Winchester City Park to Wagner & Boiling Fork Creeks

Last Thursday and Friday, I completed most of my Chattanooga reports and did some other work. I haven’t felt much like writing anything else, but do want to post some photos from my paddle yesterday afternoon at Winchester, Tennessee. Mapquest revealed the location Winchester City Park, which is across the street from the city’s Swimplex. A windy day, and possibly the coolest sunny day we’ve had this Fall, the boat ramp was not busy, although a children’s party of some sort was taking place at or around a nearby pavilion.

As I was readying Campsis Radicans for launch, a man in a bassboat in friendly fashion told me I would be well served by a sailing rig. No fish had he caught. We laughed about the wind. I was looking forward to paddling against it, I felt like I needed the exercise and something to resist (however, if the radical socialists prevail in the coming US elections, thinking Americans who put their nation and its constitution first will have plenty to resist – see Buchanan & WSJ).

On the water, I paddled left, past the other boat ramp and the fishing dock, then under the bridge. I came to a sort drainpipe through which I paddled into a backwater into which flowed a creek the name of which I do not know. Paddled under a footbridge and around a bend then through a tiny sea of twigs until I ran aground, then back the way I came. A footpath with benches and a bridge passed over and along the creek’s bank, apparently part of the city park complex.

Both my prior trips this way, I ignored Wagner Creek Branch. On the map, it doesn’t look like much. From the water, too many houses on the bank at my right, steep and rocky with fewer houses on my left. I liked the left bank much better. Saw a small kayak unsuitable for covering flatwater distance on a paved private boat ramp behind a too large, too new house that I tried not to covet. On the left bank I saw an eccentrically but attractively painted dock.

Under the road bridge farther upstream I saw a fat, brown groundhog on a rocky shelf next to the water. Looking at me as I greeted it with a quiet and surprised, “Hello,” the creature turned and hastily walked out of sight under an overhanging shelf nearby. Around the next clump of trees and shoreline, I met a man and woman fishing. They said they had caught nothing, and asked a couple of questions about kayaks.

Back out and around the point to Boiling Fork creek, the wind began to howl from the northeast, as NOAA had predicted. I spoke baby words my son uses into the wind, “Eeeachh,” “Eh, Eh,” then “Bwah!” to the water. Early yet, I thought it would be interesting to back to that cave I’d paddled into on June 21, the day I paddled twice to the map’s edge. The water was lower by several feet, yesterday, as Tims Ford reduces volume to winter pool levels. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it that far back up Boiling Fork.

Strong wind at my back I thought, “Paddling back against this will be difficult.” Water was sufficiently high to wend my way through Winchester, the slough behind the main street into town, probably Hwy 41-A/64, then past the new Franklin County High School, and to the cave in question. I could have gone farther, but since I’d got such a late start (on the water around 12:15 pm), I’d head back after seeing the cave. I observed tracks in the cave I could not identify. One of the photos I took of the inky blackness beyond the muddy floor shows the gleam of what might have been an animal’s eye. Maybe a raccoon or a small wildcat of the sort indigenous to the region. I observed the cave paintings of a troglodyte band proclaiming themselves “PUNKS” next to red earthen handprints and an alphabetic arrangement I have not yet deciphered in the same medium. Through a cloud of mosquitoes at the cave’s mouth I paddled backwards, observing a large carp in the shallow water unconcerned with my presence.

Stopped out of the wind to eat a snack made of two Slim Jims and a croissant, three generic Fig Newton cookies, and two hands full of salted almonds and raisins. And then back to the boat ramp against the howling wind that sped my passage the other way. Near the roadbridge close to the city park’s boat ramp, I saw two men in a flatbottom, motorized fishing boat. One of them said he was having a pretty good day, had caught no fish, and opined that less the wind, the day would improve.

Shortly thereafter, upon reaching the boat ramp, I wished the wind had been stronger. I saw another of the groundhogs standing on the rocks beside the ramp. I took a picture as the animal quickly walked away.

Paddling back toward the drainpipe on a nameless creek's backwater

Paddling back toward the drainpipe on a nameless creek's backwater

To the Map’s Edge Twice – Winchester, Tennessee 6/21/08

Saturday, I intended to paddle along the south shore of Tims Ford Lake into Winchester, retracing the route my wife and I mistakenly took during our May 2007 camping trip. On the way to Devil’s Step boat ramp, however, I noticed a wide gravel road that turned off HIghway 50 adjacent the closed gates of a public “beach.” Because I thought it might lead to a put-in nearer Boiling Fork Creek and the City of Winchester, proper, I turned off there.

The boat ramp at the end of the road was paved. One other vehicle, a battered pickup truck with an equally weathered-looking trailer, stood parked near where I’d parked. Although I wondered whether I’d find my car intact when I eventually returned to it, I launched and paddled.

As far as I got on Dry Creek

That’s as far as I got on Dry Creek before turning around and paddling to Winchester

Mill dam, and as far as I got on Boiling Fork Creek

And that mill dam is as far as I got on Boiling Fork Creek

All the photos worth keeping, and maybe some that aren’t, have been posted in this album.

