Overnight Route # 1
Bryan Laney, Phil Laney and Scott Thompson enjoyed a modified and reverse version of the Bartram Canoe Trails Overnight Route # 1. On Friday morning, we began our three day loop route at Rice Creek Landing and paddled out of Rice Creek to Tensaw Lake. Instead of crossing over Tensaw Lake to Bayou Jessamine, we proceeded to paddle the long way around Tensaw Lake to Bayou Jessamine.
We were rewarded with our first sighting of an alligator about 50 yards ahead of us along the lake's edge. We entered Bayou Jessamine and were able to take refuge from the mid-day sun and continued to Jug Lake. The bayou that takes you to Jug Lake is somewhat narrow but opens up at Jug Lake.
We found the platform at the end of Jug Lake and paddled among the jumping Bowfins (known locally as cotton fish and fennels). There was plenty of room for our two tents. We enjoyed a fantastic night with NO mosquitoes and the sound of a barred owl chorus during the night. One of the barred owls flew over the platform after breakfast the next morning and perched 25 yards away!
We enjoyed some fishing before and after breakfast and landed several bowfins - a first for all of us - with most of them being in the two pound range. Afterwards, we packed our supplies and headed out of Jug Lake and back to Bayou Jessamine.
We continued on Jessamine to it's confluence with Bottle Creek. We did the side excursion on Bottle Creek to the Bottle Creek Indian Mounds. We paddled to the bend on Bottle Creek and left our kayaks on the sandy bank and enjoyed a short hike to the mounds. We found out afterwards that there is a second, smaller mound located behind the first one. We'll see that one next time!
The three of us headed back to Bottle Creek and paddled with the current to the Tensaw River. As we were heading against the current on Tensaw River and into the wind, we decided to race to the Two Rivers Point Campsite. Luckily, the water level of the river was as high as the bottom step of the metal steps at the campsite so unloading our kayaks wasn't too difficult. Finding a spot to pitch our tents was a bit more challenging as there were already six tents set up. We squeezed in and enjoyed a very nice fire that night courtesy of our fellow campers. Some senior campers from Mountain Brook even shared their caviar on home-made mayonnaise and crackers with us -- another first for all of us!
After a great breakfast of Spam and eggs (courtesy of Phil), we packed our supplies and headed up river to Bayou Tallapoosa. Bayou Tallapoosa wasn't marked very well with signs (as all other points on the river were). After a couple hundred yards into Tallapoosa, it turns sharply north. At this point, a six foot alligator slipped into the water and came up to see us -- quite exciting!
We continued on Tallapoosa and enjoyed the canopy the trees provided for us. We saw a few water snakes along the way and encountered our first and only portage of the trip as a tree had fallen across the entire width of the bayou (30 feet). Bayou Tallapoosa led back to Tensaw Lake and we turned south and paddled back to Rice Creek and Rice Creek Landing.
It was a great trip of just over 20 river miles. We enjoyed the bald cypress trees, Spanish moss, alligators, herons, pelicans and bowfins! This is a special place that looks like nothing you would imagine when you think of the State of Alabama. We encountered no mosquitoes on this trip so we are planning another trip next year around this time, but will try a platform to platform trip.
Accommodations: The floating platform at Jug Lake is a covered floating dock that is secured to trees at the water's edge. There is an enclosure for your porta-potty (required) and a cooking area (metal table). The maximum number of people on the platform is eight.
Two Rivers Point Campsite is a land-based campsite and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. There were 8 tents set up when we were there and it was at capacity.
Outfitting: Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100
Ocean Kayak Prowler 130
Fees: No permits are required, but the platform fee is $20.00 per night and available by reservation only and can not be reserved for consecutive nights.
Directions: Interstate 65 to Exit 31. North on Highway 225 to Stockton. Left onto County Road 21 and continue for approximately one mile and turn left onto Rice Creek Road. Rice Creek Landing, our put-in and take-out is at the end of Rice Creek Road and well marked parking lot.
Resources: http://www.outdooralabama.com/rice-creek-landing is the Alabama Department of Conservations website for the Rice Creek Landing on the Bartam Canoe Trail. Links to the Overnight #1 and all the Canoe Trips can be found at http://www.alabamacanoetrails.com/