The Casual Kayaker   -    Location reports of my flatwater kayaking

(B.Everett) Jordan Lake, Vista Point - north, April 14, 2012

Jordan Lake, Vista Point - north,
April 14, 2012

Attribute Rating - (view rating system scale)
Scenic Quality 3.5
Wildlife 3.5
Water Quality 4
Quietude 3.5
Boating Traffic 4


Vista Point State Park Launch Access/Campground: 35°42'13.48"N  79° 2'51.01"W
Kayak put-in location ("sailboat launch beach"): 35°42'15.91"N   79° 2'49.94"W
On Pea Ridge Road, 3.5 miles south of US 64. Just west of the two Jordan Lake bridges on US 64 turn south onto Seaforth Road (west of the Seaforth lauch area). Go south 1.9 miles to the intersection with Pea Ridge Road. Turn left (east) onto Pea Ridge Rd. Go .75 miles to the State Park gate and "pay booth". Fee is $6.00 per car.


Download the .kmz file for this location report (for Google Earth) - TheCasualKayaker_JordanLake_VistaPoint_north_4-14-12

Download the combined .kmz file for all location reports -
TheCasualKayaker_Combined_LocationReports.kmz


If you don't have Google earth, you can still view the track on Google earth in this window.





B. Everett Jordan Lake is located in the northeastern corner of Chatham County, North Carolina. Access to this part of the expansive manmade lake is easy via highway US 64 west of Apex, NC. Other ways to reach it are on NC 751 from I-40 south of Durham, NC, to US 64 and from Chapel Hill, NC via Mount Carmel Church Road off US 501 at the intersection of NC 54, NC 86 and US 501. Mt. Carmel Church Road turns into Farrington Point Road which intersects US 64.




The weather was supposed to be just about perfect for paddling this Saturday, and I wanted to try a different spot than those of recent trips. I'd been concenrating lately on the marshy areas of Jordan Lake, hoping to find good spots where birds were handy for my photography. In fact, I'd gone paddling the day before to the Panther Creek marsh area off NC 751 once again for some photography. It was a nice paddle, but didn't provide much in the way of birds within reach for useful photos.

Since the wife and one of my sons was going along, I figured they wouldn't want to spend a lot of time hanging around while I tried for photos. I decided to try out a new spot, at Vista Point, where I thought we could just paddle and explore. In fact, I only packed one camera body with a wide angle zoom for general scenic shots, leaving behind all my telephotos for bird photography - BIG MISTAKE.

The weather did turn out just about perfect (sunny and 70's) but there was a pretty stiff breeze on and off. I was afraid we wouldn't get to do much paddling. We arrived at Vista Point Campground area around 10:30, paid the one-vehicle $6.00 fee for day use and drove on in. There was only one vehicle in the boat trailer parking lot. I had figured surely on a fine Saturday morning at the end of Easter break week it would be much busier than that. We unloaded our kayaks and gear at the "sailboat launch" spot in a little sheltered cove where there was a sandy beach well suited for kayaks.

Once underway we headed south as per my plan after looking things over on Google Earth the night before. Out of the shelter of the little cove we immedately ran into a stiff wind out of the south. The headwind and choppy water was not going to work for us as I'd feared, so we turned north instead, hoping to find more sheltered paddling. Thankfully we did, as the layout of the lake worked to our advantage. We very quickly came upon an Osprey nest directly at the shore's edge, with two Osprey coming and going, and putting on a show for us. I wasn't sure whether there were chicks already, as they both were flying off the nest, but not for long.

Of course, I didn't have any long lenses with me. Since it was very close to the launch point, I figured I could come back later with my serious telephoto and tripod. I could then just hike out along the shoreline to the location and maybe get some photos that way. So on we went, very soon finding a lot of strange splashing among the weedbeds all along the shore here. It soon became apparent the fish must be spawning, as we could see them writhing around in the weeds, tails and fins often out of the water, and splashing about as if they were stranded in shallow water. I'm not the fishing type, so I'd never seen this sort of activity before, but it was cool to be able to paddle right up next to this actitivy and witness it from arm's reach away. The fish were no less than a foot in length and larger, shining orange and golden in the light, but I have no idea what kind they were.



The golden back and dorsal fin of the fish is plainly visible in this photo
of the splashing that was going on among the weeds.



We lingered all along the shoreline for some time, paddling from spot to spot whenever more splashing would break out just a little farther ahead. I tried getting some shots of the activity, but didn't have any great luck with it. A couple of the shots (like the one above) do give some idea of the scene though. Eventually we tired of it and moved on farther north, following close to the shoreline to minimize the affects of the breeze.



Checking out the weedbeds along the shore where the fish were spawning.


We spotted Cormorants and other Osprey as we paddled the wooded shoreline northward. There were several quiet coves along the way, and we took our time, just sightseeing with no actual destination in mind. There was very minimal boat traffic, and what there was stayed far out into the lake. We had little bother from boat wakes. I didn't even take many photos, as this had been planned as a "getaway" from my usual concentration on photography. I tried instead to just paddle and look, so I only have the couple of photos below of the view. Like the rest of Jordan Lake, the shoreline view is virtually devoid of buildings and distracting elements. You'll find only trees here.







After a couple of hours paddling and a light lunch in a quiet cove, we headed back. When we reached the cove where we'd seen all the spawning activity, we kept near the weedbeds to see if there was still any activity. At that point I spotted a young, mostly brown, eagle flying by. It landed in a tree for a bit, then moved on. I wondered if it had been eyeing the fish in the weedbeds, as they seemed to me to be an easy target for an eagle's afternoon snack. I turned my kayak around to scan over the weedbeds again when I was quite surprised to spot an adult eagle sitting calmly in a tree above the weedbeds very close to us. To my continued astonishment, it seemed completely unpurturbed by our presence. It quietly sat there the whole time while I mentally flogged myself for not bringing any long lenses for such an occasion. All I had was a wide angle zoom, which provided only an effective 2X magnification. It was barely enough for a decent shot of a fish next to the kayak, and hardly suitable for bird photography.




Above is the full frame of the photo I got with the wide lens. You can probably tell there is an eagle in the pine tree in the center of the photo. However, the good news is that the camera I was using had super resolution. I cropped the photo down to show the resulting image at actual size, which makes it a much better photo, shown below.




So, while this shot is not really good enough for my wildlife photography work, it's not too shabby for my kayaking location reports I suppose. But I learned a lesson - take the camera gear, even when you THINK you won't need it. Murphy's Laws apply to photography the same as everything else.

To close out this report I'll add that the Vista Point campground/launch location has nice restroom facilities, paid for by your entrance fee. We plan to return when there is less wind and explore southward from the campground to see what we can find of interest there. I hope to do this though before the busy season hits. I expect it will soon be crowded with boats and the boat wakes will become a problem and spoil an otherwise nice paddle location.


"If you're not paddling, you're not getting anywhere."



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INTRODUCTION
When I first began kayaking I found a most helpful blog by Tom Haynie that aided me greatly in finding and choosing new flatwater locations. His blog was infinitely more detailed and useful than anything I found on kayaking forums. I quickly resolved to share my own impressions of locations I've visited, including details I believe to be important and helpful, in hopes of providing practical information to others. I sincerely hope you find something useful and helpful here. (For more location reports visit Tom's blog at backshortly.wordpress.com)


Kayaking Links

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