(aka: Canoeing the Kinchafoonee)

By JAMES MALPHRUS of JCM Adventure Journals
Featured image: Joining friends for a paddle on the Kinch (James Malphrus)

Picking up where James left off in his previous post

When we left Alapaha Wildlife Management Area we had just a couple of hours to get home, re-kit and get to the boat ramp. Our visit to Alapaha had been brief, but it left us with an appreciation for the beauty of the space and a strong desire to return.

Our plan was to meet friends at the Century Road launch on the Kinchafoonee Creek just south of Leesburg and paddle down to Suttons Landing on U.S. Highway 19. This run of the Kinch is gentle and beautiful. It is about five miles of winding creek that features fern-covered sandstone bluffs, riverbed blue springs and the occasional waterfall.

This leg has always been a popular paddle for local and visiting enthusiasts. To curtail litter, Lee County hosts regular cleanups with Rivers Alive and other groups to help maintain the waterway. Such events are a great way to explore canoeing and other activities without spending a lot of money on equipment. You can find more information about those or similar projects on waterways throughout the state of Georgia by visiting the Rivers Alive website.

Looking around the launch that day we could see that Lee County had really embraced creek-borne tourism and in the process had improved access to the waterways in their jurisdiction.

While we waited for our friends, Rebecca and I mused over our last canoeing adventure, which was our first time canoeing together – and her first-time canoeing. The lower Flint River is not as forgiving as the Kinchafoonee and as we entered the shoals in downtown Albany, we rolled the canoe at the first sign of trouble. It was a feat Rebecca did not consider possible until I told her – about 30 seconds before our bow caught a sunken tree and we were spun across the current.

But who goes canoeing without expecting to swim?

Small waterfall at Uncle Jimmy's Lane (James Malphrus)

Small waterfall at Uncle Jimmy’s Lane (James Malphrus)

Once our whole crew arrived, we launched and began the meandering journey through gentle currents. The waters on the Kinch tend toward brown and murky with close banks dotted with knobby kneed trees, but on a hot day the shade is nice and the water refreshing. The frequent turns of the creek present diverse landscapes: one curve reveals sandy shores with thick forests and the next sandstone bluffs ripe with mossy ferns and trickling waters. The shores are populated with cypress trees and the occasional fallen oak frequently topped with turtles sunning themselves.

One major attraction of this float is the Blue Hole, a natural artesian spring that opens on the western shore of the creek bed about one third of the way into the journey. On a good day, the brisk clear water bubbles into a cove and clings to the shoreline for a few hundred feet before mixing fully into the muddy Kinchafoonee. And the spring water temperature can be felt for some distance farther. The creek bottom surrounding the Blue Hole is sandy and shallow; it’s a favorite hangout of creek goers. We soaked in the chilly waters before moving on.

We spent the day lazily racing other groups of paddlers south. We would pass one group, take a break with another group at one of the smaller down-creek springs and watch the first group overtake us knowing that we would pass them again. Such passing interactions are very similar to how humans make friends, and as we traveled down the river that day, we reflected on how valuable our friends are to us and the activities we undertake and share in with them.

As we closed on Suttons Landing, we enjoyed a view of the small waterfall at Uncle Jimmy’s Lane. The falls have been blockaded to keep paddlers from climbing on them. The view is nice, and it marks the last leg of the journey. From here the creek winds through its sandy banks with houses appearing more frequently on both sides.

After taking out, we made our way home, reminiscing about the memories made and discussing where we wanted to explore next. It had been a full and wonderful day!

To read more adventures, check out James Malphrus’ blog at JCMA.Today.