A great “dam” day on the river

I woke up the next morning in a much, much better mood. I think it was the excitement of going through my first lock and I knew that the character of the river was going to change after the dam.

Here is the approach to the Robert Henry Lock & Dam:

I wasn’t sure of the procedure to lock through but Richard had given me good instructions. While there were guys there when I arrived, I tied off just outside of the gate and climbed the ladder to the top. I could have pulled a rope that would have activated a siren but that’s not very friendly-like.

Plus, I wanted to say hello and take a few pictures.

I was quickly introduced to Parker Cheatem who has worked at the dam since 1977. Parker’s a very friendly guy and answered all of my questions.

Looking up-river from the top of the lock:

The rocks on the other side of the dam:

Filling the lock for me:

The lock itself – not full yet:

The controls:

Parker told me that he was ready when I was and I asked him about any special procedures. He told me just stay in the middle and he’d flush ….err…let me down real easy.

Closing the gates behind me:


Down we go:

Again, the gates were I entered:

Finally, we were at the bottom and the gates on the other end were opened just enough for me to slip out:

Back up the river:

At this point, the river was much narrower that that above the dam and since they weren’t making power, there was no current. Typcially, it would appear that they don’t pull water until later in the day – which makes sense….got to power the AC as folks come home.

I quickly noticed that this area wasn’t developed and there was NO boat traffic at all. In fact, I didn’t see but two fellows all day long!

Despite that, I was stoked – just me, the kayak and the river…..along with tons of birds, turtles, gator gars, snakes, kingfishers and great blue herons. It was a spectacular day!

I had planned to stay on a marked island near a local plant which was another 16-miles down the river but when I got there, I decided it wasn’t a suitable location.

That may have been a mistake – the banks in this part of the river are quite steep and it was difficult to find a safe camping spot knowing that the water would probably rise later in the day.

Finally, after a 20-mile day, I spotted an old dock and pier that wasn’t drawing water causing it to sit at a small angle. That didn’t bother me – there were two large trees that would hold my hammock and I was guessing the water would level the dock out.

Home for the night:

I did make one small error – this was on the east side of the river. That means I didn’t have any shade until the sun dropped below the tree line on the other side. That’s fine – I thought it was a cool spot despite the lack of shade. I didn’t have any ice either but I was pretty happy to be here!

If you look closely at the picture, you can see that I had to clear a little brush below the hammock. I carry a small machete that I got from a cowboy in the Pantanal area of Brazil. I’m not big on souvenirs
– you’ll never see me with a t-shirt that says “Panama City” on it – but I love my little machete.

As sure as the sun set, the water started coming up and my little dock leveled out.

As I prepared dinner, the thunder started so I repacked the kayak in case of rain – I could at least keep everyhing drier in the kayak.

The only things I didn’t pack was my fuel and my plastic water jug.

That night, I kept one eye closed and the other eye on the water. At some point in the night, I heard an almost gentle splash and didn’t give it another thought.

When I climbed out of the hammock at 0600, the water had dropped back down and the dock wasn’t level:

The first thing I noted was that my water jug was gone. #@&%@* – that was probably the splash I heard.

Oh well, I had several water bottles and I knew my chances of finding it were pretty good…there isn’t a lot of trash on the river and it would be easy to spot. I had filtered out water the night before and I hated to lose that water but… I can always make more. My filter worked well although I did have to clean it after about 4 quarts.

As I prepared my breakfast, I noticed something in the water about 300 yards away. Right away, I knew what it was… my water jug.

Now, this is downriver from me but I’ll be darned if it wasn’t headed my way. About 15 minutes after the inital sighting:

Anther 10-minutes and it was even with the dock:

I guess either there was just enough wind to move it along or the river runs backwards when they shut down the dam! By the time I was packed, I actually had to paddle about 100-yards back up the river to get it.

My good mood continued – I was excited about the day’s paddle because I would get to Selma!

More to follow…..


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