After putting in, I paddled south with the same shore on my left toward the public beach near Highway 50. Campsis Radicans is in bloom all along the lake’s shore. I hadn’t put in there because the gate was locked when I drove past, and a sign nearby said the park would remain closed until 9:00 am. As I approached the beach from the water, I heard voices coming from the trees in a scrubby area about a hundred yards from the park. The young people stood around a red pickup truck talking. Two males and a female. One of they guys greeted me politely, the other asked me to demonstrate an Eskimo roll. I politely refused, and the first guy apologized for his friend saying, “He’s been drinking.” The female looked on and said nothing.

Tangle of trees at the top of Dry Creek Branch

Dry Creek branch south of Highway 50 was a large, almost mirror still body of water I paddled quickly. I passed on my left an elaborate dock and new-looking boat-ramp. Part of some housing development as evidenced by a number of recently built brick-fronted mini-mansions. At the top of the creek was the usual tangle of trees, vines, bushes past two or three somewhate older waterside houses on my left. To my surprise, a clear channel of water led through the trees.

After the tangle of trees the path led here

The water path through the trees led to one of those places of unexpected wild and tranquil beauty that make me wish my wife shared my interest in flatwater kayak paddling.

A little further on

Paddling down Dry Creek Branch, I passed a currently disused fishing camp, what looked like it may have been a beaver lodge, a tall tree standing sentry in the middle of the creek, paddled over the frame of what may have been a footbridge or a track for launching boats adjacent a neglected paved ramp, and, just past Hwy. 50, a tree with reddish fuzzy flowers reflected in the lake. A little further, up the same small, nameless branch upon the banks of with grew the reflected tree, I came upon a lakeside retreat behind a house visible up by the road. I got out of the boat near this place and adjusted the air in my kayak’s inflatable Nautiraid Greenlander seat-bottom.

Tree in fuzzy red bloom

Lakeside retreat

Last year, when I got us lost and we paddled on through Winchester, we didn’t stop to explore Dry Creek, and it wasn’t really my primary objective Saturday, either. I’m glad I took time to have a look.

I think the next time I paddle Boiling Fork Branch into and around Winchester, I’ll put in at Winchester City Park, if I can figure out how to get there by car. Last year, to keep out of the wind, we paddled along the north shore of the lake close by the city park. This time around I didn’t care, and there wasn’t too much wind. I paddled the south shore then crossed the lake near the park to paddle under the bridge. Don’t know what street or highway crosses over there, which has something to do with the fact that I don’t know how to drive to that park.

Road to Winchester Square

On the other side of the unknown highway, I turned right, and paddled Boiling Fork Creek branch toward Winchester, passing a number of less imposing houses on my right, and some truly beautiful older houses on my left. Pretty soon I approached the bridge over which one drives into Winchester near the city square. Winchester’s a county seat (Franklin County), and a federal court convenes in the courthouse on the square – a boxy but decorative 1930s style government building – maybe WPA? The old jail, however, is just an old two or three storey brick building built on a high bank above the lake.

Old Franklin County Jail

Keeping the jail to my right, I continued to paddle around to the left. Again on my right, was the mystery monorail of Winchester, probably a support and housing for a pipeline no longer extant. Maybe jail sewage?

Mystery Monorail

Further around the bend, on my left, I could see the backsides of buildings housing small businesses and apartments, a gas station. The channel veered right, again; near the monorail is an ancient bridge pier looking about the same age as the piers and steps at Estill Springs City Park.

Pier, Stone

A little further, on the left bank is situated an untreated sewage discharge point adjacent to Winchester city’s public housing. Were it not for the Schei├čewasser, those lakeside projects would be located on high dollar real estate. As a political conservative, I abhor the fact that my tax money goes to support what has become in this country a subculture of entitlement. I’m a little bugged about housing citizens next to untreated sewage. Remember folks, this is yellow-dawg Democrat country, so you can be sure Democrats did this.

Poopwasser Discharge Point, Winchester, Tennessee

Winchester\'s lakeside housing project

It’s already a week later, 6/28/08, as I write this, and I’m ready to write other things and paddle other waters. I finished up Boiling Fork Branch, paddling past people fishing near the big slough west of the housing projects, then on past the new Franklin County High School, which looked like a prison on the low horizon seen from my cockpit, then on past a farm, a number of older houses adjacent a meadow that appears to flood in the high water, then to cave into which I paddled a short distance, and on past Hwy 64 on some of the prettiest, most hidden flatwater I’ve seen in this part of the state. I could there feel the flowing water of Boiling Fork Creek radiating a soothing cold up through the hullskin, past a cave like a crack in a rock wall from inside of which I could hear the sound of a small waterfall. Eventually I came to a stop near a mill dam, and the mill, itself, still standing but unworking, its broken windows attesting to a period of neglect. I pulled my kayak closer, like a child’s red wagon, tied it up to a rough support, and rested awhile, then returned (against the wind) to my car, which I found intact at the primitive boat-ramp on Dry Creek Branch.

Resting place - neglected mill

Against the wind