Summer Swamp Paddling

Sometime in the middle of autumn in 2018 I finally slapped my kayak into the Little Bushkill Creek in the Stillwater Natural Area of the Delaware State Forest in Pike County. I put in at the site of a former cabin off Coon Swamp Road and made my way southerly through the winding channel of black water for almost two miles and then back with a few side excursions up other branches. Northward from that spot was something I didn’t tackle that day and it would take me twenty-two months, give, or take a week, to embark of part two of this odyssey.

Fall colors from my first expedition here in October 2018

New Beginnings

This time, instead of entering at the old cabin spot and working north, due to access issues this time of year as well as lower water near the initial put-in I opted to start at another location. About a mile north the creek passes under Silver Lake Rd near the Bureau of Forestry Edgemere Station. There’s easy parking and a mowed stretch of grass to the water. Getting in was easy. Getting underway however took some effort. My kayak floated, barely. So, the first fifty yards was a combination of pushing and paddling until I managed to get into some water where I could glide. Surprisingly, the depth changed rather rapidly, and the channel opened wide enough to dip on both sides without hitting the marsh grass.

Shallow water on entry forced me to push the kayak along. The better option is to just get out and pull it behind you.

My second challenge came a few minutes later when I rammed up against a small beaver dam. I carefully got the boat over that without much problem and then continued on my way. Moments later I was suddenly jarred by a flapping sound to my immediate right. Out of the rushes a Great Blue Heron took flight. I guess we spooked each other. I must credit its resolve as if held tight until the last seconds and its massive wing tip stretched out just outside the arc of my paddle.

Paddle On

Recovered from the heron scare and without a photo of the majestic creature I readied my camera for other things that might make their presence known. I expected some Red Winged Blackbirds, but their familiar buzzing call was absent from the march. I passed some small huts likely belonging to muskrats, but they didn’t come to welcome me.

Fauna was in short supply, but flora was not. The obsidian water acted like a mirror reflecting trees, grass, and wildflowers. Plants common to other waterways in the county such as Pickerelweed, Sheep Laurel, and a reddish variety of St. John’s Wort were hard to find but some good examples of Downy Skullcap, Swamp Candles, and Spatterdock were encountered.

Bladderwort
Swamp Candles
Elegant Spreadwing Dragonflies

The main channel bows and bends frequently so you never know what’s up around the bend. Literally walled in by the high grass it’s difficult to see much unless it’s close to the water. Thankfully there’s lots to take in if you like simpler things.

Journey’s End

Sadly, my trip halted suddenly when I banged into beaver dam number two. This was much higher than the first and making over would be not too bad but making it back would be a different story. With about a half-mile of water in the books I opted to save this for another day when more time and perhaps some additional hands are along to help shlep boats over the rodent-made impedance.

I meandered back to the beginning looking for the heron but didn’t see it again. The abbreviated trip lasted just about 90 minutes. Not enough time or distance for my liking so there will be a phase three to this mission. It just won’t take me nearly two years to return.

Reflections in the Black Water

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