Within Alabama, the Escatawpa is a small to medium, meandering black water stream. There are sweeping sandbars around almost every bend with the occasional high sandy-clay bluff rising alongside some of the deeper straights. For most of the year, especially in the drier summer months, it is only deep enough for canoes and kayaks to navigate.
The most popular stretches of the river for paddlers are the 7 miles from Lott Road down to Mason Ferry Road (also sometimes referred to as Georgetown Bridge Road) and the 14.5 miles from Mason Ferry Road down to U.S. Highway 98. Both of the stretches are within Mobile County, just a few miles from the Mississippi state line. There is an abundance of wildlife, with evidence of deer, turkey and raccoon tracks on almost every sandbar. Yellow bellied turtles sunbath on logs and plop into the water when paddlers approach. Numerous snake species sun on the sandbars and swim the river including the poisonous (and sometimes aggressive) water moccasin.
In May of 2007 our group of 7 canoes and 1 kayak (all members of the Bayou Haystackers Paddling Club) combined the two stretches into one weekend trip covering almost 22 miles. After meeting at 9am at the take-out at Escatawpa Hollow Camp and Canoe in Wilmer, AL, we shuttled our boats 24 miles up the road to the Lott Road bridge, due west of the town of Citronelle. We dropped all of the boats and half of the group and returned to the take-out with our vehicles. A fellow paddler, who was not participating in this trip, was kind enough to drive us back to the put-in after we had secured our vehicles. The Lott Road bridge is in a very remote location on an unpaved road and I would not recommend leaving a vehicle there, even for a day trip.
After all of the shuttling, carrying of the boats down the rather steep slope to the river, and loading of the gear, we were finally underway at about noon. After about an hour of paddling in which we covered 2 miles, we stopped on a shady sandbar for a quick lunch. Following lunch we started again, paddling the next 5 miles pretty steadily until we reached the Mason Ferry Bridge at 5pm.
Just above the Mason Ferry Bridge, Puppy Creek enters from the east. It is the only tributary of any significant size that you will see above Mason Ferry. As this was a beautiful, warm spring Saturday, many locals were on the sandbars at and just below the Mason Ferry Bridge. Most of them were sunbathing or swimming and several gave us a friendly wave or greeting as we passed.
A little further down, we encountered a younger, rowdier crowd with ATVs and 4x4 trucks running up and down the sandbars and criss-crossing the shallower parts of the river. We gave them a wide berth and paddled on, looking for a quiet sandbar of our own on which to set up camp for the night.
At about 6pm, we settled on a large undisturbed sandbar on the west bank of the river about 2.5 miles below Mason Ferry. Everyone pitched their tents, broke out their gear and started cooking. By 7pm we were eating and by 8pm the sun had set. There was a recently full waning moon (that didnt rise until well after midnight) so the stars were even more brilliant than usual. We leaned back, watching the night sky and talking until almost 10pm. Everyone secured their gear and retired to their tents for the night.
The next morning, everyone began to stir around 6am and breakfast was going by 7am. After breakfast, we broke camp and began to pack our gear and re-pack our boats. Shortly before 9am were ready and started on down the river. By this point the river had started to widen and deepen a good bit so sandbars, snags and portages were few and far between. We stopped for lunch at noon where we sought out some shade from the hot midday sun.
While relaxing after lunch we saw what most in the group thought to be a water moccasin. It swam right down the middle of the river, coming with 15 or 20 feet of our lunch camp and then angled toward the bank near one of our boats. I got as close as I could to try to better identify it, even going for my camera but by the time I had it the snake had moved on out of sight.
We continued on, passing a few groups from some other canoe tour groups before stopping around 2pm for one last break and a cool dip in the river. Back on the water again, we passed Brushy Creek a short time later entering from the west. Brushy Creek is probably the largest of any of the tributaries entering out stretch of the river.
From this point it was roughly another 2 miles to the U.S. highway 98 bridge and then just another few hundred yards to the take-out at Escatawpa Hollow Camp and Canoe. We beached our boats and hiked up the hill to the parking area to retrieve our vehicles.
