Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ramsey Springs access to Red Creek (MS) now open

Red Creek (MS) between City Bridge and Ramsey Springs

Paddlers again have access to Red Creek at Ramsey Springs.  A concrete ramp to the shallow but broad Mississippi stream tinted the color of caramel and redolent with large white sandbars, has been built upstream, river-right off MS 15 about 25 miles north of Biloxi.  Red Creek was tagged "one of the premiere canoe camping streams in the Southeast," by the authors of  the book "Canoe Trails of the Deep South" published over 20 years ago.
       The creek is considered floatable beginning at the MS 26 highway bridge west of Wiggins, MS.  From there the access points and distances are: MS 26 to U.S 49, 9.5 miles; U.S. 49 to City Bridge, 6 miles; City Bridge to Ramsey Springs (MS 15), 15 miles; Ramsey Springs to Vestry, 15 miles; Vestry to MS 57, 5 miles.  From MS 57 to the Pascagoula River, the creek joins with Black Creek to flow through the Pascagoula swamp, a delightful stretch when flowing out of its banks "provided you have a compass and machete," claims Ernest Herndon in "Canoeing Mississippi,"  a guide book to paddling the creeks, bayous, rivers and swamps of the Magnolia State.
       The creek has a surprising wilderness feel considering it is flanked by private property most of its canoeable length.  The creek passes through about three miles of the De Soto National Forest on either side of the MS 15 bridge at Ramsey Springs but other than that, step out of a canoe or kayak on solid ground and you are, in most cases, stepping on private property.
       A portion of the creek also passes through the 90,000 acre Red Creek Wildlife Management Area. The state legislature designated Red Creek as one of Mississippi's Scenic Streams.  
       With the help of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain (LTMCP), a 56-acre parcel of land on river-right upstream of the MS 15 highway bridge is now owned by the state and managed by the Stone County Board of Supervisors and the LTMCP.  The ramp and access to the creek from the property on the south side of the river was closed to the public about 15 years ago when erosion of the creek bank under a concrete boat ramp rendered the ramp un-useable.  The property, then privately owned, was closed to the public. 
       "I grew up fishing Red Creek with my grandfather and we would launch at the old ramp," said Jon Bond, the engineer for Stone County, said in a telephone interview recently.  "I have been working on getting access to Red Creek at Ramsey Springs since 2001."
       A new ramp, this time with stone armoring flanking the ramp, has been built exactly where the old one was, Bond said.
       While the ramp to the creek is now the only improvement to the property, before the end of the year, the dirt road to the ramp will get an all-weather surface and a parking area will be surfaced.  Picnic tables and signage directing highway users to the small park will be installed too, Bond said.  A fence will be erected separating the small park from adjacent private property.
      "We already have the materials," Bond said.
      To market the scenic stream to paddlers, a 30 mile stretch between MS 26 and Ramsey Springs has been named by the LTMCP as the Red Creek Blueway.  A small brochure about the blueway, and other streams named by the LTMCP as blueways, is available at www.ltmcp.org.  The organization has erected about a half a dozen mileage markers along Red Creek's banks in this section.  The miles are measured from headwaters of Red Creek in Lamar Co.
        One part-time operation, South Mississippi Canoe Rental, www.southmscanoe.com,, will supply up to eight tandem canoes (the minimum rental is three) for day or overnight trips on Red Creek.  Reservations must be made in advance.  No private boat shuttle is offered.
       Those with their own boats must do their own shuttle or try to bargain a local into running a vehicle shuttle.

