The Escatawpa River is a small river that starts in Southwest Alabama but really is not easily navigable until it crosses into Mississippi. It is often described as a blackwater river due to the high tannin content of the waters. In the fall and in periods of low water I find it to be more of an amber color and almost clear near shallows going over sugar white sand bars.
Sunshine Canoe out of Mobile, Alabama operates a take-out and a boat rental service based on the middle section of the river just off of MS Highway 614. They offer 2 different trips:
1) a 6-mile trip starting at a private put in just east of Hurley, MS and returning to Highway 614
2) a 12-mile trip starting at a put-in near Tanner-Williams Road near the Jackson-George County line and returning to Highway 614.
In November of 2005, I chose to take the 6-mile trip as opposed to the 12-mile as I was paddling alone and had never been on this particular stretch of the river before. A cold front had passed through the area the day before so it was crisp and cool as I arrived at the shuttle point. After loading my kayak onto one of their trucks the driver and I made about a 20 minute ride up the road to the put-in. By the time we got to the put-in the sun had gotten above the trees and the morning chill began to lift. I took a few minutes to arrange my gear and then pushed off. I immediately noticed that what appeared to be a fairly small and quiet river actually had a brisk current to it... somewhere around 5 mph I estimated... more where the river narrowed or around tight bends. Due to this unexpected current, what I thought would be around a 4 hour paddle turned into only about 2 and 1/2 hours.
On the upper portion of this 6-mile stretch there are clean, sugar white sand bars around every bend in the river. Periodically, high sandy-clay bluffs rise on either side of you. It was along some of these sandbars and bluffs that I took some of the photos that I hope will be included with this article. As you near the end of this trip, the river starts to widen and deepen and the bluffs and sand bars give way to flooded woodlands.
In the summer months you are bound to see a wide variety of wildlife including snakes, turtle, herons and even the occasional alligator. As this was well into fall, all I encountered was fish and what I took for some species of wood duck.
By the time you return to the take-out at Highway 614 the river is wide and deep enough for some boat traffic. Unfortunately, this fact and the close proximity of a major highway leads to a good bit of man-made trash accumulating around the bridge and the take-out. Upriver I hardly encountered any trash at all.
Sunshine Canoes owns the landing and operates a shuttle service at MS Hwy 614 and the river. At the time of my trip there was gentleman who lived on the property who works part time running shuttles. Sunshine Canoe's offices are actually in Mobile, Alabama. This is a fairly isolated rural area and there are no hotels or campgrounds for 20 miles in any direction. Reservations for boat rental and/or shuttle services must be made in advance. Their phone number is (251) 344-8664.
Escatawpa Hollow Camp and Canoe also operates a facility on this river but it is about 45 minutes to an hour north near US Highway 98 and the Alabama state line. I have no personal experience with their operation. Their phone number is (251) 649-4233.
Sunshine Canoe has a $20 fee to have your personal boat shuttled upriver to any of several put-ins. Canoe or kayak rentals along with a shuttle upriver run $40 and up.
From Biloxi, MS or anywhere on the Mississippi Gulf Coast: Interstate 10 Exit #69 and go north on MS Hwy 63. Go approximately 12 miles until you reach the Wade community. Take a right (going east) onto MS Hwy 614 and proceed approximately 7 miles, passing through the community of Hurley at roughly the halfway mark. Just before crossing a large concrete bridge over the Escatawpa River, look for a sandy road off to the right that leads into the woods, down to the river and to the site of Sunshine Canoes.
From Mobile, AL or anywhere in Southwest Alabama: Go west on Airport Boulevard, out of Mobile and past the Mobile Municipal Airport. Proceed approximately 15 miles until you reach the Mississippi state line. The bridge over the Escatawpa and road leading to Sunshine Canoes is just over a mile past the state line.
Delorme's Mississippi Atlas and Gazetteer and "Canoeing Mississippi" by Ernest Herndon