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HomeNL-2014-08 Champion Lake

Champion Lake
July 10th, 2014
by Dave Kitson

Natalie, Joe, Joe’s friend Duncan and I set out on the lake on a hot day but with enough clouds and shade that the paddle was not at all too hot, especially for July. There were thunderstorms to the east but we never got any rain or lightning. The gage at the put-in read 5.5’ which appears to be enough water to make an excellent paddle based on the last couple of trips.

First we headed toward the dam and checked out the overflow which was a good 2’ shy of the top. Not too far further on we encountered so much weed that we could go no further and had to turn around. I am beginning to suspect that the dam has been breached at the 5.5’ level rather than the 7.5’ level and that is why the lake is always so low. Based on the water marks on trees and the crud on the low hanging Spanish Moss the water has been about 4’ higher then present in the recent past.

We turned back and headed along the south shore rather than up Caney Creek. We hung a right at the first clump of trees and entered the most beautiful part of the lake. Large cypress trees covered in Spanish Moss everywhere. We were able to make it all the way to the creek although there was a fair amount of weed to push through here and there. We took a left on the creek and proceeded west along the creek to the next marked trail where we made a left and headed back toward the south shore. After stopping to eat lunch in the trees just shy of the open area along the shore we continued west to nearly the end of the lake. A short trip up to the little clearing at the #20 marker we decided it was time to head back. The reason we stopped here was that the entire west end was covered with birds which were still nesting! There were many already fledged birds hanging around as well as not yet fledged birds and some pretty small chicks. Mostly these were egrets with some roseate spoonbills mixed in. There were also adult anhinga, cormorants, yellow crowned night herons, little blues and others. At one point in the deep forest I had a cormorant pop up in the water right in front of me! I do not think I have seen a cormorant in thick forest like that before. In addition, I doubt the water was more than 1.5’ deep there.

Nature, both animal and vegetable, was in abundance. Many butterflies (mostly Monarchs), the aforementioned birds, a couple of bunnies seen on the way to the lake and one green tree frog that landed on my leg and proceeded to climb up my leg to my arm and up my arm to my shoulder before jumping into the water. I encountered only one smallish gator and no snakes. Flowers were also everywhere. The lilies and lotus were in bloom as was hibiscus, button bush and many others. The duck weed was red in many places. Was it dying or was it some other plant? This was the thought, however, Natalie did research when she got back and found that it is Carolina Mosquitofern; unrelated to duck weed.

The trip ended up at 8 miles and 5 hours. Check out my and Joe’s photos in the photo section.

                                                   Dave's Photos         Joe's Photos

The author, Dave Kitson