The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery

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Paddling Back in Time on the Nacote Creek

Sunday May 4,  2003

  

Who would have ever thought you only had to paddle to the small South Jersey town of Port Republic to go back in time?  OK..so we didn't really go back in time, but for a few hours of paddling on the Nacote Creek, it sure felt like life slowed down a bit.  
 
Thanks to JSSKA member Eric Fleming for scouting this area a few weeks ago and returning with us today.

      

After Mary Lou waved us off, 7 of us launched into the Bass River at New Gretna at about 10:40 am. Our day trippers included myself, Eric, Steve F, Mike G, Dan M and Chuck and Joyce A in their very long tandem. Air temp felt a bit brisk at 54 with winds at about 5 knots out of the NE.
 
We took a nice relaxing pace down the Bass River and finally into the Mullica where we crossed about a mile and made our way into the Nacote Creek (pronounced NUH-coat).  The entrance to the creek was somewhat rustic and somewhat reminiscent of a New England fishing village.  Historical accounts report the Lenni Lenape Indians inhabited the creek area at one time and there are also some intriguing tales of 'rum running' that occurred on the creek during Prohibition.

After meandering a bit we made our way farther into the creek and under the new Rt 9 Bridge.  The shoreline was lined mostly with forest in addition to some scattered homes and the Stockton State College Marine Science Field Station. A few miles up the creek, Joyce had a very keen eye and spotted a bald eagle perched in a tree on the eastern shoreline. We all stopped paddling to admire the majestic bird who seemed unfazed by us.  I snapped a few digital pics but the zoom wasn't powerful enough to really give the view justice. It was beautiful through our binoculars however.  On the western shore we spotted what looked like a young great Blue Heron.          

After a short while we paddled under an old rotting revolving bridge at Port Republic Road.  We paddled past a few large homes on the creek and one with a playful black lab which came partially into the water and barked loudly as we passed by.

    

In the distance we could see a freshly painted white church spire ascending high above the tree line to the west and this large church appeared to be the tallest structure in the town. We eventually made our way to the end of the navigable creek where a dam holds the water back for Mill Pond in the town of Port Republic.   At this end was a small beach and park where we decided to land for lunch, after paddling 7 miles.
 
We had lunch at a picnic table in an area shaded by a few trees in this little park.  In a field behind us, as we ate, there was a small town baseball game being played. It was like a Normal Rockwell image.  After lunch I scouted a nice launch site which I added to our kayak club's launch site directory and snapped some pictures of a very unusual cloud formation in the skies above.

    

Although we meandered down the creek with some help from the ebbing tide, we paddled into a headwind which made the return trip a bit more rigorous at times. On the way back I stopped to take some pictures of some curious horses on the shore of a very nice farm before catching up with the rest of the group making their way back out to the Mullica River.
 
The mighty Mullica was churning a bit more than before and made for a playful crossing of our Mullica Mile. While we paddled out into the Mullica, a large sailboat glided by us.  As it passed, the sailboat captain asked Chuck and Joyce if they knew a kayaker named Frank Davis.  Although they didn't know him, he is one of our kayak club members and a fun paddling partner. We finally made our way into the entrance of the Bass River and all landed safely after 14.7 miles of paddling.

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