The stretch of the Neches River between Anderson’s Crossing and Route 7 has been designated the Davy Crockett Paddling Trail recently. I paddled this stretch of the river a few years ago when I first moved to the area. The river was running high then (normal for this time of year). This year, it’s not running so high. My paddle hit the bottom on several occasions, but the water level is still plenty high for canoeing. I wouldn’t run a motor boat down this stretch anytime soon, though. Even at this pretty low level, it was much clearer of debris than I had anticipated. Other stretches of the river force you out of the boat often to clear downed trees. Someone keeps this stretch of river clear enough that you can always find a way to paddle around an obstacle.
This stretch runs a bit quicker than most on the Neches. The last mile or so is pretty slack, but most of this stretch actually has a current, which makes for a pretty relaxing paddle. Today was a really nice day for a paddle because there was just enough breeze to keep the skeeters at bay, it was sunny, and it was warm-but-not-too-warm in the afternoon.
I didn’t bring the camera today because I wanted to go light and I wanted to spend my time looking at my surroundings. It was tempting to bring the DSLR but it makes me nervous to bring such an expensive camera canoeing when I don’t have a proper Pelican box for it.
It was all well and good. Much wildlife was to be noticed along this stretch of river. The turtles were exceptionally abundant, but without optics, I couldn’t get close enough to ID any of them. Rounding a bend was met with numerous “plops” as the turtles all ducked for cover. There were even a few fish getting serious hangtime. I was kicking myself for not bringing my tackle, but I was thinking there’d be more downfall choking the river and I’d never find a clear spot to cast. There were places where you could not cast a lure and retrieve it cleanly, but there were also plenty of places you could cast without fear of snagging on something. Would have been nice to cook up a bass for dinner. Oh well.
The birds were very active in the cool air today, also. The sighting of the day was a prothonotary warbler that flew down to snatch bugs from a piece of driftwood only a couple feet from the boat. We also saw an eastern phoebe, played leapfrog with a great blue heron, and caught glimpses of a great egret, a little blue heron, and possibly a tricolored heron. Aside from the really common cardinals and crows, we heard what I believe to be pine warblers and others I can’t identify.
We also got to try out our new canoe paddles – a Whiskeyjack Double Whiskey River for me and a Bending Branches Sunshadow 14 for my wife. We both appreciated the bent shafts a great deal, but they changed the handling of the boat somewhat and that took some time to adjust to. For me, the Double Whiskey was awesome. The balance of this paddle really shines when you’re switching from one side of the boat to the other. Just a flip of the wrist and the paddle goes. It has more power than I’d expect for a paddle with such a small business end. I found that the lightness in the blade is really conducive to a high paddling cadence with this stick. The high cadence doesn’t feel like you’re putting a lot of oomph into each stroke, but it’s getting the boat going. In a word, this paddle is effortless. My wife was equally impressed with hers, but mostly because the length of this one is actually her size. She’s been paddling for years with a paddle that’s several inches too long for her. After nearly 10mi, she felt like she could go another 10. That’s what I like to hear.