The Casual Kayaker   -    Location reports of my flatwater kayaking

(B. Everett) Jordan Lake, NC 751 area (Northeast Creek or Panther Creek), July 16, 2011

Jordan Lake - Hwy. NC 751 area (Northeast Creek or Panther Creek) July 16, 2011

Attribute Rating - (view rating system scale)
Scenic Quality 3.5
Wildlife 5
Water Quality 3.5
Quietude 5
Boating Traffic 5


Parking beside Hwy. 751: N 35°49'28.81" W 78°57'53.76"
Kayak put-in location: N 35°49'31.31" W 78°57'58.93"
Just south of the bridge on 751 there is graveled parking on either side of the road. Park here and take the path on the west side of the road. Walk 1/10 mile to the beach launch point.

General Destination point:
N 35°49'49.16" W 78°57'27.65" - Marsh area east of bridge on Hwy. 751

Download the .kmz file for this location report (for Google Earth) - TheCasualKayaker_JordanLake_7-16-11.kmz

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 NC 751 or Farrington Point Road from highway US 64 west of Apex, NC. Other ways to reach it are on NC 751 from I-40 south of Durham, NC, 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. ( Note that there is a village close-by spelled "Fearrington" Village, but the road and boating access is spelled "Farrington". Don't let that cause confusion when mapping or planning. )




My previous report on a Jordan Lake destination point was for a marshy area west of Farrington Point. We were unable to get very far into the marsh there, so I had been hoping to find other areas that might have more promise. All I had to go on were the satellite images of Google Earth, and you can't really tell from those images whether a likely spot is a shallow water marsh, or simply a mud flat. On top of that, the water level at the time the satellite images were taken could easily make the difference. You just have to identify likely places and go investigate imperically.

No Free Lunch

I had identified this location on the east side of the 751 bridge in the northeast corner of B. Everett Jordan Lake as a likely candidate. I've called it simply the NC 751 Area for lack of a local place name to give it [I've learned this is called the Northeast Creek or Panther Creek area for the two creeks that form the marsh]. The only problem with this spot is that there's no "convenient" launch point anywhere near it. Farrington Point boat access is the closest, but it's a 4.5 mile paddle to the marsh from there. The other option was a small beach launch spot within a section of state park along NC 751 locally known for it's eagle population, and less than a mile paddle from the marsh. However, that location requires parking along the highway and carrying your kayaks 1/10 mile on a foot path from the highway to the beach, but we had as yet not purchased or made any kayak dollies for such occasions - thus, no free lunch. After some pondering we opted for the foot path. We knew we didn't have time to paddle nine miles on a Saturday morning, so we hoped the portage would be doable with my not so light Trip 10 Angler. The wife's Swifty would be no problem, we were sure.

When we arrived around 10 am on Saturday there were only two or three other cars there. Both sides of the highway are well graveled with a sufficently wide parking shoulder to be safely off the roadway. We unloaded the Swifty first as it was the lighter load, and carried it down the path to find out what we'd gotten ourselves into. After we got down the bank (about 5 feet) as we entered the trees at the roadside the rest turned out to be easy enough. We turned right (north) and easily followed the path, which was relatively flat and unobstructed, though only wide enough for single file. When we reached the beach it was well shaded (as was the path) and there was plenty of room. Though it seemed to be clay it was not muddy. Apparently there was enough sand in it to take away any of the Piedmont clay sticky, gooey issue. None stuck to either the boats or our water shoes, but there was absolutely no sandy grit either (a strange but ideal situation). We walked back and carried the heavier kayak next, now that we knew it was doable. If you have dollies, they will make it much easier. (Note to self: get some dollies)

Now The Good Stuff

Soon we were paddling the short distance north to the bridge, and the trip started out with a pleasant surprise. Before we had even paddled under the bridge we came across an obliging Great Blue Heron that sat patiently for photos - and it only got better from there. There were no other boats around, and once we passed under the bridge to the east side of the highway this shallower area seemed to be taboo (or just plain too shallow) for motorized boats. In fact, the only boats we encountered on the whole paddle were three other kayakers back in the marsh, and later one fisherman with a trolling motor on the west side of the bridge on our return paddle (my very first score of a "5" for lack of boat traffic - doesn't get any better than that).


This Great Blue Heron stood patiently while I took its portrait, over and over again.

There is an island immediately on the east side of the bridge, so we circled it to investigate. Both of us bottomed out at one point or another as we paddled around the island, so it's no wonder motorized boats avoid it here. It was another sign for me that this area held promise, since shallow water was what I needed to find birds. There were several Great Egrets in the area, and Great Blue Herons and one Cormorant, and we flushed three ducks (not sure but probably wood ducks) as we circled the island once before heading farther east toward the marshy area.


This Great Egret watched us as we circled the island.

Just like the rest of Jordan Lake, there are no buildings here to take away from the natural surroundings. Once past the island, even the sound of cars along the highway faded, and the quietude enveloped us. The only sounds now were the splash of our paddles, the trickling of our bow wakes, and the occasional raspy complaint of a Heron as we invaded its domain. We paddled on toward the low brush and trees that marked entry into the winding maze of shallows that connected the open spots of this marsh.


The sun came and went behind fluffy white clouds as we paddled into the marsh.

