You wont find the Raccoon Creek on any Kayaking guide-book. In fact, I belive I am one of three people who have ever paddled the Creek. Out of the three of us, I have paddled it the most. The creek runs on family land and is a mile from my house. Most of the time the creek runs slow and low with large pools good for swimming. It is not a white water river by no stretch of the imagination. However, after a lot of rain the creek can rise and be come a raging river that overflows its 10 foot high banks and spread to 50 plus yards wide in its flood plain. Other times during periods of drought, the creek will completely stop running.

The first time I ever paddled a kayak was in Raccoon Creek after a small amount of rain. The creek was up a foot or two from normal summer pool. There once was a concrete road that crossed the creek and formed a one foot water fall when it came across. We call this are the Ford. With the water level up and the flow fast, a two foot wave was formed at this fall. I was around 22 years old and had a buddy a few years younger than me who had his kayak there playing in the wave. After watching for several minutes, he offered to let me try. He gave me a few quick instructions and off I go. I took to it very easily and was hooked. In just a few weeks I had bought my own.

He and I paddled quite a bit and I got more comfortable with my boat. I started paddling a three-mile section regularly. I would drop my mountain bike at the Ford and drive up to a bridge where I would put into the creek. Paddle the three miles and ride my bike back to my truck. It was a good work out. I knew this section very well. In the spring the creek flow was enough that it was a nice trip. As the summer went on the creek would get lower and spots would be to low and I would have to get out and drag my boat over the rocks. Between the bridge and the Ford there are two rock out crops that forms small rapids and there are two concrete coverts to go through.

One day we got a good amount of rain during the morning, so I called my buddy, Ben, to see if he wanted to paddle the creek that afternoon. We got our stuff together and dropped a truck a the Ford. While there we checked the level of the creek and it was up maybe three feet. Not to bad and it was flowing good but not crazy. So it was a go. We put in at the upper bridge and went through its culvert with no problem. It had a little wave where it dropped off like the road at the ford. The creek had a lot of water and was flowing good. We were having a good time playing at different spots down the creek. At the first rock out cropping we hit the little rapid two or three times. On down the creek, it splits and forms a three acre island. We take the larger section that is the longer route. The shorter section enters the main channel in a curve. When we get to this area, I try to go up the smaller channel so I can play in a rapid. My boat hits the cross current and flips. I have never mastered rolling my boat so I pullout. I have a paddle in one hand and an upside down boat in the other. The water fills the banks. I put my feet down to stand up and to my total surprise, I can’t touch the bottom. I know where the sand and gravel bars are and I swim to those areas and still can’t touch. The second culvert is coming up fast. Ben is hollering to get on top of my boat to rid it through the culvert and its rapids. I make it through to the other side and find an area that it is only wast deep. I know this area and I know the creek has risen sence we started. No more playing around, time to get home. We were about halfway there. It wasn’t much further down the creek that we came to a large Oak tree thar had fallen across the creek. The tree was about half in the water and half out. It would have made a good foot log. To the left was just enough water flowing that I could wedge my boat through and I would not have to get out of my boat. I was trying to get through this area and the log stretched across the creek to my right. Ben is a lot better paddler than me and was playing around with the log. I stopped and was looking to my right watching him. His boat got turned horizontal with the creek and hit the log parallel with it. When that happened, he flipped. Ben is good and can roll. He tries several times but the water is to fast and has him pined against the tree. Once I see that he has stopped trying, I pop my skirt and start to get out of my boat. I am thinking that I am going to have to walk out the log and pull him out. I was also thing, that we were at the most remote part of the trip and getting help would be tough. God was watching over us that day. By the time I was getting out, Ben popped up down the creek and some how his boat made it over the tree. He recovered his boat and got back in. We keep it safe as we finish the rest of the trip and had no other encounters.

The next week, I paddled the same sections again, when the water had receded. When I came to the tree that had given Ben so much trouble, the magnitude to our situation was evident. When I went under the tree, I could not touch the bottom of it. On each side of me were tons of limbs and debris. In kayaker terms they are called strainers. Because they will strain you out of the water or drown you. They are very deadly. Where Ben went through there was about a ten foot hole. He had a guardian Angel with him that day.

Ben went on to be accomplished river guide and I am sure has had more adventures than me.

Leason: Never paddle a rain swollen creek or river.

 

Advertisements