Thursday, May 1, 2014

Local group makes historic canoe trip from Travis Bridge to Pensacola

The 'Three River Adventurers' of Conecuh County.
A group of eight friends completed “the trip of a lifetime” during the past week and may have made a little history in the process.

The group, which nicknamed themselves the “Three River Adventurers,” departed Travis Bridge on the Sepulga River in canoes Wednesday of last week and arrived at Swamp House Landing near Pensacola, Fla. on Monday.

The group included Dalton Campbell of Owassa, Frank Murphy of Herbert, Sam Peacock of Repton, John Potts of Flat Rock, Ed Salter of Repton, Joel Williams of Evergreen, Marc Williams of Evergreen and Evergreen native Larry Yeargan, who now lives in Coosada.

During the trip, the group traveled a total of 139 miles along a southerly course that took them down the Sepulga, Conecuh, Delaney and Escambia rivers. It’s believed that it’s been well over 100 years since any commercial boats have traveled this route, and it’s also believed that the total distance has never been navigated by canoe or kayak all in one trip.

The idea for last week’s trip began years ago, and members of the group began formally planning the trip last fall. Some members of the group had never met in person prior to Wednesday of last week, but now they are “friends for life,” members of the group said.

On the first day of the trip, the group traveled 29 miles and camped at the Bottle Creek landing at Brooklyn. On the second day, the group made it all the way to the sandbar just north of Parker’s Bridge on Escambia County Road 4. On the third day, the group traveled 30 more miles and camped just south of the boat landing at Pollard.

The group crossed into Florida on Saturday after having traveled a total distance of about 85 miles and camped for the night at Mystic Springs, Fla. They covered 22 miles on that day before the most challenging day of the trip.

On Sunday, the group covered only 13 miles, and two of those miles included navigation of the infamous “Log Jam” south of Mystic Springs. Just north of Cotton Lake is a “horrendous” mish-mash of logs and debris that completely blocks the river for about the length of a football field. Members of the group were forced to pull, drag, paddle and cut their way through a swamp in order to get around the obstacle. In all, it took them 5-1/2 hours to travel the distance, and when the group emerged from the swamp, they found themselves well south of Cotton Lake.

With the approach of forecasted bad weather on Monday night, the group made a big push to complete the trip on Monday and managed to travel 21 total miles before arriving at the Swamp House Landing at the mouth of the Escambia River.

Members of the group said on Tuesday that this trip was extremely difficult and isn’t for everybody.
This was quite an adventure and is not for the faint of heart,” Campbell said. “There was a ton of outdoor experience and training included in this crew and confidence contained in depending on others in any situation. Due to the high water and speed of travel the trip was made in less than half the time expected with normal water flow.”

Murphy, a former U.S. Marine and Army Ranger, agreed.

“This trip was hazardous and life-threatening at times,” he said. “This wasn’t a Boy Scout trip for tenderfoots.”

The group went to great lengths to ensure that they had a safe trip and went so far as to submit float plans with authorities in Alabama and Florida. Members of the group also said that the trip would have been impossible to complete without a sizeable support cast, including their wives, significant others and friends like Jerry Fisher, David Dixon, Victor and Peggy Howell, Lavon Lee, Terrill Rigsby, Bob Wesley and Sharon Williams.

Research indicates that no one, aside from past commercial ships, has ever traveled by river from Travis Bridge to the mouth of the Escambia River in Florida, but members of the “Three River Adventurers” said that they realize that it is possible that other groups or individuals have made the trip before. If so, they’d like to know about it, and individuals with any information about such past trips are asked to contact The Courant at 578-1492. 

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