From here it was a serene paddle to the Escambia river where it widened considerably. A little under a mile and a quarter later we arrived at the Fischer Landing take-out. Total trip-time: 3 ½ hours.
This was a great paddle. I wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner paddler, but someone with average or better paddling skills shouldn’t have much difficulty with it. Below is the full video from the Cypress forest section of the trip so you can judge for yourself.