Dabbs Ford to Bluebell Island, and Back Again

After paddling as far upstream on the Elk as I had the patience to paddle, I turned downstream, and below Dabbs Ford Bridge picked up this rider

After paddling as far upstream on the Elk as I had the patience to paddle, I turned downstream, and below Dabbs Ford Bridge picked up this rider

This morning, I was on the water by 7:20. I wasted some time poking around the shoreline just upstream from Prairie Plains Road Bridge, or, as I think it is more properly known, Dabbs Ford Bridge. Paddling backwards out of one narrow place, the rudder banged against a submerged log or stump, and would not straighten out. I flipped it up, still turned ninety degrees right. I paddled back to the put in, got out of the boat, got the rudder unjammed, then headed upstream again.

My ambitious goal was to reach I-24. Tommy Rogers, at the TSRA forum, said he didn’t think I’d make it even as far as the Tyson plant at Highway 50/64. Too many fallen trees blocking passage, too many shallow rocky places. He said he tried it last year, became frustrated, and turned back.

Tommy was right. I made it upstream to a point where I could hear, or thought I could hear, traffic from the highway. Getting that far, however, involved getting out of the boat in three or four places pulling it behind me like a child’s wagon, and in one place dragging it over fallen trees. I made less than 10 miles today, but it took about five hours, round trip. My photos are here.

On my way back downstream - working hard, not smart.

On my way back downstream - working hard, not smart.

A couple of times conditions had me wishing for an aluminum canoe, a can of gas, and a chainsaw.  I think I would’ve been more likely thus equipped to persist in my exploration.  Not too far from Dabbs Ford, I met a couple of guys with a cooler and fishing poles paddling toward me.  First time I’ve met other paddlers on the water anywhere on or around Woods Reservoir/Elk River making purposeful use of a boat.

I waded a lot, this trip, and was mindful of foot placement around driftwood and submerged logs afraid of losing a toe to a snapping turtle. The E68’s tough PVC hull did fine, and the keelstrips appeared no worse for the abuse at day’s end. When I returned to the put in, I checked my car’s clock (I’ve lost my watch), and it said 12:00.

Too early. I got back in the kayak and paddled downstream to the lake. On the way, I picked up a butterfly that rode with me until I took the boat from the water for the drive home. Car-clock said 1:00 as I drove back toward Miller’s Crossing on Prairie Plains Rd.

Dramatic bow of Campsis Radicans

Dramatic bow of Campsis Radicans

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