Monday, February 25, 2013

Timing for the Indian River

I've learned through trial and error (pretty much how I learn anything, by the way) that canoeing the Indian River is mainly a matter of timing the tides.  Canoeing on the coast, as I do, is a routine of checking the weather forecast and checking the tide tables.  Today, with a morning start, I can arrive at the stone bridge entrance to the Indian River at some time pretty close to high tide.  And that means I can paddle under the bridge on a flood current instead of wading in cold water and pulling the canoe through.

A light off-shore breeze that sometimes lays on my back makes for an easy and pleasant trip along the seashore.  Five months after the hurricane and I still pass dozens of houses in various states of un-inhabitation with plywood over windows and blue tarps stapled to former roofs.  At near high tide, it is easy to see the problem...the storm math is straight forward.  The houses clear the water by maybe four or six feet at high tide.  High tide comes twice a day, and so, it will come twice during a big storm.  High tide + 8 feet of storm surge + 8 feet of wind waves =  pounding wave driven water in the second floor of many houses.  Nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to own one.  They're actually quite affordable, if you can afford to rebuild a house once in awhile.

I ride the flood current into Gulf Pond with no effort other than to bend over and lay my chest on the center thwart as I slide under the rusty bridge.  Here, in the brackish tidal marsh are the Canada geese and buffleheads.  I pass the second bridge as I did the rusty one.  The third bridge is a bit tighter, but I know to stay to the left where it is just an inch higher.  With the stone bridge, headroom is never a problem.  Instead, it is the height difference of the bottom, the Indian River side being about 18 inches higher than the Gulf Pond side.  But, the tide, both coming and going, backs up at the narrow passage.  If you time your coming and going right, it is downhill in both directions.

the second bridge

The Indian River starts with a broad wetland, but, at the highway bridge, necks down to a placid tree and brush lined creek that would be an fine hundred mile trip, if there were a hundred miles of it.  When you see wildlife on rivers like this, you see it close, if only for an instant.  Ducks are surprised as the bow of the canoe rounds a bend.  A white tail deer runs off after seeing my motion.  A hawk just sits as I pass under, not threatened by me, but probably a bit perturbed about my alarming its prey for a minute or two.

In the Indian River

The fifth bridge is always the lowest.  Going up I just lay in the bottom of the canoe and push myself under.  Returning I have to wait for 45 minutes for the tide to drop before I can repeat the trick.

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