As far as days to be in the outdoors you could hardly design a better day to be on the water as I pushed my wife in her Wilderness System Pungo 120 kayak into the tea-colored waters of Black Creek. At 10:00 in the morning it was 73 degrees with a light Northeast breeze and a sunny, clear, blue sky.
I had just returned to Brooklyn Landing from driving my vehicle to Cypress Creek Landing and being shuttled back to the starting point by a nice young gentleman from Black Creek Canoe Rental. About an hour earlier I had spoken with Brandon Pearce, the owner, and discussed our trip with him and was given an update on current conditions. I cannot say enough about Brandon and his operation; friendly, helpful and professional doesnt do it justice.
I quickly followed my wife in my Ascend H12 Hybrid and we paddled under the railway bridge at Brooklyn towards our first check point, 1.23 miles downstream at the Ashe-Nursery Road Bridge. We passed a few local fishermen bank fishing and they would be the last people we saw until late Saturday afternoon when another couple passed our campsite in a canoe. I have rated this trip as moderately difficult for one reason only: the sheer number of shallow gravel bars, stumps, stick-ups and blow-downs. It requires constant maneuvering and "picking your line" to get through without getting hung-up, tipping over or getting out to drag your boat (yeah, I know that is the fun of it, but it gets a little tedious all day long).
The water level at the gauge in Brooklyn Saturday morning was 4.6 feet and would drop to 4.4 feet by Sunday morning. The discharge rate was 300 cfs which provided a vigorous current that kept you moving quickly towards the next obstacle whether you were paddling or not. I would not do this trip if the water level was below 4.0 at Brooklyn. In many places we were able to just barely skim over gravel bars in our kayaks. I expect most heavy loaded tandem canoes would be dragging.
The most widely available map indicates it is five river-miles from Brooklyn to Moodys Landing, our next checkpoint. In fact, it is 7.16 miles as verified by two separate GPS readings. There are no signs marking the landing and it is quite easy to miss unless someone is on the beach loading or unloading. My GPS reading for the landing (for general reference only) is 31.03.03.29N, 89.07.01.88W (river-left). The distance from Moodys Landing to Janice Bridge Landing is 9.69 miles (GPS verified) and we picked a beach to have lunch on that was approximately half way of our entire journey, 11.60 miles; which I aptly named "Halfway beach" (31.01.40.99N, 89.04.48.60W, river left).
There was one point between Moody and Janice where we had to lift the kayaks over a log jam. At another point my wife was picking the line and too late I noticed that she was backing out. Caught in the current I was unable to back out and I found myself sitting on top of a perfectly square block of limestone, the size of a refrigerator, right in the middle of the creek, facing the way I had just come. After a lot of pushing and pulling we were able to get me clear and on the second attempt we both made it through. We called it quits at 15.27 miles the first day at a beach I named Camp Beach (yeah, I know, save your comments for lack of creativity 31.00.19.05N, 89.03.30.61W, river left).
After getting the tent set-up and camp arranged we found a piece of shade and enjoyed margaritas, chips and salsa. It is permissible to have alcohol on the river but not in the federal campgrounds at the landings. You also need to be aware the Desoto National Forest is adjacent to Camp Shelby, an active National Guard training base. A fact we were made keenly aware of when we were "buzzed" by a flight of helicopters at 2:30 in the morning.
After breaking camp the next morning we headed downstream 1.58 miles to our next checkpoint at Janice Landing. Again, there is no sign but it is easy to recognize since there is a bridge crossing the creek. The landing is just past the bridge, river-left but I would caution on planning to take out there. Even though there is a concrete ramp, it looks like a 30-degree incline and the ramp is closed with a metal gate at the top and a load of dirt at the bottom. It would be pretty close to torture toting everything up that ramp from the creek to Hwy. 29. We continued on to our next checkpoint at the confluence of Black Creek and Beaverdam Creek 2.64 miles downstream (30.59.08.50N, 89.02.28.28W river-right).
In my humble opinion, this is the most scenic part of the trip. The wood line closes in on the creek and limestone banks form a virtual tunnel though much of this section. In addition, the creek widens and the number of blow-downs and obstacles are less numerous; giving you the opportunity to really enjoy the beauty. If you have the time and the water level is right, a side trip up Beaverdam Creek is worth the effort.
We continued on our way to our take out point at Cypress Creek Landing (184.108.40.206N, 89.00.19.75W). Cypress Creek actually joins Black Creek approximately 1/4 mile prior to the landing (river-left). Carefully watch river-left for the take out point. Even though it is a concrete ramp, it is easy to miss. Look for a pile of granite rocks that provide flood protection for the ramp. The best part is you can back your vehicle right down to the creek which makes for easy loading.
In total, the distance was 22.66 miles and was a great trip. I hope to do it again soon.
Wilderness System Pungo 120
Ascend H-12 Hybrid
We took advantage of the services offered by Black Creek Canoe Rental
Mapped the entire trip on Google Earth, including starting, ending and waypoints. This provided very accurate distances between points.