Sea kayaks in the Pine Barrens

I’ve canoed on the Wading, the Mullica, and the Batsto in the Pine Barrens. They are all narrow winding streams. Winding as in you often look through the woods and see your paddling buddy going in the opposite direction.Those rivers will bend 180 degrees in a 50 foot radius, so maneuverability and boat control are needed.

Do people sea kayak those rivers? And if so, do they like it?

Not much. Kayaks get hung up on anything possible to hang up on… Those u turn turns with a log in the middle or the worst is getting stuck on a log and having to get out and back in while balancing on a slippery log.
We did a mixed craft trip on the Mullica… The worst was the double blades bringing down anything growing out of the river. Twigs leaves spiders etc… poison ivy

Rec kayaks have an easier time.

When I was in the UK 3 years ago I went out with the local paddling club in the small town where I was staying in Yorkshire. Their rivers are mostly narrow and winding, with frequent snags and low hanging trees as well as low angle weirs instead of dams, which they can slide over. Most of the club members use short whitewater boats or 12’ and 13’ solo canoes. (I had a 12’ folding rec kayak which worked pretty well – can’t slide a fabric and rubber boat down a concrete weir ramp but at 24 pounds I just carried it over obstacles.) I certainly would not have wanted a longer boat in those waters.

I keep a tee fitting that converts half of a touring paddle to a single blade for paddling through overhanging greenery (and spider webs!) Did not have it with me on that trip but the travel kayak paddle I had along, a 4-piece carbon Cannon, can have one of the shaft halves removed to shorten it to about 6’ which was what I did during the “tunnel” sections on those British streams.

Yes, and mostly No.

Many years ago, I participated in a trip with the JSSKA where the whole point was to bring your sea kayaks on a Pine Barrens river. The leader paddled a Prijon Barracuda, of all things. It was mostly fun (and crowded), but there were quite a few rescues because of pile-ups of boats and/or debris. Once bitten, twice shy, I think.

I went on a similar trip on Cedar Creek in what is now Congaree N P. It was a low water year and my 12’ rec boat was fine but most of the group were in tandem canoes.
I was one of the younger paddlers at the time and spent the day helping portage the canoes over the corners in that twisty creek. At the end of the day, I had sand and mud up to my eyeballs. It was exhausting but a great little adventure.

I don’t do or know the Pine Barrens. But if downed trees are in the program and meandering channels we have those in spring runs, swamps and the upper ends of rivers. The trees are one of the reasons we carry saws with us. I know one paddler that has carries a chain saw in his tandem. Personally I don’t like portaging no matter how short. Lifting over trees is not my desire but there are times when action is necessary.

One day we decided on a club paddle to paddle up the Ortega River in Jacksonville to see how far we could go. We went under the neighborhood bridge, the interstate bridge and under the highway into the swamp. Maybe a mile later the channel fanned out and became unreadable. We decided we were way into the swamp and couldn’t go any farther…then a resident behind us and through the screen of trees started up a lawn mower. Well we couldn’t go any farther any way.

But you can turn a sea kayak nicely if given room and current doesn’t take you. On the way out awaiting for others to get out of one of the smaller spaces I went into a tree. Out came the pruning saw and I cut my way out. Raisins took the attached picture as he kept his sea kayak out of the problem.


Like said earlier I’m not a fan of lifting over trees with any boat. Yes, small windy creeks are possible for sea kayaks. They can be quite able to turn corners or turn around in their own length. Personally though I prefer the solo canoe in those places. If you like that kind of windy small creek/river you’d like Juniper Springs run in the Ocala National Forest, Fl. The run at the park is maintained so eventually it would be clear of logs across the river. However the Forest Service won’t let the outfitter use powered equipment so they use hand saws from a kayak or canoe.

It is pretty.

Some Florida “fall colors” are included in the last picture.