Launch: Cliff’s Landing in Baldwin County off Highway 225. Launch Cost: Free. Route: Across the Tensaw about 1.25 miles southwest to Negro Lake, then north about 1.75 miles to Smith Bayou. There are plenty of tributaries to explore in Smith Bayou – enough that you can spend most of the day exploring. I recommend going in near high tide. Distance: 18.1 miles round trip. Average Speed: 2.7 mph. Time: Approx 7 hrs. Pace: Leisurely to fast. Weather: 70-80 degrees, sunny in the morning to cloudy in the afternoon, low tide and minimal current. I ended up paddling very fast back to the launch site to avoid an approaching thunderstorm. Summer is here.
(1) Above left. After watching a nice sunrise from the west side of the Tensaw River, I noticed some odd things. Anyone padding under the river bank tree canopy would get coated with small green caterpillars and their silk threads as thousands were dangling from tree limbs. The next odd thing was seeing the massive number of mayflies in the cypress trees. As I paddled near limbs overhanging the water, hundreds to thousands of mayflies would take flight. (2) Above right. It was low tide in the early morning as this white egret or heron was hunting food near a large cypress tree.
(3) Above left. An adolescent owl went on the prowl and I got to watch it for 20 minutes. It seemed to have a taste for large caterpillars. (4) Above right. A swallow-tailed kite is a master of soaring. Birds were plentiful on this trip - I saw warblers, herons, and baby herons, cardinals, masses of unknown birds singing high up in the tree-tops, egrets, and woodpeckers.
(5) Above left. Not only was today an excellent birding trip, it was like going to the botanical river gardens. Water primrose was abundant. (6) Above right. Lizard tails are starting to bloom.
(7) Above left. The grasses and flowers play host to a wide variety of life – spiders, bugs, grass hoppers, tiny beetles, and more. (8) Above right. There were plenty of alligators in Smith Bayou, some big, some small, and most were not shy today.
(9) Above left. This was one of many masses of pickerel weed. (10) Above right. Pickerel weed attracts bees and butterflies. Pickerel weed fruit contains a starchy seed that is supposedly highly nutritious, can be eaten raw, or dried and added to cereals, or roasted and ground into flower.
(11) Above left. Photomerge of some pickerel weed patches. (12) Above right. Photomerge of cypress trees. Getting tired of going on the same paddles? I highly recommend Smith Bayou even though it does take about an hour to get to the entrance of it.