Trip Report: Staff members Becky and Mike and part of the Leadership DeSoto Class III did the five mile, Oak Hill to Arcadia Run, on Wednesday the 16th. Weather was overcast with a hint of rain. Turned out the overcast sky made the trip more enjoyable, kept the temperature down. Becky, long time paddler, paddled with newbie staff member Mike. It was Mike's first time in a canoe.
Becky reported that she has never seen the river this low. Mike reported that since the rains started, in some areas of Oak Hill, the water had risen just a hair, there was less beach. Mike cleans up Oak Hill on a weekly basis so he could see the difference.
Around Oak Hill, the water level was fine. Before the big white beach on the right south of Last Chance (Mott's Beach), staff had to get out and walk at least 100 feet. That stretch of the river is notoriously shallow. The next walking spot was before the next bend, just past Mott's Beach just above Stevenson's (big cypress and table up high between the trees). This is a notoriously shallow area with rocky bottom and outcroppings. The next few bends are the areas with lots of logs. Biggest problem was zigzagging around the stumps and logs. Got stuck a couple of times on log tips just under the water. Wiggle and scooch your bottom and you can get off the log. From there, staff got out about 2 more times to walk, mostly sandbars, and a couple of rock areas. Just about the railroad trestle there is a rock area. Overall, got out of the canoe six times to walk, had to push with paddles around six times.
Most of the time, staff only had to walk about 10-20 feet, canoe floated over the sandbar or rocks once the weight was out. If paddlers are not experienced, they will walk more. If you are with other people and they are ahead of you and you hear their canoes scraping the bottom, don't follow them! To minimize walking, you must zigzag, can't just paddle straight down the river. If you don't pay attention, you will walk more. Becky as a very experienced Peace Paddler who knows the river channel and knew which way to zigzag. Rule of Thumb: water is always deeper on the high bank side. If the bank is a low grassy/sandy slope, the water will be low there. Stay as close to the “cliff” side or high bank. Wear old shoes, some of the walkovers were rocky. The limestone can be rough. While there was not a lot of current but paddling was still enjoyable.
The amount of gravel areas was mindboggling. Anyone who can't find a fossil isn't looking hard enough. First time fossil hunter Steve Owen pulled some turtle shell pieces out the sand just using his hand at a beach stop. Staff plans on going again to fish and fossil hunt. Fish are all trapped in the deeper water and the fossil beds are everywhere. On this trip, there were newbies and the experienced, everyone had a blast!