Escatawpa Hollow has some nice facilities and we were able to drive with 50 or 100 feet of the beach to load up our boats. Everyone in the group said their goodbyes and agreed that this would be a trip we would be repeating in the future.
On the river itself there are no facilities. For our overnight stay, we chose a quiet sandbar with little to no evidence of regular use such as footprints, vehicle tracks, etcetera.
If you choose to camp before or after a trip on the river, Escatawpa Hollow Camp and Canoe (228-649-4233) has 2 cabins available to rent as well as numerous RV and tent sites. Call them directly for rates and reservations.
Seven assorted Mohawk and Wenonah canoes (14 to 16 foot range) and one Wilderness Systems kayak (14 ft).
There are no fees required to use the river itself. If you choose to utilize the shuttle or boat rental services of Escatawpa Hollow, rates vary widely according to length of trip or type of boat rented. Call them directly for detailed rates and reservations.
If you shuttle yourself and desire to leave your vehicle at the Escatawpa Hollow take-out and return there by boat, there is a $3 per day parking fee and a one time $5 take-out usage fee.
Directions to Escatawpa Hollow Campground at U.S. Highway 98 (take-out, for hire shuttle base):
15551 Moffett Road/U.S. Highway 98, (251) 649-4233 It is right on the Alabama-Mississippi state line approximately 10 miles east of Lucedale, MS and 5 miles west of Wilmer, AL. The campground offers canoe rentals, shuttle services for private boats and rents campsites. If you arrange your own shuttle the campground charges a small fee for parking and for the use of their take-out.
Directions to Lott Road Bridge (22 river miles above Escatawpa Hollow, 7 river miles above Mason Ferry Road):
From Escatawpa Hollow go east 5 miles on U.S. Highway 98 to County Road 63/Wilmer Georgetown Road. Turn left on County Road 63 and go 9 miles until you reach Alabama Highway 227/Lott Road. Turn left on Highway 227 and go 10 miles until you reach a 4 way stop. Alabama Highway 227 officially ends at this point. Earlville Road is to the left and Prine Road is to the right. Go straight through the stop sign onto the unpaved portion of Lott Road and proceed 1.5 miles. A well worn trail breaks off to the right just before the bridge. Follow this trail down and under the bridge to the put-in. The put-in is steep and is strewn with large rocks to prevent erosion so proceed down to the river with caution. The adjacent property is privately owned and gated so stay close to the bridge and within the public right-of-way.
Directions to Mason Ferry Road Bridge (14.5 river miles above Escatawpa Hollow, 7 river miles below Lott Road):
From Escatawpa Hollow go west on U.S. Highway 98 for 4 miles. At the cellular phone tower, turn right onto Beaver Creek Road. Proceed down Beaver Creek Road until reaching a 4 way stop at Brushy Creek Road. Turn right onto Brushy Creek Road and proceed until reaching an intersection with Dickinson Sawmill Road to the left and Turner Road to the right. Take a right onto Turner Road. In less than a mile you will come to a fork in the road with Havens Dairy Road to the right and Turner road to the left. Bear left and stay on Turner Road. After passing a large pond and going over a small bridge, Turner Road becomes unpaved Beaver Dam Road. Proceed on Beaver Dam Road until it dead ends at Mason Ferry Road directly across from the entrance to Live Oak Farms. Take a right onto Mason Ferry Road and proceed approximately 2 miles to the Charles Williams, Sr. Bridge at the Escatawpa River. The put-in is on the east side of the river. There is a steep vehicle trail that goes off the main road and under the bridge but the trail is sandy and I have seen a number of vehicles get stuck. To play it safe, park on the shoulder of the main road and carry your boats down to the water on the south side of the bridge.
Directions between Lott Road and Mason Ferry Road:
From the bridge at Mason Ferry Road, go east for .2 miles and turn left onto Earlville Road. Go north, paralleling the river, for 6 miles. You will come to a 4 way stop with paver Lott Road to the right, Prine Road straight ahead and unpaved Lott Road to the left. Take a left and go 1.5 miles to the Lott Road Bridge and put-in.
"Canoeing Mississippi" by Ernest Herndon
"Paddling Alabama" by Joe Cuhaj and Curt Burdick
"Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer" (MS and AL Editions)