PADDLING FROM CITY BRIDGE TO RAMSEY SPRINGS

       Despite flowing through a remote and scenic stretch of Stone Co., paddlers have been scarce on the 15-mile stretch of Red Creek between City Bridge and Ramsey Springs since the access at Ramsey Springs was closed.  Paddlers could get to the creek from national forest property on the north side of the creek at Ramsey Springs but the carry to the creek was long and part of it up (or down) a steep incline.
       With the new ramp providing easy access to the creek again, it was time to revisit the City Bridge to Ramsey Springs section of Red Creek.  Four of us, from New Orleans, Covington and Slidell, made the 115-mile drive in late October to the creek.
       Spirits were high that chilly fall morning as we pushed off in two solo canoes and two kayaks from the concrete boat ramp at City Bridge into the shallow creek under a clear and bright blue sky.  Right away we were introduced to the pattern of a shallow and sandy creek bottom alternating with an even more shallow and sandy creek bottom.  The USGS gage at Vestry measured 4.5 feet that day, a common level for the creek when it has not rained recently.
        Floating inches above broad, flat sandy shoals the size of a tennis court was like "flying" a canoe at low altitude, the water was so clear.  Despite having to use paddles more as poles we only had to get out and drag the boats to the deeper water a couple of times.   In the deeper water fish and turtles could be easily seen.
       There are slightly swifter sections with blow downs and some "stump gardens" to navigate though most of these are closer to Ramsey Springs.  At higher water levels these could require some skill to make it through without capsizing.  One large blow down spans the creek requiring paddlers to shrink down in their boats to pass under it.  At a higher water level it would need to be portaged around.
        Sandbars are most numerous two to three miles upstream of Ramsey Springs.  Here the stream flows through about three miles of the De Soto National Forest and should be your destination if camping.  Sandbars are also frequent close to City Bridge but are least frequent in the middle third of this stretch when the creek flows slowly through a low flood plain with little elevation change.
       The stream is never narrow but there are some stretches where the deeply forested banks shade the stream.
       There is an emergency take-out at Cable Bridge Rd.  Pilings from the long, gone bridge will alert paddlers to the access on the river's right bank but the take-out is rough because the road stops well short of the creek and paddlers will have to scramble up to muddy bank to access the road.
       It took us about five and a half hours to complete the trip.  The shuttle, which uses Wire Rd. and City Bridge Rd. is fairly direct.  There is a paved parking area at City Bridge.  Isolated incidents of vandalism have been reported at City Bridge.
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7 comments:

Kayce said...

Ah, this is so good to hear! I've been wanting to check out the section past City Bridge for a few years now, but hadn't been able to find a do-able access point.

So I know you said there weren't many sandbars in the middle section, but I was wondering if there was anything that might be suitable for a few tents in that area? Fifteen miles is a long way with a 5 year old in tow, haha. Will be checking out the satellite view on google earth as well. Thanks so much for the great info! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jack for the info. Nice write-up. Mike w/ LPC, BHPC & LHC.

jcurryjr said...

Glad you enjoyed the piece Kayce. I am a bit picky concerning sandbars. The sandbars in the middle section are not as frequent nor as high off the water but they are fine. About two hours into the trip there is also a wonderful small island with room for one or two tents rising seven feet above the creek. Google Earth might be a good resource, just have a Plan B and maybe a Plan C if the bar you want is gone. Most landowners along the creek tolerate paddlers on their sandbars so leave-no-trace camping is so important now to preserve that goodwill.

Kayce said...

Thanks for the additional info. I think I found something that might work that's a little past halfway, but you're right in not being able to count on that; it's crazy how much the rivers change with every good rain that comes through. We always have a plan B, C, D... my daddy would come back to haunt me if I set out for a canoe trip with all my eggs in one basket! And the same goes for LNT - always leave it cleaner than you found it. :)

I'm curious about the distance you have listed here, though. Did you use a GPS to measure? I did a quick path on google earth (ohhh all those twists and turns, ten thousand points in my path!) and came up with 14 from bridge to bridge. A mile isn't a make-or-break situation, but mu curiosity is definitely piqued in regards to the discrepancy.

jcurryjr said...

Your boy is lucky to have a mom who cares enough to teach him how to paddle. I am sure the two of you will have many wonderful adventures together. 1) I don't know exactly how far City Bridge to Ramsey Springs on Red Creek. Dion measured it to be 14 something with his GPS on our trip. Back in the day we used wire bread ties trimmed to 2 5/8 inch to measure river distances on topo quads so GPS is amazing to me. 2) 26 miles on Black Creek is a long way; a good trip for intermediate paddlers able to break camp and get going early in the morning.

Kayce said...

Bread ties, I love it! My dad and I always used string.... *laughing*

And thanks. I'm hoping to pass on that love of canoeing that my dad passed on to me. It's such a shame that so few kids these days get to really experience the outdoors like this -- it definitely lends a whole new respect and appreciation for the world around us. :)

Scoutmaster Charlie said...

Be very cautious about leaving a vehicle at City Bridge. We had a car shot up with a .22 there in October while on the Red Creek overnight.