Eureka! I found it. Well, maybe that's a small exaggeration, but it's what we felt like once we'd reached our destination. It seemed obvious this was going to be exactly the environment I had hoped to find - a shallow marsh with winding channels where there would be more wildlife to be discovered - so we paddled on and drifted slowly and quietly, watching for anything that moved. We played hide and seek with Great Egrets as we drifted along while they played hopscotch from one fishing spot to the next. When we got deeper into the marsh we heard voices, and came upon three other kayakers. They advised us there was a Green Heron ahead so we watched for it. It would be my very first one if I should see it or get photos either one. Soon enough I spotted it some 50 feet ahead perched on a dead tree leaning out across the shallow channel (probably one of its favorite perches). Just as the kayakers had told us, it seemed unconcerned with our presence and preened as I slowly drifted closer, merrily clicking off shots. Something like 25 feet was its comfort zone though, and it flew a few feet away into the vegetation.


This was the first time I'd seen or photographed a Green Heron.



Sadly, I didn't see it the rest of the paddle. However, as I drifted up to where it had been sitting, I just happened to notice a juvenile Great Blue Heron sitting quietly hardly 20 feet away to my left on a pile of brush among the vegetation. It just sat there, neck straight up in the air peering at me around its bill like Popeye. Now I know the last thing a fish sees before it's eaten by a Great Blue.


This is the last thing a fish sees before it's eaten by a Great Blue Heron, and it was staring intently at me and my kayak. Did I really look like a huge fish dinner?

It's a wonder I even saw it at all, since it looked just like a pointy dead tree stump. Maybe the eyes gave it away. Anyway, it was too close for my lens to get more than its head and neck in the frame as I drifted past. And still it sat there. I called back to my wife who was just behind me, but she couldn't seem to see it. She had to paddle back to look for it, and it sat there the whole time. It was so close she even got photos of it wth her little pocket camera before it finally tired of our intrusion and slowly walked back into the brush. When I checked the EXIF info on the photo I saw that she shot it at "1X" magnification (normal view). She hadn't even thought to zoom in at all !!


This was shot with a pocket camera at normal view (not even zoomed) as the heron turned and strolled back into the vegetation.

We paddled onward where we could. Some places were blocked by fallen branches or logs, and we couldn't get to some spots we could see. I spotted an osprey nest farther into the marsh, but again, the path was blocked. Higher water could (and probably would) make more of this area accessible. On the day of this trip the lake level was at 216.00 feet (exactly equal to "full pool" as it's called) during a period rated at "abnormally dry". If you want to paddle this area, I would definitely check the lake level first. Just 6 inches less water would make much of this marsh environment too low, and many connecting channels would be absent. On the other hand, an additional 6 inches of water might open up a much greater area to explore. To check the level for B. Everett Jordan Lake go to- everettjordan.uslakes.info/Level.asp
(Be sure you don't mistake "Jordan Lake" in Alabama for this one if you do a web search)



We squeezed our boats through a narrow channel into another "pool" behind where we'd seen the Green Heron and the Great Blue so close to us. We beached the bows so we wouldn't drift and had a snack in the shade. The wife thought she saw where the heron had gone, so when we finished our snack we paddled in that direction. Soon I spotted the heron again, on the back side of that brush pile it seemed to like. I moved closer for a few shots and got this one below.



I was surprised we were not bothered by mosquitoes or other buzzing distractions. I heard my first Bull Frog in a long time, and we saw no snakes at all. The wife took photos of the white flowers we came across along the way, and butterflies as well. The water seemed murkier here than at the launch site, and we could see only 3 inches or so below the surface, even with polarized sunglasses.



Finally we decided it was time to head back. We reluctantly meandered toward the launch point, checking any little cove that looked like it might go somewhere. Eventually we reached the open water where there were more Great Egrets, then on past the island and under the bridge. We spotted an Osprey soaring overhead as we neared the beach, though I did not see any Eagles all day.



We spent a total of about 4 hours paddling, with at least 3 hours of it in this marsh area. With less than a mile to paddle from the launch point to the marsh, this location really makes for an efficient use of your paddling time, giving you more "seeing" and less "are we there yet". My Google Earth .kmz file for this location notes two coordinate readings I took while back in the marsh so I could see on the map just where we had been. From this it's obvious there is more there to explore on the southern half that we could reach if the water level rises so we can get beyond some of the limbs and logs blocking our way. And there is even more area in the northern half to explore. I can already see we will be returning here for more.



I especially want to come here again very early one morning with all my camouflage, and just sit and wait patiently to see what comes along. Hopefully I can get more really nice photographs of the bird life here.





This turned out to be a very rewarding location, despite having to portage the kayaks 1/10 mile. If I'd had two dollies, it would have been much less of a hassle. I will go dollie shopping when I finish this entry. This location rated quite highly because of the quiet, the wildlife and the lack of boat traffic. If one of your goals is to see wildlife on your trips, and birds in particular, I have to recommend this location based on what we found here. It was truly a pleasant surprise.


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



Next article ›››    Hauling My Kayaks - A Little Do-It-Yourself

 
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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

   Paddling.net - More Locations
   Paddling.net - Launch Sites Map

   Download Google Earth (free)


My Other Web Sites-

   CarolinaWildPhoto.com
   NCBirds.com
   CarolinaOuterBanks.com
   NCWildHorses.com
   GossamerTrilogy.com