Sunday, May 23, 2010

Up the Creek with a Paddle

This channel turned out to be a dead end
I had intended to get out much earlier this year, while the water was still high.  I like exploring the small creeks that aren't as accessible with lower water.  High water never materialized this spring though.  Three steps was the highest, and it quickly dropped to one step (8 inches or so from deck).  So I naturally I procrastinated.

A nice day for a paddle, figured to explore up Faraday Creek as far as I could, then loop up around the oxbow lake and back down the York.  Where Faraday joins the York, it is a swampy maze of tiny channels, grass, and beaver dams.  Tough navigating from a kayak since the grass obstructs your view, but a canoe would be too big.  Even the kayak is a tight squeeze at times, often need to use the paddle like a skiff pole.  Other times you just lay the paddle fore and aft and grab a double handful of grass to drag yourself forward.  There are a number of ways through the maze, the goal is to get out of the kayak as few times as possible. 
A paddle-overable beaver dam

The trick is to find the smallest possible beaver dams.  They are usually found in the smallest possible channels, and it is possible to lean way back, paddle or pull the boat onto the dam as far as possible, then lean forward an shimmy a little to get over it.  The problem is that the smallest channels are often dead ends or blocked by trees or branches, and try turning or backing a 13' kayak in a 20" channel.

Once you get through the delta maze, there is the main channel of the creek for a while.  Fairly easy paddling.  Lots of red winged blackbirds.  The regular sized beaver dams need to be portaged, there are two or three (depending on state of repair after spring flooding and route).  I managed to get about 20 metres farther up creek than last year, but stopped by an 8" diameter tree downed across a shallow part of the creek.  The mosquitos had started to drive me buggy, so I left clearing it for another day.  I figure I was about 100m from the Heritage Trail, which was/is my goal. 

Beaver dam on Faraday Creek

Came back down the creek and headed for the oxbow lake.  Much of my Faraday Creek meandering last year was searching for the south entrance to this - I knew it was there from various maps, but had a hard time finding the way in. Managed to re-find the way no problem (passing the beaver lodge, which I hadn't found before), you do have to portage over a big logjam.  Hate to imagine the flooding that caused it, but I suspect it changed the course of the river and helped form the oxbox lake.

It had been a long afternoon so quickly across the little lake.  A new beaver dam at the north end, got a closeup look at a muskrat, then back into the York and home to catch the end of both the hockey game and my hopes of winning the school playoff pool.  Damn you Patrick Marleau!

The Kayaking loop

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