Sugar Creek
13 September 1998
by: Bob Barnett

As everyone knows July and August was very hot and dry, with the annual rainfall running minus eight inches below normal. Our scheduled trip for September was supposed to have been on the Flint River, but having scouted the river the week before I concluded that it was too low to run. I had planned to announce the cancellation of the trip at the club meeting, but after talking with Nancy Patterson about Sugar Creek, which she had done a couple of weeks earlier, we decided to put plan B into motion and meet at Captain D’s in Madison at 9:00 AM Saturday.

I was surprised at the number of people that showed up, all of which would be paddling tandem canoes. The adventurers included Nancy Patterson and Lee Hollingsworth, (new members) Steve and Evlon McElyea, and their friends (Jim and Alida Nix, (new member) Annora Day and her friend from Russia Katya Kolovskaya, Mike and Kathy Campbell, Jim Robertson, myself and grandson Chris. I had obtained some good maps of the area and after talking with the manager of Captain D’s, who came out to greet us after all those vehicles with canoes on top started filling up his parking area, told me that he crosses Elk River every day on US 72 and that the river was really low. After studying the maps I decided that Nancy’s original put in might be affected by the low backwater of Elk River which confluence’s with Sugar Creek, so we decided to go to plan C and put in two bridges above where Nancy and Lee had put in. Playing follow the leader we headed out for Sugar Creek about fifteen miles northwest of Athens. On one occasion I missed the turn and created a figure eight with our caravan, making me feel like the pied piper as we met ourselves. I don’t feel comfortable leading a large group to places and rivers I haven’t had a chance to check out, I apologize for the confusion. When we arrived at the take out where we left our schedule vehicle, I was relieved to look upstream and see a beautiful little pristine creek that was floatable.

The put in for this float was on AL Highway 99 and the takeout was on Cotton Belt Road. This section of the river is short scenic three hour float. I have been told that with adequate water levels you can put in about twenty miles up stream in Tennessee. Sugar Creek is a beautiful little stream with a gravel bottom, running through bottom land and around hillsides. There is an abundance of baitfish and crawfish making this potentially an excellent float fishing trip. As our group spread out with the Campbell’s in the lead and myself bringing up the rear, it was relaxing to paddle along enjoying the serenity of the river. There was a couple of places where we had to portage over shoals and one place where a log jam had formed as the creek split to flow around an island, giving Nancy and lee the opportunity to practice their newly acquired self rescue skills. As we rounded the end of the island, Nancy said “I’ve been here before, this is where we paddled upstream two weeks ago.” Neat place! As the water flowed around the end of the island and over the last shoal, it formed a natural water slide and play pool that several of us took advantage of. We shoved off and rounded the next bend and to our surprise the take out bridge came into view ending another good day on the river. Thanks to everyone for their participation, keep your paddles wet and I’ll see you next time.