Archived Story

Canoeing trip proves delightful

Published 11:38am Saturday, April 27, 2013

I took a much needed day off Friday and got out on Hatchet Creek, canoeing the 13 or so miles from Highway 280 to Highway 231 near Rockford.

Billy Barrett, John Thompson, Bill Thompson, George Howell and I went down in two canoes and a kayak. John, who organized the trip, went solo with a twin-bladed paddle. Billy – a very experienced canoer and owner of a fine, well-seasoned 17-foot craft – sat in front of our boat and served as navigator while I sat in the back and functioned as trolling motor and rudder. Bill and George canoed together in Sam’s Club canoe that may have left a few polyethylene samples on Hatchet Creek’s more shallow rocks, but worked just fine.

Friday was one of those perfect spring days. The temperatures at dawn were in the 40s; by afternoon it was in the 80s. That’s nice enough, but here’s the best part: humidity was 12 percent.

We here in the South don’t really have much experience with teen humidity. We’re more likely to understand 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity, which is the perfect weather for sweating. Friday was altogether different – 80 degrees and 12 percent humidity is completely comfortable. Delightful, in fact.

That’s the best word I can conjure up to describe Hatchet Creek yesterday.

Deep blue breezy skies above and clear green water below … except for the scores of places where rapids made the water white and the canoeing even better. Along the sides of the creek new leaves were bursting out in a dozen different shades of light green and the white and pink wild azaleas were in full bloom.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Hatchet Creek was flowing past the Rockford monitoring station at 371 cubic feet per second Friday. Translated into practical terms, that means we moved along at a pleasing clip, rocks frequently scraped the bottom of our canoes and we didn’t have to walk.

At 371, we sometimes had only one or two obvious places we could get through the rapids without running aground, and we sometimes bumped along through those.

According to the pros in our group, optimum water on Hatchet Creek is closer to 800 cubic feet per second, when there would be multiple scrape-free chutes through the rocky creek and even more exciting white water. To find out what the creek is running on any given day, just type “Hatchet Creek water level” into Google’s search bar.

Now to the most important part of this report: the Cahaba lilies are on the way up. We passed bunch after bunch of green shoots anchored to the rocky bottom. Many were already standing tall above the water level, but none were blooming yet. Based on what I saw, I think 2013 will produce a bumper crop of Hatchet Creek Cahaba lilies. The blooms typically begin to open in early May and will last until late June.

These rare spider lilies produce spectacular white blooms that everybody who lives here should see at least once. They are true local treasures that only live along the fall line in a handful of creeks in the Southeastern U.S.

If you want to see them on Hatchet, canoeing or kayaking or being invited to a private cabin near a patch are the only ways to get a good look. I’d suggest you go in May, before the no-see-ums and deer flies get too bad.

In all it was a near-perfect day. We all got down the river in fine form; no injuries were reported.

There were some mumbled threats of injury after Thompson inadvertently left a cooler full of ice and 18 hand-picked canoeing beverages in the back seat of his truck, but no blood was actually shed.

We’re already scheduling a second trip to pay homage to the Cahaba lilies.

Boone is publisher of The Outlook.