Saturday, May 02, 2009

05/02/2009 – Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge

Launch: Service Park boat ramp which is about 3-4 miles west of Coffeeville. Coffeeville is 30 miles northwest of Jackson, AL – about a 2 hour drive from Mobile.
Launch Fee: $3. (Lock box envelopes have tag for display in your vehicle.)
Trip Distance: Approx 20 miles.
Route: Paddle up the Tombigbee River 3 miles to the Turkey Creek entrance of Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge, explore the many available waterways, and then return.
Pace: Leisurely.
Weather: Sunny, 70-85 degrees, no tidal influence, winds calm to very light, almost no current except for very slight current in the Tombigbee.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife manages the Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) primarily for migratory waterfowl. What’s up there? That’s what I wanted to find out today.

1) Foggy morning at the Coffeeville Dam Service Park boat ramp.

2) After the first hour of paddling, I thought I’d wasted my time because it is an ugly paddle up the Tombigbee unless you like looking at tire dumps. This tire erosion control does not appear to work very well.

3) The do’s and don’t of the refuge posted at the Turkey Creek entrance.

4) A cormorant taking flight.

5) There were areas blanketed by sedge flowers.

6) Birds like this prothonotary warbler were plentiful. Bird music in the air waves was vibrant.

7) When one boater said to another, “boy, that kayaker has a lot of guts…” I could tell this might be a good place to kayak. Choctaw NWR indeed is a wonderful place to kayak. Lots of Alligators to see at this time of year.

8) There are submerged stumps in the refuge waters so most power boats move very slow using a trolling motor – that means no wakes and no noise. Paradise! Don’t let your guard down though – kayakers hit the submerged tree stumps too.

9) Alligator smiling for the photo.

10) There were plenty of water lilies in bloom. You can see a spider marveling at the beautiful flowers too.

11) Choctaw NWR reminds me a bit of the open prairies at Okefenokee Swamp because of the brown peat in some areas.

12) Wild pigs running along GG'ing (grunting and grubbing).

13) Herons were all over the place.

14) Dozens of ibis and other birds in a feeding frenzy for crabs.

15) I followed along at a bird’s pace with some of the water fowl as they walked along the vegetation digging for food. They were aware of my presence but were unafraid. The only thing I’ll shoot them with is a camera.

16) Choctaw NWR is a birder’s paradise. 

17) This shot is typical of the area. There is not a lot of shade so bring your sunscreen and wide brim hats.

18) This dog almost fell overboard trying to get a bite on the wiggling fish. The dancing dog was cute. This couple said the dog also likes crickets and once got into trouble by eating one with a hook in it.

19) The sign on the right was enough to influence me to turn around. What's a submerged dam? The rule that says, “When in doubt, don’t,” applies to kayaking. Here is a aerial view of the dam looking upstream. Even a little submerged dam is very dangerous. Check out this dam link.

20) Taken on the Tombigbee River looking downstream towards the dam.

Header Image

Today was absolutely beautiful – a big two thumbs up for the Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge. It is definately worth a two hour drive from Mobile and is big enough that it would take a week to fully explore. There are motels in Jackson (30 minutes away) and a campground at the Service Park launch site.

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